As a community group, charity, community interest company or social enterprise we are advised to look at full cost recovery. Becoming more business minded and planning our projects based on cash flow forecasts and revenue is after all good advice. Sustainability is key.
Whilst this is absolutely right, to a degree, it sometimes goes against the principles Charities, or more broadly speaking not for profits were founded upon. Let’s face it some Charity work or community projects are just not ‘sexy’ enough to ever provide an income – despite the excellent and vital contribution they make to society.
So by all means analyse your activities, streamline your outgoings and look at more efficient ways to run your operation, Charity or community group. And even though you shouldn’t rely solely on funding don’t remove it from your income raising strategy altogether.
Why still look at funding? Yes competition for funding is high, funding is limited over a certain period of time and the task of preparing the documentation and writing the funding bid is at best laborious. But funders will often resource projects that otherwise would not get off the ground at all. Read my blog here at http://www.andrew.jamespicken.com
So why does the timing of a funding application influence its chances of success and who knows what the assessment panel really goes for? Remember even knowing the funding criteria inside out you are writing to a group of people you don’t have the benefit of knowing. Write clearly, write your funding application on the assumption any funding assessment panel knows nothing about your area of expertise.
Demonstrate a good track record, if this is your first venture into funding, use examples of your personal experience working with your target group of people, project topic or the credentials of any volunteers you have working with you.
Identify your project benefits. Health, societal, young people, older people or geographically targeted. Research your target audience using consultations, neighbourhood statistics , or health related indicators from the health observatories
Do your research find out as much as you can about the funder, from what they have funded before, there new funding programmes, criteria and even research the people on the assessment panel if you can. There past times, background or interests will give you a head start. People promote there selves online – use this to your advantage it is in the public domain by consent.
So back to this timing lark. We are quickly coming up to the end of January. The 2015 / 16 financial year is nearly upon us. This inevitably means many budgets have disappeared within Local Authorities and grant funders. But this is not always the case. Pots will be lying underspent. Underspends get lost if they aren’t used – often by the 31st March. So be ready!
Ever had a chance of applying for funding in a ridiculous time scale of a few days before the end of March? Tried to cobble a project together without much thought to get the chance of funding? Had this turned down after all the time you put in and the mad dash? I know the feeling all too well.
Well drop the reactive approach, and plan a project with an idea of how to resource it ready for the funding that becomes available toward the end of the financial year. Write a project plan, some brief outputs and outcomes and think pro-actively. That way you will be caught on the front foot and not the back foot when tight deadlines for funding become available.
Think about costings, target group, objective (health, sport, education etc) and prepare a funding library (copies of constitution / memorandum / Charity number / accounts or income & expenditure / bank account details & signatories / committee or trustee names and contact details).
Once you have all this it will save an enormous amount of time when it comes to pulling everything together for that funding application. It is still worth doing anyway even if any funding doesn’t come along at the end of March.
Join your local Council for Voluntary service (CVS) that provide a wealth of useful information on funding and support. Conduct a quick google search to find your local CVS. Often when I work with clients writing funding applications I refer them to these Organisations for free advice.
Join J4B Grants, or Funders central. Copy and paste the funders listed in their directories to google to access their own websites free without having to subscribe to anything. Search local and regional funding newsletters and subscribe for free.
Don’t forget the smaller grant trusts that don’t appear in funding newsletters but may well have funds targeting your area. Run some internet searches to find out who may fund your project, or idea, or who has funded similar projects in the past. Some aren’t even online and application can even be by letter so keep your eyes open as often word of mouth is used to promote these funds.
Make sure your passion shines through any funding application you write. It’s so easy to get lost in buzz words and acronyms that you forget the very reason you are applying for this funding. The neighbourhood benefits, improving people’s lives or lessening the burden on the NHS by providing a preventative service. Remember the indirect benefits too.
So be prepared, get ready and do your homework. Good luck with your project and prepare now ready for the Mad March rush on those funding pots that are underspent and need to be allocated in quick time. If you follow the tips in this article you will be prepared, know where the funds are and maximise your chances for a successful funding application.
A bit about the Author
Andrew Picken, having over 10 years of community development and project experience in the voluntary community sector, Local Authority, Private sector and through freelance.
Around my 3 day employed work I offer project support to social media, funding and public health programmes.
I write on a variety of topics and aim to provide a light touch approach to heavy topics with a little humour and some hints and tips I have learnt throughout my employment journey. I work with www.funmefit.com providing social media support across sectors.
My real passion is in health and wellbeing and writing on such topics. I sometimes work from a motorhome with a full internet office and have worked for councils providing funding workshops from the motorhome and offering project support working from the motorhome.
I also, and rather unusually, work with boxing professionals and the sport of strongman organising Yorkshire’ strongest man 2014 and the Yorkshire Highland Games 2015.
I work with community projects and business to provide strongmen to provide publicity and be part of new service launches for example launching a new community bus service in Leeds with a Guinness World Record holding strongman pulling the bus.
Follow me on twitter @handywriter4u – Linkedin: Andrew Picken, or contact me firstname.lastname@example.org