We know from the number of enquiries we are getting at the moment, that many companies are trying to win grant funding bids for their businesses, CICs, or charities. While there is a lot of crossover between tender writing and funding bids, there are some key differences that you should be aware of. Our grant specialists, Sarah Dixon and Lisa Lindley-Seath, have put together this quick guide to help you write great funding bids for your company.
Grant Applications are More Competitive
When you’re tendering for a contract, the chances are you will be one of tens of applicants. When you’re applying for funding, you will be one of hundreds, if not thousands. For example, the Women in Innovation grant last year received over 8,000 applications. What this means, is that you can do everything right with your application, and still not get the money.
Funders are Buying an Idea
When you put together a tender, you’re selling a product or service that is needed by the client. When you’re applying for funding, you’re selling an idea that will support the aims and objectives of the organisation you’re applying to. The funder isn’t going to get anything out of it directly, they’re going to see the benefits that their investment in you generates with the groups of people they want to support. This is an important distinction to understand because it should underpin your whole application. While in both types of bid you will need to show how you are going to deliver what the client wants when you are applying for funding you are demonstrating that against the aims and objectives of the organisation rather than a specification document.
Research the Funder
It’s important to understand the organisation that is giving the grant and what their priorities are to make sure that your bid aligns with that. Research your funder, read their website, look at projects they have supported in the past and read their application guidance carefully (twice). Larger grant funders may have a grant officer who you can speak to to get guidance before you apply. It’s tempting to take on a wishful thinking approach, but it’s important to be realistic. Some grant-making organisations have multiple grant streams, so check them all out in detail. If you’re not an exact fit for that funder, it’s probably best to look for a different funder.
You can use an adapted bid/no-bid matrix to evaluate what you’re proposing against that organisation’s aims and objectives. Download our free Bid No Bid matrix template.
Be Clear About Your Project
Grants may be giving you money that you don’t need to pay back, but they are still investing in you and your business, and the outcomes that you are going to deliver from your project. It’s important to have a crystal-clear idea of what you want to achieve. You’ll then need to develop that into a concrete plan, showing the funder what you’re going to do, when, and how much it will cost. This is an important step because you’re making it clear what the funder is paying for. Consider risk, too; funders may be altruistic, but they don’t want to invest in projects that are likely to fail. Download our free Swot Analysis template to help with this.
If the funder is looking for large or complex solutions, then it may be worth talking to other organisations and creating a combined bid that gives them a complete solution; it saves the funder the trouble of dealing with lots of different organisations.
Demonstrate the Need
No matter how great your idea is, or how much it makes sense on paper, the funder will want to know that you have carried out some sort of market research or community engagement to ensure that your project has support from the people you want to help. Grants like Awards for All, for example, want to see stakeholder engagement in the development of the idea, and in how it will be executed. This is part of the wider view that funders take; they are not buying for their organisation, they are investing in a better future for a group of people so you need to show that you understand that group and have consulted with them to develop your idea.
Be Clear About the Benefit
Funders will want to know what will be ultimately achieved by giving you this money – the outcomes. Make sure that you go beyond the obvious, though. If you’re applying for funding to retrain employees, what will that translate into for your business? Cost savings? New markets? Improved service? If you’re running a community project, how will you define success? Will it be the number of people who attended or an increased sense of ownership of place – how will you measure that?
Most grant funders will let you know what they will expect to see as proof that you are delivering on your promises, but make sure that you read the find print as sometimes those requirements can be quite onerous. It will help if you can include the reporting requirements in your project plan to show how you will meet these.
Show Your Support
You may need to raise half of the funding yourself for the project in what is called matched funding. This is a way for funders to manage their risk as they only have to give half the money, and because you’ve already proven that you have the necessary support to raise a good amount of money.
Knowing what resources you have in terms of support is useful for any CIC or charity; do you have a pool of volunteers? Are parents or carers of the group you represent willing to show support through testimonials or even fundraising. When you’re taking stock of what resources your organisation has, don’t forget that for non-profits, the people are an incredibly valuable resource.
If you’re applying for grant funding to start a new long-term project, what is going to happen once you’ve spent that money? Will the charity or CIC fold? While funders are often happy to support new projects, they don’t want to continuously fund them (usually) or have projects that will rely on grant funding going forward. Consider your plan to make your idea sustainable; for example, does your organisation have some skills it can monetise – delivering training to corporate clients or tendering for contracts from the local authority?
Support for Funding Bids
At Bid for Success, we understand the key differences between tenders and funding bids, which is why we have two staff members who have a funding specialism. Sarah Dixon, our Development Manager, has a Certificate of Fundraising Management from the Institute of Fundraising, and Lisa Lindley-Seath has worked with a third sector organisation, submitting and winning grant applications for a range of funders. If you would like to set up a call to see how we could work with you to support you through mentoring/training or writing services, please book a call with Sarah today.