A guide to writing a great grant application

With the pressures of funding, combined with increased demand on services due to the repercussions of the pandemic, writing winning grant or funding applications has never been more important. 

Increased demand for funding has left funders inundated with applications and competition is rife. Understanding how to put together a great application will increase your chances of gaining the funding you need for critical projects, however large or focused they are. Making sure that you are able to clearly define your organisation’s need for funding and how it will benefit the beneficiaries and communities you serve is vital.  

Monica Brown, Head of Advisory and Programmes at CAF, outlines some key aspects to help you make the most of your grant applications.

What makes a great grant application?

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    What makes a great grant application?

    The applicant has to create a compelling picture of their organisation and the difference that their organisation makes to the issue that they’re trying to address or the communities that they’re trying to work with.

    Yes, it needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end - but the funder will be reading hundreds and hundreds of applications and they’ll need to find a way to sift through them.

    So, get the points that you want to across in a succinct and punchy way. The stories can be told later, hopefully, when you get the grant.

    The organisation also needs to evidence their deep understanding of the issues that they’re working towards.

    Ask for an appropriate amount of funds. Funders will compare the amount of money that you’re asking for to the activities that you want to deliver and to your income as an organisation.

    Some applicants will ask for much more than their income - or an amount of money that would be very difficult for them to manage. 

    If your income is £10,000 and you’re asking for £20,000, that will create a lot of concern for a funder, so make sure that there’s a correlation between the amount of money that you’re asking for and the activities that you’re going to deliver - and what you as an organisation can manage in terms of money.

How should charities approach writing a grant application?

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    How should charities approach the process of application writing?

    It needs to be a very thoughtful process. Do your research, understand the funder or the funding pot that you’re applying, to and understand whether what you’re applying for is inline with what the funder requires.

    It’s a very difficult time at the movement and some organisations will try to submit applications for every pot of funding that they see. That is not a good use of time.

    Research funders’ requirements and criteria and apply to the ones where your project aligns. If you apply everywhere, you will not be successful.

    Make sure that your organisation and your project is eligible for the fund that you’re applying for. Spend more thoughtful time on that application, as opposed to submitting many without doing the research.

    Make sure that your website and your social media is up to date. Also, if you’re a registered charity, make sure that your submissions to the charity commissioner are up to date.

    Funders will often use external sources to conduct checks on the robustness of your organisation, the due diligence of your organisation, and how your organisation represents what it does. 

    To reiterate: they will look at your social media, they will look at your website, and they will check to see whether or not you submit your returns to the charity commission on time, so make sure that those things are up to date.


What are common grant application mistakes?

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    Common grant application mistakes

    Answer the questions that you’ve been asked by the funder in whatever format. Make sure that you understand those questions. If you don’t, look for advice on the funders website. Or if they have a helpdesk, give them a call they’ll be happy to explain the questions to you.

    Answer those questions and answer them as robustly as you can.

    Upload the correct documentation that the funder asks for. Often they're asking for information to check your eligibility and to check whether or not you have a bank account that they can pay the grant into - should they award the grant. If you don't send the correct information, that can often render your application ineligible.

    The correct bank account information is important and so are the correct governance documents. If you’re asked for accounts send the ones that are up to date. Applicants will often take information from other applications that they may have written.

    Cutting and pasting is okay. Make sure that you read it, edit it and that the information is relevant to the current application that you’re working on.

    Look at the word count that the funder gives you, if there is one. They've given you that for a specific reason: they want to limit the amount of information that they have to read. They want you to be really punchy and focused on the questions.

    The flip side of this is that they want enough information from you about that specific aspect of your application.



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