How to make a Successful Funding Application

Posted: 11th May 2015

It has been said that writing a successful funding application is like a good recipe – very much dependent on a few ingredients coming together well.

Essentially, there are three key ingredients to a successful bid:

1: Finding the right funder (and funding scheme).

2: Filling out the application properly

3: Providing all the information that is required

Having had experience of “working” on both sides of the camp (bid writer and funding appraiser) it’s easy to tell you that many unsuccessful funding applications do not fail  because the project/idea didn’t go down well with the funding body. Rather, they are usually not approved because the application was incorrectly completed, documentation requested was missing, or it did not meet the stated funding criteria.

There will always be some factors that you (as the applicant) can’t control when you are applying for funding. For example, very often there will be more applications than funds available, and different funds or funders may prioritise applications differently. However to give you the best possible chance of success there are some things that you can do ……

Understand the scheme or fund criteria!  Why waste anyone’s time (including your own) preparing an application for a fund that your project or your business will quite simply be ineligible to receive funding from.  Some funds can only support projects that are new and innovative; some can only fund projects within certain geographic locations, and most won’t support implementing statutory requirements, or on-going running or salary costs or the purchase of vehicles.  Some schemes are looking for new jobs created and existing jobs safeguarded, or new build and/or the redevelopment of existing land/buildings, and some will be looking for the number of community or voluntary groups assisted – so understanding what the scheme is seeking to achieve can enable you to write your application and business plan in such a way as to demonstrate how your project enables the funding scheme to achieve it’s own objectives.

Read and follow the fund/scheme application guidelines!  Quite often you will be required to include a supporting business plan, three year cash flow forecasts/financial projections and in most cases competitive quotes for the work to be undertaken (especially if the work to be carried out or piece of equipment is worth over a specific value).  Failing to supply the required information leads to unnecessary delays in appraising your project, which can have a negative impact if deadlines are tight. It also demonstrates to the scheme administrator that you give scant regard to their requirements, so not getting you off to a very good start!

Make sure that your project objectives are clear and measurable and that you maintain sight of what it is that you are doing and why you are doing it!

Eligible expenditure, match funding and double funding!  Quite often a grant scheme will fund either capital or revenue costs only, or perhaps a combination of both but at different intervention rates (grant %), so understand the funding scheme you are applying for and what it will and will not cover.  It is also perfectly possible to apply to different funding schemes to assist with carrying out individual elements of a larger, more complex project. In doing this, however, you will have to tread carefully to ensure that double funding of an element doesn’t occur. Additionally, some funding grant schemes have a maximum limit on how much public money can go into funding a project – so you could apply to two or three separate schemes but perhaps still not achieve more than an overall grant intervention rate of 50%.Another downside is that you give yourself more of an administrative headache when claiming grant from multiple bodies!  Match funding can also cause problems because some public and European funds can’t be used to match against others – so again, read the scheme criteria and guidelines before you start to put together a funding package that won’t work, and if you are using your own personal funds make sure that you have confirmation from the bank of any loan/overdraft or bank statements, to show that you can cover your own input.  Finally, it is also worthwhile knowing if a particular scheme will allow for the purchase of second hand equipment. Some won’t, as it is perfectly feasible that a particular piece of equipment could have been grant aided in the past!

Bankrolling projects!  As most grant claims are made retrospectively you need to be able to demonstrate that you can bankroll the project until grant can be claimed. Depending on the funding scheme being applied to, and the complexity and size of the project you are undertaking, it may sometimes be possible to factor in monthly grant claims to help ease the situation.  But again, read the scheme guidelines and take into consideration the additional work you will have to do to prepare and submit monthly grant claims.

Demonstrating NEED!  If all else is equal and you have met the scheme criteria and the project is financially viable then the need for the project is the factor that will give your project a high priority.  Undertaking some market research can be particularly useful, especially if you can identify what is happening (or not) at a local level, what other providers or businesses exist who you will be competing against, and what will be your Unique Selling Point ie. how or what will you do differently from your competitors.  Letters of support from potential customers of your project are always beneficial and can also demonstrate collaborative/partnership working.

Essentially, funders need to know that you  are not working in isolation, that you are aware of what else is being provided in your area and that your project will enhance as opposed to duplicate and potentially displace existing provision.

Demonstrating linkages to regional priorities!  In most cases you will be required to demonstrate how your project contributes towards delivering sub-regional, regional or even national priorities.  So do some homework; check out the Regional Economic Strategy produced by your Regional Development Agency, and if your project is tourism related look at how it contributes to delivering the priority actions of the appropriate Tourism Strategy.  Check out County and District Council strategies, and if it’s a food and farming related activity you are engaging in check out the Strategy for Sustainable Farming & Food.

Sustainability!  This is one of the key issues that you need to address with any funding application. How will the project continue after grant aid has ceased? Consideration of this doesn’t just include the funding, but other resources such as staffing and your capacity to continue the project.  It may well be that you require grant aid for a one-off purchase of a particular piece of machinery or kit which would increase your production capacity sufficiently so as not to require additional on-going grant aid. However, you will still need to demonstrate sustainability as no funder wants to help kick start activity which will die a death when the money runs out!

When putting together your business plan or application form ASSUME that the reader knows nothing!  Too often applications and business plans are written in a manner which assumes that the recipient has a level of knowledge about the project which they simply don’t have.  Avoid the use of jargon; most applications are read by people who have no idea about your organisation, so make it sound attractive and not convoluted!  Use plain language, keeping your answers concise and to the point, and if at all possible don’t use acronyms and abbreviations (and most certainly don’t use them without stating what they stand for!).

Give careful consideration to how the project will be managed and monitored!  All funders need to feel confident that your business/organisation can competently manage the project and the funds.  One way of doing this is by setting up a clear monitoring and evaluation system.  You will also need to detail how the project will be evaluated when it comes to an end – for some projects this may be easier than for others, so it’s worth giving some thought to how you will show what you have accomplished.

And finally, there is a dizzying array of grant schemes and funding opportunities out there, the trick is to seek funding to match your project, and not write your project to match the fund!  We can assist with all aspects of project development and funding and bid applications so if it all gets too much for you, just give us a call.  An initial visit to discuss your plans is always free of charge.

You can contact Sue’s rural business consultancy, WKD Consultancy, by phone on 01325 717995

or by email on