How to apply

Although there are complete books on this (for example, Fundraising from Grant-making Trusts and Foundations and Writing Better Fundraising Applications, both published by the Directory of Social Change), there is no need to be daunted by the challenge of making effective applications. If your charity's work is good, and of a kind supported by the trust in question, a very simple letter (of one uncrowded page or less, and backed by a clear annual report and set of accounts) will probably do 90% of everything that can be done.

If there is an application form and detailed applications requirements, just follow them. But because they make it so easy, such trusts tend to get a lot of applications and you may have even better chances with the others.

Select the right trusts to approach

If they fund organisations or work like yours, and if you genuinely fit within any guidelines they publish, put them on your list.

Ring them

If the entry makes this sound sensible, ring them to check that the guidelines in this guide still apply and that the kind of application you are considering is appropriate for them.

Send in an application

Unless the trust has an application form (most don't), the main part of this, we suggest, should be a letter that fits easily on one side of a sheet of paper ( back-up materials, such as a formal 'proposal' may be necessary for a big or complex project, but are usually, in our view, secondary). We suggest that the letter contains the following:

  • A summary sentence such as: 'Can your trust give us £10,000 to develop a training programme for our volunteers?'
  • The problem the work will address: This should normally be the beneficiaries' problem, not your charity's problem: 'Mothers of children with learning disabilities round here get very little help from the statutory services in coping with their children's day to day needs.'
  • What you are going to do about this: 'Our volunteers, who have been in the same situations themselves, support and help them, but the volunteers need and want better training, especially on home safety.'
  • Details of the work: 'We want to commission an expert from sister charity Home Start to develop and test suitable training materials that we will be able to use.'
  • Information about your charity: 'We attach one of our general leaflets explaining what we do, and a copy of our latest Annual Report and Accounts.'
  • Repeat the request: 'We will be very grateful if your trust can give us this grant.'

And that is all. Keep the style simple and informal. Where you can, handwrite the date, salutation and signature. A charity is not a business and does not impress by trying to sound like one. The best letter comes from a person involved in the proposed activity.

Making the letter longer will often reduce rather than increase its impact, but attaching compelling material is fine. You are not saying they have to read it through. A letter of endorsement might also be nice: your local bishop saying your work is wonderful, or whatever.

Appearance matters. It is a great help if you have a high quality letterhead on something better than photocopy paper, and if your report and accounts and literature are of appropriately high quality for your kind of organisation.
Good luck.