Fundraising Advice for Local Groups

If you are a not-for-profit organisation working in Reading for the benefit of the local community, we can offer you help on how to search for funding from Charitable Trusts and Foundations and the National Lottery.

Applying for funding

Who provides funding?

Funding bodies award millions of pounds in financial support to organisations in the UK every year. These come in a varied number of forms: grants, loans, venture philanthropy, award schemes and more.

Despite the Government and many other funding bodies increasingly exploring alternative, more sustainable forms of support, grants remain the most sought-after source of funding available to organisations. This is largely because grants have historically been interest-free and non-returnable. As a result, grant funding is sometimes incorrectly regarded as ‘free money’ but is usually awarded under strict terms and conditions. Failure to meet these may result in the withdrawal of future funding or funding already awarded made returnable.

Grants are awarded by many diverse sources, including central, regional, and local government as well as other national and local bodies such as charitable trusts and community foundations. Given the increasingly stiff competition to secure funding, it is vital to research the available funding options and choose the right funding body and grant scheme before making an application. Making both your organisation and your project stand out from the crowd is essential to get the funding you need.

How can you apply for funding?

Most funders will request formal communication of some kind to enable them to consider a particular project, whether it be an application form, an expression of interest, an online application, a report with a set of defined questions, or a free-form letter of proposal where groups simply apply in writing and must make their assumptions as to what the funder is looking for.

In recent years, a growing number of funding bodies have moved to accepting online applications rather than the traditional paper application form. Whilst this often makes for a more efficient and paperless application process, it also means that applicants are no longer able to easily ‘state their case’ for funding and must explain why their project deserves support in the form of answers to a set of predetermined questions on the funder’s website. There is often a limited amount of space or a set number of characters in which to complete the answers to these questions, so it is vital to be able to summarise the key points of your application as concisely as possible.

The funding body then uses the answers to these questions to decide whether to award funding or in the case of an expression of interest, whether to invite applicants to complete a full application form which requires a more detailed explanation of why they are applying for a grant.

What are funders looking for?

Whilst application procedures vary, there are common points regarding the information funders require. In most cases, qualification for grant assistance is dependent on four criteria: location; type of organisation; size; and project purpose.


Eligibility for funding schemes, no matter what the type of organisation, is usually dependent in part on the location of the activity for which funding is being sought. For example, a council may wish to encourage business start-up projects within its boundary as benefits could be in terms of job creation and improvements to the local economy.

Some areas of the UK are looked upon more favourably than others as they are classified as Assisted Areas or Neighbourhood Renewal Areas. Also, a particular project may be eligible for a special grant if it is creating a business in an area with high unemployment, such as areas suffering industrial decline or where traditional industries have collapsed (prime examples being the coal, steel and fishing industries), and also some urban and rural areas.

Type of organisation

Although many grants are available across all sectors, some activities such as education, health and social welfare, poverty, agriculture, and other specialist interests may be targeted for additional funding.


Grants may- be targeted at businesses or groups of a certain size, employing a minimum or maximum number of people, targeting growing businesses as opposed to self-employed individuals or large, well-established organisations.

Project Purpose

Finally, one of the most significant factors for the qualification of grant assistance is the focus of the proposed project or activity. This may be on research and development, exporting, environmental improvements, community development, rural diversification, or training and skills development. It is, therefore, important to explain what it is you want the money for, being clear about the intended outcomes of your project. Simply put, outcomes are what you expect your project to achieve in the end. This may be easier to explain if you have a short-term project with only one goal, for example, the restoration of a building or purchase of an item. Groups seeking support for ongoing work should highlight what they have already achieved and explain what they could accomplish with additional support. Many schemes will not fund day-to-day running expenses but are happy to help fund identified costs.

Making a successful application

It is possible to increase your chances of successfully securing a grant by taking the following aspects into account:

Demonstrate a need for your project

In many cases, applications are rejected because funders do not believe that there is a need for the project, or because they are not persuaded that your idea will solve a particular problem or is what people want. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What needs do your target group have?
  • How do you know that they have such needs?
  • Why is it important that these needs are met?
  • How will your proposed project fulfil those needs?

‘Need’ can cover several aspects such as unemployment levels, a lack of educational achievement, crime levels etc. To demonstrate the extent of your target group’s ‘need’ you must have data to support your case. You could use statistics from a recognised source or conduct your survey/ questionnaire asking people about their views – this can be particularly useful if you are seeking funding for a smaller project. If you are looking for finance for a large project, you may need to carry out a fully costed appraisal and show that you have researched the various ways you can meet the need, indicating which option you have chosen and why.

It is important, however, not to rely solely on statistics to paint a picture of your project. Bring in the human aspect wherever possible to communicate to the awarding body what the situation is like for your target group, such as including quotes from clients. Overall, make sure it is clear to the funder that you have done your homework and researched your project.

Show that your project is well-planned

Funders will always want to see evidence that your project is well-planned. To do this, you must specify the main aspects that will help to achieve your aims and make your project possible. You must tell the sponsor:

  • what it is you are going to do.
  • what difference your project will make in terms of benefits to your target group?
  • when and where your project is going to happen.
  • how you are going to carry out your project and what you need to do (equipment, premises, staff, etc.).
  • who will be responsible for conducting the project; and
  • how you are going to measure whether your project has achieved its aims and made a difference.

From the funder’s point of view, applicants must show that they are serious and will be able to successfully deliver projects, no matter how good a proposal is on paper. Most sponsoring bodies will not give out grants simply for a worthy cause. They will want evidence of relevant research and planning by the amount of money requested and the type of work. For example, a group looking for money to buy a few pieces of equipment may only need to supply a couple of quotes, whilst an organisation wanting new premises or additional staff may need to provide cash-flow projections, a business plan, job descriptions, planning consents etc. Essentially, the more money you want and the riskier your activity, the more work, planning and evidence you will need.

Accurately cost your project

Once you have devised your project plan you will need to calculate how much money you require to enable you to carry it out, justifying the amount you have requested. It may be that you draw up a budget for your organisation’s work, a separate budget for a particular activity, or a single figure for a one-off item of equipment. Whatever you require funding for, when drawing up a budget you should include all aspects of your project – even the hidden costs like salaries/cost of the staff involved in the administration of your project, premises, and related expenditure (rates/rent/fuel), communications (telephone/postage), and any travel or training. Make sure that you do not guess what the costs are but get estimates or quotes to illustrate how you have worked the costs out. You could even review what you have spent in previous years or look at the accounts of other organisations that have carried out similar activities in the past to give you an idea of the value.

Always remember – do not over or underestimate your project costs. Be as realistic as possible. At the same time as telling the funder how much you need and what the funding will be for, make sure that you tell them over what period the project is likely to run.

Provide evidence of good management

Funding bodies will always want to see evidence of good management and that your organisation can deliver the project. It is extremely important that you have efficient procedures for the handling of finances within your organisation (i.e., a good bookkeeping system and properly prepared accounts) and that you can provide evidence that you will be able to account for the money given to you.

In addition, funders will also look at the policies that an organisation has in place, including Health and Safety, employment, child protection and equal opportunities.

Show how the project will make a difference

With any grant application, funders will always want to know that the grant they have provided is making a long-term difference in the lives of the people benefiting from the activity. They need to be sure that the money they are giving is spent wisely. As such, the awarding body is interested in the positive outcomes derived from the assistance they are offering, and its significance to the beneficiaries rather than to the applying organisation. The grant schemes in today’s funding world strongly highlight this point. For example, funding for a new sports centre will not be simply to provide better facilities for its members; it must lead to further benefits for the community, such as opening facilities to the public and integrating the disadvantaged into the community. You must emphasise you are working ‘with’ the community and that their views and needs are considered within your project plans.

When approaching the subject of how your project will make a difference within your application, think laterally. Take a step back from what your project is doing and look at what impact it might have on the community, environment and/or local economy. This way you are more likely to meet the aims and objectives of the funder, and thus increase your chances of securing the funding you desire.

Where to go for help

There are several resources available to help you find the right grant scheme to suit your project needs and for assistance with completing an application.

Once you have found the funding scheme you are looking for, there is no better place to go for help than to the awarding body itself. Many funders will be happy to discuss your project and funding requirements ahead of a formal application. Making initial contact with a funding body to find out what kind of project and/or organisation they are looking to support can take much of the guesswork out of making an application and help you stay one step ahead of the competition.

Alternatively, you may look for support at a more local level like your nearest local council, community foundation, community for voluntary services, or council for voluntary organisations as they can offer a wide range of support services and practical assistance.

Reading Voluntary Action (RVA)

We have partnered with Reading Voluntary Action (RVA) to deliver funding and sustainability advice. We recommend you complete RVA’s Fundability Health check before applying for funding.

Where to search for funding

  • Reading 4 Community

Reading 4 Community is a free funding search website for not-for-profit organisations in Reading. It lets you search through thousands of national and regional funding programmes-including grants and loans- to help you find support for your project or organisation. Hosting for this portal is paid for by Reading Borough Council and offered free of cost to local community groups/voluntary organisations to register and use the portal.

Last updated on 29/04/2024