Four things holding your grant proposal back

: Marina Jones

It's difficult to know what funders are really thinking when they read your application – trust fundraiser Marina Jones reveals four common mistakes people make. Marina will co-host an interactive workshop at Fundraising Convention 2018, that promises to provide real insight by critiquing your (confidential) proposals.

1. It's not engaging and clear

How long is spent assessing your application? Maybe just 10 minutes. Ten minutes to read and digest and understand your carefully thought through, crafted prose. Ten minutes to understand the situation and issues that your charity and its vital work are trying to solve. Ten minutes to think about fit, capacity and to understand the budget.

It's not long. So your application needs to be readable and understandable by someone who has no knowledge of your organisation or project. Read it again, is it clear? Ask someone else who doesn't know you or the work to read it in 10 minutes – do they get it? Make it engaging and clear.


2. You haven't explained your aims and ask 

Grant Managers have to consider a multitude of factors. Make sure you have clearly expressed the project aims and articulated how it fits in with the aims of the trust or foundation that you are asking for support. Are you clear how much money you are asking for? They also need to consider whether their Trustees are going to fund that type of work, and what else is already on the agenda for the meeting. 

A poorly written and expressed application with no clear link to the foundation's priority or available resources is likely to jettison it into the bin. Are you clear why you are asking them to support this? Grants managers also need to consider whether their Trustees are going to fund that type of work, and what else is already on the agenda for the meeting. 


3. Attention to detail

Spelling and grammar are important. Have you spelled their name correctly? One foundation I know frequently gets applications with an additional 's' on their name (e.g. Samuels not Samuel *not their real name) – they have told me anyone who spells their name wrong doesn’t get a grant. 

Is it a trust or foundation? Have you just found all the references to 'XYZ Generic Trust' and replaced it with 'Generic Foundation' and not personalised it to the trust and what they stand for? 


4. You're using too much jargon

Sure you know what an INSET day is or a PPG but does your funder? Does everyone know who the leading scientist or academic in the field is and does it mean anything to them? Is it readable in layman's terms or do you require a science degree to understand it? Remember to tailor it to the funder.


Here's what to do...

Everyone's a critic at Convention:

David Burgess and I are leading the Fundraising Convention 2018 session, Everyone's a critic – sharing and comparing trust applications.  We have a combined experience of nearly 30 years working in trusts and foundations, and will be joined by Kate Hitchcock, Grants Manager at Paul Hamlyn Foundation to offer expert feedback.

Guarantee that you get the feedback you want and submit one of your own proposals to be critiqued by the group. We will remove any obvious references to your organisation and location and you can learn what your peers really think! Email 

This is just one of the sessions on the Wednesday of Convention – a day devoted to trusts and foundations fundraisers – created for you by those that do it too! 

Meet the funders:

We begin the list of trusts and foundations session with a panel of funders – the ones you really want to meet. This gives you the chance to ask those really honest questions to them directly about how you can work with them and build relationships and what annoys them. This year we have another superb panel chaired by the fantastic Carol Mack, Chief Executive of the Association of Charitable Foundations, and your chance to ask questions and talk directly to Caroline Mason, Chief Executive of the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Ruth Davison, Executive Director – Impact and Investment at Comic Relief, and Paddy Sloan, Interim Grants Director at Children in Need. 

Only the Lonely:

For many, trusts and foundations can be a lonely job and you are often the only person in that role. We are delighted that two fundraising stalwarts, Kevin Rowe and Deanna Woolf, will give us a warts and all account of what that means to be a sole fundraiser and how to succeed.  

What does the future hold for you?:

Author of Giving Trends: Top 300 Foundation Grant Makers and academic, Cathy Pharoah comes to share her expertise on what is happening and how you can prepare for the future. Her overall insight into the broader picture helps reveal hidden trends. She is joined by Elly de Decker from Big Lottery Fund to offer insights from the statutory perspective.  

Damned lies and statistics:

Jess Brown from National Autistic Society and Lauren Ambrose from Girlguiding will give us a masterclass on how to use data to improve performance with some great insights and case studies. 

Trusts and foundations fundraisers, I hope to see you there! 


Marina Jones, Fundraising Convention Board member and Head of Trusts and Foundations, Development and Enterprises at Royal Opera House

Explore the full Fundraising Convention programme

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