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An Excellent Trust Funding Application: 11 Top Takeaways

A great funding application can mean that your charity’s good work reaches your beneficiaries and changes their context for the better. However, many applications can quickly turn into an unpleasant experience if one doesn’t have the right list of priorities for how to do their research and what to include in their funding application. Find below the 11 things you must keep in mind when writing an application, as well as some very useful resources.

Things to include/consider for your funding application

  1. Case for support – this might be the single most important tool you create. It is an internal document with all the information about your organisation, your projects or services, including contact details, references, evidence of need and budgets. It is written in proposal-ready language and becomes a ‘bible’ about your organisation or project/service so that all applications and individuals are singing from the same hymn book. Answer the following points:
    1. Who (are your beneficiaries, are you)
    2. What (is the impact going to be if you do/don’t do this, are you doing, do you want to accomplish)
    3. Why (does it need to be done, why you)
    4. Where (will it be delivered, are you based)
    5. When (will it happen, when you do need the money for)
    6. How (are you going to do ‘what’)
    7. How much (will it cost, time will it take)
    8. How many (will be helped, will be needed)
  2. Make it easy for the funder to give you funding – deliver what they ask, answer the questions they may not initially ask, and copy edit your work. Get someone else to sense check your content.
  3. Approach them as though they are experts – if they aren’t, they will consult with those that are.
  4. Priorities beneficiaries – it is not about your charity or you as a fundraiser, it’s about your beneficiary and the impact on or for them of your service or project. Change ‘we’re delivering this service’ to ‘beneficiaries are receiving this service’. Fundraisers and charities are the facilitators or translators of that need and impact.
  5. Honesty and transparency – competition is too great and reputations are too fragile. Be honest and transparent in your business dealings and in your interaction and communication with potential funders (who are about to give you ‘free’ money!)
  6. Guidelines – explain how you meet their guidelines and priorities. Outline and make the connections for them – they are reading potentially a thousand or more applications, don’t make them do the work to prove your eligibility.
  7. Follow the rules – they have given you instructions for a reason. It is often the first test if you will deliver on the promises you make in your application. If you don’t follow them now, will you follow the terms and conditions if you get an award? So adhere to word/character/page limits, font and font size, deadlines, additional and supplementary documents.
  8. Trust fundraising is NOT marketing – Mimic (within reason) the language they are using in their own publications and tell your story well. If you use photos, make sure they are appropriate and are worth the value of the words they replace. Minimise fancy font styles and colours. And DON’T use jargon or your communications team’s style and language manual if it interferes with the application guidelines.
  9. Need vs want and the value of proof – your organisation and application are in competition with many others. Put yourself toward the front of the line by proving the need your organisation/service/project is meeting. ‘Wants’ that are linked to your business plans rather than aspirational goals for your beneficiaries will take a back seat for many trusts in the face of immediate and future needs of those beneficiaries.
  10. Monitoring and evaluation, and budgets – these are essential elements to your proposal or application. What are your objectives and the impact/outcome for your beneficiaries? How do you know if you’ve achieved them? How will you report on them? And is your budget realistic, specific and appropriate? Have all of these been approved by your service delivery and finance teams?
  11. Stewardship – this starts with sending out tailored applications (actually, this is cultivation) and finishes with thank you letters and update reports. These are vital and can result in repeat funding and developing a long term relationship with a funder.


1. Funding Research: moneytreefundraising.co.uk/research-how-to-find-the-gold/

Subscription databases (not comprehensive or endorsed, ask for samples or demonstrations): GrantFinder (idox), Factary, GRIN, FundsOnline, Grants Online.

Charity Excellence Network – crowd-sourced lists, you must yourselves qualify individual entries as appropriate for your organisation.

2. Sample templates for policies etc: https://moneytreefundraising.co.uk/sample-and-template-policies/

3. Quick turn-around emergency funding situations: https://moneytreefundraising.co.uk/quick-turn-around-make-or-break-trust-fundraising/

Deanna Wolf





Article by Deanna Wolf, Senior Consultant – Trust Fundraising, Money Tree Fundraising


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