Ten Steps to the Perfect Funding Bid: step 3


It’s crucial to understand that charitable trusts and foundations are governed by Trustees who may be descended from the long-dead philanthropist who set up the fund, and they are often emotionally bound up with their ancestor’s original wishes and interests.  Although this is money now designated to be distributed for charitable purposes, we must never forget that it stems from private money, and we are in effect begging Oliver Twist-style for our bowls to be filled with a handout from the rich.  The point is that they can be as capricious as they like – if anything in the bid we submit doesn’t hit their priorities exactly, there is no good reason on earth why they would choose to give THEIR money to OUR project.    

So let’s not waste our time, our paper, our print cartridge, or our stamp, on submitting bids that do not match their priorities 100%.

If you followed Step Two, posted on December 4th, you will by now have researched a range of funders, and will have a nice colour-coded chart of best-match funders, reasonable matches, and “not-this-time” funders.  Check again whether your best-match funders are willing to contribute 100% of your project costs, whether they like to keep their contribution to around 50%, or perhaps whether they like to come in towards the end of a fundraising appeal.  This will help you decide who to bid to first, and who to save until you hear the outcome of the first couple of bids.

I was asked on Friday while running my training course “Ten Steps to the Perfect Funding Bid” in Somerset, whether it is OK to bid to 3 or 4 funders at the same time, each for the whole amount.  Well yes it is, as long as you don’t accept 3 or 4 lots of money for the same piece of work!  This is known as double-funding (or indeed treble-funding!) and would be fraudulent.  If two of the bids were successful, you could perhaps do twice as much work as originally planned – but you would still need to go back to the funders and explain what has happened and what you are now proposing.  If you want to keep both lots of money, you’ll have to do more with it.  Alternatively, accept one lot, thank the other funder profusely and ask if you could defer accepting their grant until the first one is used up.  If you want to use the second donation for something different, it is absolutely essential to discuss that with the funder, who is well within their rights to say no and withhold the funds.  However this is a nice problem to have to deal with, and infinitely preferable to having too many rejection letters!

But the main thrust of step 3 is to remind you that each charitable trust will be rejecting probably 9 out of 10 bids that DO meet their published priorities – don’t make it easy for them to put your bid in the wastepaper bin by not hitting their priorities bang on.  Don’t worry if at first it seems that your project doesn’t quite fit in – somewhere out there a funder shares your passion for your piece of work, you just need a bit more research to find them.

Many funders don’t allow you to bid again to them for at least a year after a failed application, which is a strong reason to not bid unless you are sure you have a good match with their priorities – sending too many bids off, scatter-gun style, not only means you get lots of depressing rejection letters, but also means you rule yourself out of bidding again, even for a project that really does match their priorities.

The next few steps will take us through completing different sections of the funding application forms.  Feel free to use the Subscribe button on the right to avoid missing any installments.

©  Tamara Essex 2009

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2 Comments on “Ten Steps to the Perfect Funding Bid: step 3”

  1. StevieG Says:

    Interesting that you say 90% will be rejected even though they do meet the published criteria. In your experience are they willing to confide the reasons for rejecting your application? Or, for that matter, accepting another application?

    • tamaraessex Says:

      Hi Steve – this is the main difference between charitable trusts / foundations, who don’t have to give any reasons, and the Lottery and statutory funders, who will usually at least let you know which area was weakest. Unfortunately, it’s like those job application rejection letters you get: “…. high number of applications … blah blah …. extremely high standard of applicant ….. blah blah …. regretfully not successful this time”. Smaller trusts are more likely to give feedback, especially local ones such as the Somerset Community Foundation, or the Bournemouth Dorset & Poole Community Foundation, who are happy to take a phone call afterwards to explain which bit of your bid-writing could be strengthened. What a trust will never tell you is the whims and foibles of their Trustees, who are a law unto themselves and may make any decision they like, even a really questionable or apparently unfair one! It’s their money.

      Re the percentage – I’ve been hearing that many people are saying they expect a one-in-20 success rate nowadays. As my “Fundraising in a Recession” post explained, the diversion of Lottery money to the Olympics has increased the number of applicants to the popular trusts and foundations, in turn reducing the success rate there.

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