Voluntary Sector Support Guidance

Top tips for funding applications

Looking for funding can be difficult and time consuming. With less money available from trusts and foundations, local authorities and government competition is fierce. It is important that when making an application, you give your project the best chance.

Before you apply

Before you start ensure that your organisation is fit for purpose and in the best position to deliver any project you have in mind.

Governing documents

The management of your group starts with your governing document, whether you are a voluntary group, a registered charity or a charitable incorporated organisation. Is your constitution up to date and does it cover all your activities? If you are expanding, do your purposes cover your new plans as well?

Annual accounts and return

You need to ensure you have up to date accounts, which should be signed and verified. If you are a registered charity are your annual returns to the Charity Commission up to date? You can read more about making your return on the Charity Commission website here.


Do your trustees know their legal responsibilities? Do they have the knowledge and skills the organisation needs? If not, can you show that you know where the gaps are and that you are doing something about it? This is particularly important if you are starting a major new project, for example employing staff for the first time, or a big building project.


Do you have the appropriate policies in place to support the work that you do? Policies you might need to think about include equal opportunities, health and safety, volunteering, working with children or vulnerable people and confidentiality. Generally speaking funders will need to see as a minimum, your safeguarding policy and equal opportunities. You can read more about this on the portal.

Project planning

It is essential that you understand your project as a whole. Funders will be looking for the following information and you should be able to answer these key questions before you start any application:

  • What issue/problem are you trying to address?
  • Why is it an issue/problem and how do you know this (evidence of need)?
  • How will your project help to solve this (activities and outcomes)?
  • Who will benefit from your project (beneficiaries)?
  • What difference will funding make (how you’re meeting their objectives)?
  • How will you measure success (monitoring and evaluation)?


It is unlikely that you will find a funder who will fund the whole cost of your project, however it is important to be aware of the total costs.

You should:

  • Be realistic, don’t over exaggerate your costs
  • Include costs for the administration of your project. This should ideally be less than 10% of the total budget.
  • Demonstrate value for money where possible. You could for example work out the cost per beneficiary or show how it might save money on other services (ie a home visiting service may help increase the number of people who are able to come home from hospital).

Identifying potential funders

There are a number of different funders who may be able to support your project. You can also use the free funding search database on the West Sussex County Council website. Voluntary Sector Support at Horsham District Council also produce a regular e-newsletter which includes current funding information.

Consider different sources of funding

With the decrease in grant funding nationally, organisations need to ensure that they are exploring all opportunities.

The more diverse your fundraising activities the more secure the future of your organisation. Below are a number of ways to maximise your income, there are more listed on the portal.

  • Crowd funding such as Just Giving / Crowdfunder
  • Corporate Funding ie Tesco and Waitrose
  • Events (see our fact sheet on the portal)
  • Sponsorship
  • Introduce or increase membership subscriptions (sometimes a small increase can make a big difference)
  • Shopping deals
  • Lower your outgoings, are you getting the best deal on your utilities, banking, insurance, could you hold your project in a location that costs less.
  • Partnership working, are there other organisations that do similar activities, could you work together or look to combine costs or services.

Submitting an application

Once you have identified a potential funder for your project you will usually have to complete an application form. This can sometimes feel like a time consuming or daunting process but remember, this is an opportunity to highlight the good work that your project hopes to achieve.

Here are some tips for completing your application form:

  • Read the guidelines – this point cannot emphasised enough! Does your project fit with what the funder is looking for, be honest about this. If your project really doesn’t meet their criteria then you are unlikely to be successful
  • Don’t fundamentally change your project to fit in with a funders guidelines or you may end up with a project that you are unable to deliver
  • If you think that you meet the guidelines and criteria then submit an application! The work involved may seem a lot initially but the more applications you do the easier this becomes. Your project might just be the one a funder is looking for.
  • Don’t be afraid to phone the funder for advice. It could save you time as the funder may be able to quickly confirm if you meet their criteria before you have worked on your application in more detail. The funder may also give advice and answer any questions you are not sure about.
  • When completing an application remember that the reader may not know your group or the work that you do. Make sure that the information you give is clear, accurate and descriptive.
  • Funders will use a number of different ways to assess applications but they will be looking to see how you meet their guidelines and criteria. Refer back to the guidance and reference it if you can in your answers.
  • Follow application guidance closely, even seemingly small requirements. Expanding text boxes or using the wrong font can make an application ineligible. Also, do not exceed the word count if there is one.
  • If you have made a clear project plan before you start any applications, this will help you complete the form and save you time in the long run.
  • Make sure you understand the difference between ‘outputs’ and ‘outcomes’ as funders will want your outcomes to clearly link to their objectives or criteria. You can read more about this on the Funding Central website
  • Think like a funder rather than an applicant. Ask yourself if you would approve your bid. Try to be objective.
  • Ask someone to read your application before you submit it. It is always useful to have a fresh pair of eyes or a ‘critical friend’ on an application.
  • Make sure your application looks good and reads well – use paragraphs and tables to make it easier to digest.
  • Make sure you know the deadline and give yourself enough time to complete the application.

Once you have secured funding

If your application is successful the funder may like you to acknowledge their support on your website and / or any publicity. They might also like to include your project in a press release. Make sure you communicate with the funder to ensure you understand their expectations of you.

Funders will often have their own reporting processes in place. You might be required to report to the funder regularly or just through one end of grant report. Reporting could be in the form of written reports, film, case studies, event feedback or a combination of different methods. The level of reporting will vary depending on the size of the grant you’re awarded.

It’s really important to communicate with the funder and ensure that you’re able to fulfil their reporting requirements. You can see examples of monitoring forms for the Big Lottery on their website here. Remember though, each funder is different.