Applying for funding can often be daunting, especially if you haven’t done it before. There’s lots of different grant giving bodies out there. Most have formal application processes. While some may invite organisations to apply, most have open application processes that enable any eligible organisation to apply. Eligibility, priorities, and processes vary between funders. Be sure to familiarise yourself with these before you decide to apply. 

It is important to note that you do not need to be an expert bid writer or have any experiencing in applying for funding. While every funder is different, there are a few steps you can take to help you through the process. We recommend following the steps outlined below if you’re applying for funding to a lottery distributor or charitable foundation:

Before you start your search for funding, it’s important to think about and plan what you want to achieve. When scoping out your investment needs, remember, any projects should be designed to meet local needs and complement your organisations’ longer term aims and objectives. When developing your plan, be clear on:

  • What you want to achieve.
  • When you want to achieve this by.
  • Whether there is a justifiable need for it.
  • What resources you need to achieve it (human and financial resources).
  • Who’ll benefit from it and what impact it’ll have.
  • How it aligns with the longer-term plans for your organisation.
  • Whether you can afford to do it without external funding or whether you need to raise funds for it via sponsorship, fundraising or if you need to apply for grant funding (or a combination).  If you need grant funding, move to step 2!
  • What approval do you need to submit any applications (e.g. from a committee or leadership team).

When you’re sure you need grant funding, make sure you’ve got a good team in place to help you. Applying for funding requires preparation. It’s beneficial to create a working group and share out the tasks and responsibilities. It’s good to involve several people in the planning and drafting of your application(s) and brief your committee so that they’re bought into the idea. 

Don’t limit your working group to your existing committee members. Your participants, volunteers and their families, friends and contacts will have different skills and experiences which may be useful to support the process. Involving partners from outside of your organisation with experience of applying for grants is also beneficial e.g. CVS staff, NGB development officer, personnel from your Active Partnership or Local Authority, or local business partners. From the outset, define everyone’s roles and responsibilities and involve them at each stage to cement their buy-in and support.

Update your plan (step 1) to reflect the input of your working group and get them to take ownership of it. Plan appropriately and allow sufficient time, as applying for funding often takes longer than expected.

When you’re designing your project, check and challenge your idea with those who’ll benefit from it and take onboard their feedback. Be sure to consult with partners, those with lived experience, and your target audience to ensure there’s a genuine need for your project. Any application should be driven by the target audience rather than the applicant organisation.

Having this understanding and a plan of what you want to do and how you will do are the key foundations of any strong funding application. When developing you project consider:

  • Where your project will be based.
  • Who will you target and how you will reach them.
  • The facilities and equipment you will need.
  • Who will deliver your project.
  • What the timescales are for delivery.
  • How you will retain any new participants and/or volunteers.

Once you’ve developed your project, the next step is to research what funding’s available, who the funders are, what the application process looks like, and if there’s any timescales to be aware of.

Through your research establish: 

  • who the funders are.
  • what their stated priorities and outcomes are.
  • the types of organisations they support.
  • their eligibility criteria (see step 5).
  • how closely they align with the values of your organisation and what you want to achieve through your project.
  • how much funding is available.
  • timescales for applying and receiving a decision.
  • the funding process.

Understanding the organisations that are most closely aligned with your project will help you to determine who to apply to.

Funding streams do change or are updated regularly so it is important to check what funding bodies are offering at a particular time and plan accordingly.

If you’re not sure where to start looking for funding, the following organisations are a good place to start your search:

  • Sport England.
  • National Governing Body of sport.
  • Active Partnerships. They can share information on national, regional, and local funding sources. Some have a funding newsletter.
  • Local Authority.
  • Corporate organisations – Large multi-national organisations (e.g. sports kit manufacturers) who provide support, community outreach programmes or have corporate social responsibility programmes.
  • National organisations – Larger nationally based organisations (e.g. supermarkets) who provide grants to support community organisations.
  • Local organisations – local businesses who sponsor or support community organisations.
  • Trusts and charitable foundations – usually not-for-profit organisations who provide funding and support to other charities or community organisations.
  • Funding Central (you will need to pay a subscription fee unless you are an organisation with a turnover of lees than £30,000 per annum).
  • The Directory of Social Change and Directory of Grant Making Trusts (you will need to pay a subscription fee or pay for the directory which is only available in hard copy).
  • GRANTfinder – A tool which provides access to Sport England’s database of funding opportunities as well as wider community schemes.
  • Grants Online
  • Sported - Provide support through monthly funding bulletins, funding reports, and application feedback. A membership is required but it’s free for a not-for-profit organisations and organisations that directly deliver sport and physical activity to young people (aged 11-25).
  • Charity Excellence Framework – Access to a free funding finder and advice on applications.

It is also worth considering funders outside of the sport and physical activity sector too if your idea will achieve wider impacts like reducing anti-social behaviour, improving your local area, or improving physical and mental health. 

Once you’ve found some potential funders, before you start to prepare your application(s), ensure that both your organisation and project are eligible.

Some funds are only open to specific types of organisations or projects in particular geographical areas. Others may require you to meet certain governance or security of tenure requirements. Some will only fund specific types of projects, others require you to raise match funding or will be capped at a certain amount. Be sure to carefully read all the information provided such as funding prospectuses, eligibility criteria, FAQ documents, case studies and watch any videos to get a good understanding of what will be supported. Some funders encourage you to have conversations with them before you apply, and others will have helplines so make the most of these opportunities where you can.

Once you have discovered the funds, you’re eligible for and that closely align with your idea’s aims and objectives, register your interest or have an early discussion with the funder if possible. Remember that eligibility does not equal success, as most funds are competitive, and you will need to carefully prove your need and impact.

If you’re applying for lottery funding (e.g. Sport England funding), check out our Health Check Tool, which can help you identify areas for development and highlight possible improvements you can make to increase your chances of being eligible to receive funding. Other key eligibility criteria may include:

You may also wish to consider reviewing Tier 1 of ‘the Code for Sports Governance’ which sets out the mandatory requirements for organisations seeking investment of between £10,000 and £250,000 from Sport England.

Once you’ve developed your idea and found a funding stream that you and your project are eligible for, make sure you get buy-in and final approval from the relevant decision makers within your organisation (e.g. committee or leadership team). This will help ensure that everyone is aware of your plans and that you’re supported through each stage of the application. A senior member of your organisations may also need to act as the lead contact for any application. Make sure people whose contact details you’ve shared, know about your application, have a copy of it, and have read and support it. Funders may contact them for more information, often by phone.

The final step before writing your application is to build your evidence base. Strong applications are based on meeting a clear, specific, and evidential need. Gather any information you need to support your application and evidence its need.

The amount of evidence needed will vary depending on the grant amount and/or requirement of the funder, but it is good to show how your project will deliver against national and local priorities as well as your own.

When collating your evidence base it is useful to:

  • Understand your user, participant, membership, and volunteer base and their needs.
  • Show you’re embedded in your local community and, where possible, demonstrate an understanding of your local area and the communities you are targeting. Show you understand its demographic make-up, any localised issues (such as deprivation levels), participation and volunteering rates and the impact your idea could have on these and any wider local priorities and social outcomes. Sport England’s Active Lives, The Office for National Statistic and Public Health Profiles can help you to do this.
  • Research and demonstrate the impact your project will have on both strategic and local priorities (including your own priorities and those of your funder). If you can, reference strategies of the funding body, you are applying to, your NGB, Active Partnership, Local Authority, or other local bodies.
  • Show how you’ve consulted and co-designed your project with prospective beneficiaries. This includes evidencing that you have tested your project idea to ensure it meets their needs and responds to any feedback. You could do this via open days, focus groups, interviews, surveys and asking for feedback through your organisation’s social media channels. Consulting beyond your existing people is important and likely to add extra weight to the need for your idea. Be sure to record the outcomes of any consultation. 
  • Gather support for your project from your local community, existing participants, members, volunteers, and strategic partners like your Local Authority, NGB, Active Partnership, schools or local voluntary and community organisations and charities that already work with in your area or with the specific audiences that you are looking to target.

It’s now time to write your application and tell the funding organisation all about your organisation, its aims, your project and what you are requesting funding for. We recommend circulating the application form, any guidance notes and FAQs around your working group (see step 2). You may wish to allocate different sections of the form and supporting evidence to different people, depending on their skill set.

It’s important to be clear, concise and provide the funding organisation with the information that they’ve requested. In some cases there may limit (word count) on how much you can write, so you need to ensure that you build the strongest case possible. Funders are likely to check your website and any social media channels so ensure these are up to date and any detail within your application is reflected on these channels.

Common questions asked by funders in applications forms include:

  • Tell us about your project. Questions like this offer an opportunity to tell the funder about your project and tell your story. Provide a description of what you need funding for, who you will target, what any funding will contribute towards, where your project will be based and when. Be ambitious about what you can achieve, but also realistic.
  • How do you know there is a need for your project.  This is where you need to make the case for your project by evidencing why your project is needed. This section of the application form is your opportunity to demonstrate and explain the need for your project idea. Identify any issues it will address, who will benefit and why it’s important. Be clear on where evidence has come from and how it’s been collated as this will help strengthen your case and explain how your idea will help meet your vision and aims plus locally relevant strategic priorities. 

Demonstrating you’ve done your research and understand your audiences will provide funders with confidence that your idea will have a true and sustained impact. When demonstrating the need for your project consider using the STAR framework:

      • Situation – describe the situation you, your organisation or your users find themselves in.
      • Task - outline your plan to address the situation.
      • Application - outline how will you do it, who will do it and what skills they have, why you the right people to deliver this and if you are targeting a certain group think about any barriers and how you will overcome these.
      • Result – detail how the outcomes of your project will address the identified need. Ensure there is a clear link between the need and proposed outcomes.
      • Sustainability – How you will continue to offer the proposed outcomes and address any identified need in the long term.

  •  What impact will your project have.  In this question you should outline the impact your project will have and how it’ll benefit the local community, such as increased activity levels, improved mental wellbeing and social, community or individual development. Specify any audiences you particularly want to engage with, like inactive people, people with a disability, people on low incomes or people from diverse ethnic communities or specific postcodes. Explain how you have worked out your impact and how you’ll measure your success. 
  • How will you deliver your project. Here you will need to explain how you’ll manage the delivery of your project idea and ensure your objectives are achievable. Consider any possible risks and how you plan to mitigate against these. Identify any partners that will support the delivery of your idea and their roles and responsibilities. Back this up with quotes or letters of support. 
  • How much will your project cost and what financial plans do you have in place. When answering this question you need to be as accurate as you can with your costs to demonstrate you have set a realistic budget. Outline any partnership funding (cash or in-kind) that will be contributed and provide evidence to back this up. Careful financial planning such income and expenditure forecasts and business plans will give confidence that your idea is financially viable.
  • How will your project be sustainable in the long term. This is where you should explain the expected timescales of your idea, including how long people will take part in it and your plans to raise additional funding (if required) so it is sustainable in the long term. Funders will expect you to have plan in place to continue any activity following their investment. If your project is activity based, outline how you aim to keep participants active. If you are looking for capital funding to invest in a facility or equipment, explain how you’ll maintain and then replace it at the end of its useful life. This should include reference to a sinking fund and any reserves that your organisation may have.  
  • Submission of additional Information. To support your application, you may want to include relevant additional documents such as your; research findings, delivery plans, budgets, business plans, development plans, quotes/letters of support and evidence of partnership funding.

Once you’ve completed your application it’s worthwhile asking someone, who has not been involved in writing it, to review it against the funders’ priorities and any criteria and provide feedback. They are more likely to pick up on whether you have missed any obvious information or need to provide any more detail. You may also want to contact organisations such as your Active Partnership or Sported who maybe able to review your application.

Once you’ve completed your application and gathered any supporting documents, you’re ready to submit your application. Only submit what’s requested and avoid the temptation of sending additional information on things that aren’t relevant, like a detailed history of your organisation and its past members.

Once submitted, your application will be reviewed by an assessor or a grants panel. You may be asked to provide additional information, if you are, be sure to do so in a timely manner so that your application can continue to be assessed within any decision timescales given.

You are most likely to be notified about the decision via email or telephone.

If you’re unsuccessful:

  • Unfortunately, you are unlikely to be successful with all grant funding applications that you submit. Most funds are significantly oversubscribed and a success rate of one in five is considered a good average.
  • If the decision is not to support your project, try and request feedback to help you understand where your project/application could be strengthened within any future funding applications.

If you’re successful:

  • You might need to submit evidence of your eligibility (if you haven’t already) and to fulfil any conditions that may come with your award. This may include providing things like bank statements, planning permission, copies of governing documents, annual accounts, annual reports, insurance, health and safety, risk registers, risk assessments, safeguarding policies.
  • You are likely to be allocated a point of contact from the funding body who you can liaise with and ask any questions to.
  • Once you’ve been notified of your success, consider this the start of your relationship with the funder. Be sure to thank them and keep them updated on any progress that is made.
  • Most grants will come with a ‘grant agreement’ that sets out how much you have been awarded, what the grant must be used for and any associated terms and conditions. These documents are usually legally binding, so read them carefully before signing them.
  • The process for claiming your grant will differ between funders. Be sure to discuss exactly when and how you can draw down any payment(s) and the evidence you need to provide. You are likely to be required to reconcile your spending accurately, so keeping receipts, invoices and bank statements is important.
  • Some funders may ask you to collect and return data to help monitor and evaluate the impact of their investment and to demonstrate what has been delivered.

Click here for top tips on applying for grant funding.

Last modified: Friday, 28 July 2023, 12:03 PM