Top tips for applying for grants

First of all, I don't have all the answers, and not all of our bids are successful. There is lots of good advice given by the funders, so here are a few tips gleaned from my experience at a Building Preservation Trust.

© Lucie Thacker - Taking a break from filling in grant application forms, Birmingham Conservation Trust volunteers clean up the Coffin Fittings Works

At Birmingham Conservation Trust our remit is to 'preserve and enhance Birmingham's threatened architectural heritage and to promote an enjoyment and understanding of the city's historic buildings.' Our Trust rescued the Back to Backs, now owned and managed by the National Trust. We have been raising funds to rescue Newman Brothers Coffin Fittings Works, a late Victorian manufactory in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter; and over the course of the last year, we have been immersed in grant applications to a variety of funders.

Eligibility

We have applied to public bodies such as The Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage and to charitable trusts, and the main thing to bear in mind wherever you apply for funding is to read their guidelines carefully and make sure you qualify for their grants! Check the funder's geographical remit - for example, the Bryant Trust only give grants to groups within a tightly defined area around Birmingham; WREN (Waste Recycling Environmental Limited) have a Heritage Fund but all 'projects must be situated within 10 miles of an active and licensed Waste Recycling Group landfill site' (It is easy to check on their website if your project qualifies). Find out whether you have to be a registered charity or belong to a specific organisation. For example, to apply for a grant or loan from The Archictectural Heritage Fund (AHF) your organisation must be a registered charity, and to qualify for a Project Development Grant you have to be a Building Preservation Trust registered with the AHF or a member of the Association of Building Preservation Trusts. 

Timing

Now check the dates on which grant decisions are made. There are often strict deadlines and you may miss them if you aren't vigilant. The Pilgrim Trust and The Charles Hayward Foundation consider applications four times a year and you can put in your application at any time, whereas The Bryant Trust, for example, issues specific deadline application dates. 

The application

Now to the application form or, quite often, a letter. Follow the application instructions really carefully - if they say they only want a 2-page letter, send just that! The Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts, for example, are specific in their requirements. If the grant making body asks for the previous 3 years' accounts, supply them. If they want pictures of your project, include them, if they want 6 copies of your application, ensure that you send 6 copies. Send it by email if they ask you to, but please don't if they specifically ask to receive your application by post. Spend plenty of time getting your application right, as you need to make it clear to the funder why your project deserves their grant. 

Check and double-check

When you have completed the application form or written the letter, re-read it and then ask someone else to check it. Apart from checking for typographical errors, you need to make sure that what you are asking for is clearly laid out and your project budget is easy to understand. 

Keep a record

Make a copy of your grant application, so if there are any queries from the potential funder, you can immediately check them.

Take heart!

Don't despair if you aren't successful every time, the funding pool is limited but even in these difficult economic times, there are still new funding streams, such as the Challenge Fund for Historic Buildings at Risk, supported by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.

There are also lots of other exciting ways to raise funds from different sources such as people who support your cause such as The Big Give and Justgiving. Remember to ask donors to Gift Aid their donation if they are eligible, as this adds 25p in every £1 to the donation.

To recap

Tip 1: Ensure that you/ your organisation meets the eligibility criteria for the grant.

Tip 2: Don't delay - check the latest dates for submission of your application so you hit all the deadlines.

Tip 3: Fulfill the organisation's requirements in your application submission, don't include extras if not specifically allowed or requested and do include everything they have asked for.

Tip 4: Read, re-read and then ask someone else to check your application, so you can be certain that your application is clear.

Tip 5: Take a copy so you know what you have sent.

Tip 6: Have a cup of tea and a piece of cake before you start the next application!

And by the way, you will need a starting point to check where to apply for grants! The Heritage Alliance's website has a Heritage Funding DirectoryFunds for Historic Buildings does what it says on the tin - read their advice here. If you aren't rescuing a historic building, try a search on Grantsnet

The Lottery Fund and The Heritage Lottery Fund have some top tips too, so read them and good luck with your funding bids!