When reading the requirements for a grant application, it’s easy to lose hope. Skimming the never-ending financial, project and organizational demands, you find yourself questioning whether the application is even worth completing. Anxiety kicks in full throttle and you can barely think.
I’ve shared your frustrations. After writing my share of applications, I’ve narrowed down what most trusts want to 10 easy steps. If you take the time to complete these 10 steps before you begin your next application, you will have material that you can adapt again and again. The more applications you submit, the more opportunities you have to receive funding!
1. Explain the social need your organization responds to.
Even if you think it is blatantly clear (e.g. abortion, assisted suicide, homeless children, soup kitchen), your reader may not see this immediately. Write down, in one to three sentences, the specific issue you wish to address. Try not to define what you personally think or use generic phrases. Rather, use statistics and evidence which demonstrate the issue’s severity and why it must be tackled.
2. Paint a picture of the future for the reader.
Present the social need’s current trajectory. Is the problem getting worse/better/changing? What will happen if it is not addressed and things simply stay as they are? Again, using facts and statistics is important. While most Catholic organizations only describe the issue in philosophical terms (e.g. “It’s destructive to the dignity of a person.”), you must clearly define what will likely happen in the future.
3. Present your project.
In 1 to 2 sentences, explain exactly how your organization will confront the issue. Use simple sentences (no complex sentences, commas etc) that describe your high-level action plan. Again, the clearer your writing, the better the reader will understand your project. You are aiming for them to say: “Okay, I get what ___ is going to do with the money. That sounds good.”
4. Present your project plan.
Once you have told them what you will do at a high-level, explain exactly how you will do it, step-by-step. Describe all the services, tasks and deliverables that this project will produce. Think of each step like a grain of sand. Again, you may know what you plan to do, more or less, in your head, but unless you put it on paper, no one else will know, and trustees do not have time to guess. Be clear, direct and granular. Walk them through the entire process.
5. Provide cost and time estimations for the project.
Boring and tedious as this task may be, it is what divides applications into the “no” and “yes” piles. Sometimes it is best to break down the costs by phase, month and project component (i.e. staff costs, material, travel etc). You must be as clear as possible about how the money will be used over the duration of the project. Include the names of the people who will be active and their roles.
6. Make the request.
Detail how much funding you aim to secure in total, along with the specific request you are making to the trust. This is where you ask directly for the amount you wish from them. I always offer three to four tiers of possible funding (see the free workbook at the end of this post for a template).
7. Paint a vision of success.
This may seem like drudgery, but be assured it is a major factor that will influence whether you receive a “yes”. I know this because trustees continually tell me so. I recommend that you provide a table that lists the different groups of people you will help, the number of individuals in each group and the total figure. The numbers do not have to be exact. What is most important is that you visualize your impact.
8. Guarantee your sustainability.
Trustees want their money to be used wisely and for it to have a long-term impact. Include details about how your work will still reap benefits once the money has been spent. Yes, this can be tricky. You and the project’s leaders will have to devise a plan to keep moving forward.
9. Give examples of your current achievements.
You can call this ‘social proof’. Most Catholic organizations find it difficult to talk about their achievements. This, however, is one of the key blocks to successful fundraising; no one knows if these organizations create impact! Present three cases which demonstrate how you are shaping positive social change. Again, quantify and qualify this change. You will immediately be recognized as an organization which trusts say yes to.
10. Provide your mission statement and contact details.
Many organizations start with their mission statement, vision and story. I place this at the back because it is not the main factor in an application but, rather, the tipping point. If you have followed the first 9 steps correctly, this will win the trust over. Again, the description of who you are and what you do should be absolutely clear. Do not use generic terms. Include your organization’s details such as your charity number, address, trustees, management board, and contact information.
Consistency is the key to success. Once you have followed these 10 steps, you will have a template for writing grant applications that you can carry forward. You will thereby reduce the time it takes to complete applications and be able to submit one after another.