If you’re thinking about applying for a grant you can find help here to succeed.


When applying for grants it’s important to do your research – preparation is key. Funding Scotland. has free, up to date and accurate information about over 1,000 sources of funds, with their application procedures and guidelines. Check the information carefully, see which projects the trust has previously funded, and how much has been donated. Call them to clarify anything you’re not sure of. Though many trusts say they give money UK wide, it’s important to find out if they have a track record of giving in Scotland before you apply. Try to find out what percentage of a trust’s overall expenditure actually goes to the area of work you are engaged in. Check the beneficial area, deadlines and any exclusions carefully.

You can get annual reports from organisations doing similar work to yours to see which trusts have supported them. Another source of information is law firms who administer local trusts. Try to get a lawyer on your board and ask them to use their contacts. You can get information on trusts’ charitable objectives, annual income and expenditure from OSCR and the Charity Commission, and the latter also has downloadable annual reports of any grant making trust registered in England. Job ads often have the logo of the funder that paid for the position, so are worth a look.

Remember that timing is important. Some trusts and foundations only meet on a quarterly basis, so plan ahead. Most trusts have a decision process which takes several months to receive, evaluate and decide on an application.

Identify Need

Funders want to see evidence that your organisation or project idea serves a real need in your community (geographical, community, or community of interest).. You have to demonstrate what you do is important and show measurable results. In any analysis of community needs, you need to show:

  • what is the need you will be addressing? Who will benefit?
  • who else is working in this area? Can you collaborate and combine resources for greater impact, or will you be duplicating effort?
  • what is distinctive about your approach? How does your mission and values fit in with this?
  • what difference will you make? Are there solutions to the core problems, rather than addressing the immediate needs?
  • where will you target and what methods will you use to meet your targets?
  • what resources will you need?
  • how will progress be measured? What is the timeline?

Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics provides information on health, education, poverty, unemployment, housing, population, crime and more.

Don’t chase the money

Always keep your mission a priority and the needs that are to be met – don’t just chase the money because it’s there. Never try to fit yourself into a funder’s criteria in order to get the grant. This will divert you from your core mission and your organisation will lose its sense of direction.

Why you?

Whether you’re applying to a major foundation, or rattling cans in the street, your organisation needs to stand out from the crowd. Whoever you ask for money you need to answer these questions:

  • Why your organisation? What’s so important about what you will do or achieve with the donation?
  • How will you make a difference? What’s your solution?
  • How will you do it, what results will there be?
  • How will you measure your success?

Project versus core funding

Generally, most funders prefer to support projects and capital expenditure, rather than core and revenue costs. This can be a problem as core funding (eg salaries) is the money that enables you to do the actual projects. But you can break much of your work down separately and apportion staff time systematically across projects, so then you can feed back some of this money into your core costs.

A project is a separate, specific and identifiable part of your work. It can be part of a larger activity, but it can be completed on its own. It has clear timescale and its own cost-centred budget related to the work to be done. But what makes a good project for you, and what makes a good project for the funder may differ. The following list is what most funders are concerned with:

  • it meets their funding guidelines and interests
  • it’s cost-effective and value for money
  • it has a realistic budget
  • it has measurable and quantifiable objectives and clear outcomes which can be evaluated and monitored
  • it’s exciting and innovative
  • it solves a real problem and meets a genuine proven need, and there’s evidence to back this up
  • it has a realistic timescale – a beginning, middle and end
  • it’s clearly related to your organisation’s core aims and objectives
  • it involves other organisations, shares resources and has a collaborative aspect
  • it doesn’t duplicate other services or fulfil statutory requirements that local or central government should be engaged in, unless it is a government funder

Writing Effective Grant Applications

Most funders provide their own application form, but if not, this is how a typical proposal should be laid out:

  1. Title of project

This should be smart and eye-catching and describe the overall goal of the project.

  1. Introduction of organisation

This can be your mission statement if you have a good one. It should be short, include your charity number and state your legal structure such as a SCIO or company limited by guarantee. It should show how many years you’ve been in operation and whether you’re user led or are a membership based organisation. This helps the funder put the project in the context of the overall organisation.

  1. Executive summary of proposal (optional)

This is useful for a large or complex project. It can be a brief statement of the problem, what your solution is, and what the funding requirements are – it’s always better to ask for a specific stated amount rather than ‘a contribution towards’.

  1. The need or case statement

The most important part of your proposal clearly explaining why this project is necessary, what need you’re addressing, and how you know this is a need. This should align with the funder’s eligibility criteria, and is the place to back up your argument with facts and figures, case studies, and consultation and survey results. Be specific, and avoid overstatement and overly emotional appeals. Relate the need to the ‘big picture’ and identify its underlying causes. Highlight the social, environmental or economic costs of not meeting the need. Make your application stand out, show what is innovative about your work

  1. Description of project

What are you delivering and when? Spell out the aims, objectives, and outcomes, methods, staffing / administration that will help clarify the budget. Don’t forget that staffing can include volunteers, and for many funders volunteer involvement can be counted as ‘in kind’ support. It’s important to keep a record of how many volunteer hours are given to your organisation, and there are ways to measure the economic value of the work your volunteers do.

  1. Evaluation and monitoring

Tie this section directly into your stated aims and objectives, and outcomes – as this is what you will be evaluating. Your evaluation plan should be incorporated into the project proposal from the beginning and should be fully costed into the budget.

  1. Attachments/appendices – don’t send more information than you’re asked for. If the funder needs to know more, they will ask.
  1. Exit strategy

Most trusts either make one-off grants or give regular support for only a limited period. Your application needs to be clear about the long-term goals and funding strategy of the project. Be clear what will happen when the funding runs out. Is there a strategy for obtaining continuing funding orcan the project become financially sustainable? Long term sustainability is increasingly important to funders.

  1. Conclusion

Say what will happen if the need isn’t met, and sum up your main points again. Restate your funding requirements and indicate who else is funding you, how much you have already and who else you plan to ask. Funders like to know where they fit into the overall picture.

  1. Budget

This can be a separate attachment or part of the main proposal. Make sure you do your research. Get a selection of quotes, be realistic and make sure you check your calculations! If you under cost your project you may put your organisation into deficit. Some common mistakes include omitting:

  • National Insurance contributions, yearly salary increases and pension costs
  • Advertising, recruitment and training costs
  • Additional insurance, equipment and administration costs
  • Travel and accommodation for conferences, meetings, training.

If you’re taking on a new member of staff you may find this sample budget useful (Word download).

Funders want to see good value so you may need to give three quotes for capital items.

What if you’re unsuccessful?

If you’re turned down by a trust, try to find out why. It may give you clues as to any weakness in your approach, and let you know if it’s worth applying again.