Applying for a ‘Grants Plus’ programme? Here are 5 quick tips from Pilotlight’s Robbie Cowbury
2016 will be the third year of recruitment for the Weston Charity Awards, which is growing to reach charities across the Midlands as well as the North of England this year. There wasn’t much talk about Grants Plus when we launched the awards in the North East two years ago, but there certainly is now – and we aren’t the only players.
‘Grants Plus’ means money and capacity building (in our instance with a focus on strategy). With this type of programme, the funder is inevitably going to be looking for a different kind of relationship with the grantee, and for a different kind of application. Having worked with many charities as part of the awards, here are my practical tips for fundraisers applying for this sort of support.
Don’t assume you’re too small
With programmes like the Weston Charity Awards, this is exactly the point – to back smaller projects making a difference on a local scale who sometimes feel elbowed out by the big boys. Our current winning charities range from £100k to several million in turnover; the size of their budgets didn’t make a difference in the selection process, it’s what they did with it that counted most.
Many of our winning charities told us that they would never have applied to a national funder if we hadn’t launched the awards specifically in their region. But don’t let this stop you – national funders are keen to support local and community-based projects.
Read the guidelines
This one may seem obvious, but it is really important. Most funders will have put a lot of time into making sure their guidelines are as clear and informative as possible, so please make sure you’ve read them. There’s nothing more off-putting than asking a question that shows you clearly haven’t done your research.
Talk to us
A Grants Plus relationship will be a particularly active one, so funders offering these programmes will want to know what you are like and respond to any questions you have from the start. Sure, we’re busy, but we’d rather hear from you earlier on rather than waste everyone’s time because of a question or issue that could have been quickly sorted out with a phone call.
Don’t put on a show
We’re not looking for perfect charities that know everything already; we’re looking for an organisation that is up for learning, developing, and improving. We don’t want to see a polished veneer; we want to see that you are open to ideas and willing to change. Above all, we want to understand that what we're offering will have an impact on you, and that by working together we can make a difference.
This is true after the application as well. Because there is more of a relationship in place than with straight-up grants, hearing how you're changing and developing due to the support we’re giving you is so important.
Even if it's not all positive, it's important to keep that conversation going. It could mean the funder decides to carry on funding even if everything hasn't been perfect. Why? Because they believe in what you are doing, and recognise that we only get better by making mistakes.
Focus on solutions and impact
The huge need within many communities across the UK is undeniable, but you are almost certainly not the only organisation trying to meet those needs. Every charity who applies to a foundation, and in particular a Grants Plus programme, will be providing important services for disadvantaged people in their community. Yes, you need to clearly explain what needs you do address, but this isn’t enough on its own. So, tell us what you are doing about it, the impact it has made, and how you think our support can help you do more.
Robbie Cowbury is charity recruitment manager at Pilotlight