Before you start looking for funding, you need a clear project outline.
Any potential funder will need to see evidence that your project:
responds directly to identified needs
has been developed in consultation with potential service users, especially if it relates to children and young people
has clear goals that you will be able to prove you have achieved by the end of the project
will provide good value for money
will be effective and sustainable.
Start by writing a brief outline of one or two paragraphs, making sure you cover these points.
Include a rough budget to help you when you come to decide which funders will be most appropriate for you.
It is important to find the right funder for your particular project.
When you are considering different sources of funding, ask yourself these questions:
What kind of organisations do they fund?
What types of project will they support?
Which costs will they cover?
Do the application procedures fit in with your timescale?
Will they offer extra support such as training, advice and capacity building?
You should only consider contacting funders whose criteria match your project exactly.
Many funders will only consider supporting new projects, although some will fund an existing project if you can show that you plan to develop it in an innovative way.
Make sure you check this kind of detail with a potential funder before making an application.
A good resource for fundraisers is Funding Central a powerful online database of current funding opportunities.
More information on funding opportunities on the Voluntary Action Lewisham (VAL) website.
VAL can also help if you have any other queries about developing your not-for-profit organisation.
You should always contact a funder before you make an application, for two reasons:
Funding streams come to an end, and new opportunities open up. You should always call to make sure the fund you are applying for still exists, and that the criteria have not changed.
Most funders prefer you to contact them to discuss your idea before you apply, to make sure they get stronger applications.
Make sure you have a clear project outline and some idea of your budget.
These conversations will give you a fresh perspective on your project outline, and may well give you ideas for improving it.
By this stage, you should have:
a project outline
a rough budget
a list of funding bodies (with named contacts) that you know will be interested in supporting your project.
To make sure your application is as effective as possible, follow these steps:
read and follow the funder's instructions carefully. If you are not sure about any of the requirements, ask for clarification
ask for a specific sum of money and explain exactly how it will be spent
if applying by application form, make sure you cover every section.
If applying by letter, aim to write about two pages. Make sure you include information on:
the need your project will meet, whom it will help and how
the outcomes of your project (make sure these are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based)
how you will measure the success of your project once it is completed.
any existing funding or support you receive
anything else the funder has asked you to mention or supply.
Avoid overloading your application with attachments you have not been asked for. A funder who is seriously interested will ask if it requires further information.
Ask for feedback. Understanding where your application could have been stronger will improve your chances in the future.
Remember that funders tend to receive far more applications for funding than they have funds available.
Thank the funder and make arrangements to meet any conditions that may be attached.
This may seem obvious, but many organisations fail to do so!
You will greatly improve your chances of receiving further funding in the future if you build a strong relationship and demonstrate reliability.
Let your funder know if there are any problems.
The funder may be able to help you with connections to other funders, variations in the funding they offer you, or advice and support.