After hearing from organizations about their failed funding applications, I had a look through some, talked to those who had put them together and quickly saw want went wrong. Lack of research and planning.

To save time and the heartache of receiving “sorry not this time” letters avoid these mistakes:

Poorly researched and written applications

Before putting the time into completing the application spend some time reading what the funders criteria is, do some research (if possible) into what other projects they have funded.

Simply pulling out an application you’ve submitted before and copying the information into a new one won’t cut it; more so if you missed out last time.

Ensure your have clear objectives, and ideally everyone involved in the project should be asked for their input.

Perhaps more important is to ensure you have fully planned out the project/programme you are applying for funding for; if you haven’t done this step, put the application away and spend the time planning.

Have you got the budgets sorted? If you haven’t done this – stop what you’re doing and get it sorted, you can’t expect a funder to guess what you’re trying to say with figures if you haven’t worked them out yourself.

And, avoid all jargon, you might know what certain acronyms are but you can almost guarantee that those reading your application won’t – do you want your application filed under “too hard”?

The scattergun approach

If you’re sending the same application out to a multitude of funders – stop it!

You will have more success with well planned and targeted applications, the right application for the right funder will win hands down over a poorly targeted one.

Yes, you might get a nibble or two with a mass mail out of applications, but you’ll gain more with targeted applications.

The right application, to the right funder will do you more good.

Not meeting funder’s criteria

This ties back to research and planning, if you don’t know what the funder’s criteria is, you won’t meet it.

When you’ve got your team together to work on funding applications, the first thing you should be doing is working through the funder’s criteria and ticking off each point – if you don’t meet the criteria save yourself and the funder time, don’t proceed with the application.

Most funders won’t mind if you’re unsure and make contact to clarify anything you’re unsure about. If in doubt, make contact and have the criteria clarified.

Meet and Greet

Some funders have open days, which are an opportunity for organizations to meet and learn more about the funder, their work, their criteria and what projects/programmes they are looking to fund. Make it your job to find out if funders you’re likely to approach hold these, if they do make sure you attend.

Some funders like it when an organization asks for the opportunity to meet – check, and if they are open to it, make the effort to arrange a face-to-face meeting.

You’ve got the funding – that’s the end of it

If you think that once you’ve received the funding that all you have to do is get down and do the work, you’re sadly wrong.

Funders want, expect – and deserve updates.

Your board expect updates – so you should already have something available, make sure you fully meet funders criteria and give them the reports, updates that they require.

If you don’t update funders your chances of winning their support in the future will at best diminish – or worse, you won’t even get a foot in the door.


These tips apply not only to traditional funding bodies, but also when applying for funding from companies and others in the community.

Write a check list of what you need to do with all funding applications – print it and pin it up on your wall and refer to it when applying for funding.




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