Getting Your House in Order

Getting Your House in Order

“You’ve got to be in it to win it,” said a grant applicant to me recently. Well, that may be true of Tatts Lotto but grant-seeking is a bit more complex!  And, now more than ever in our COVID-changed world, you really need to have your house in order  before you embark on an application.

I continue to get requests for support with last minute grants. I have, in my time, made the mistake of agreeing to help with them. One time I was so keen to help  that I offered to read over a grant – they said it’d just needed an hour of my time– on a Saturday lunchtime and just 48 hours before the deadline. Needless to say, Saturday lunchtime came and went, and I got the draft just as I was sitting down to dinner on Saturday night. The draft was way off and so I was trying to a) work out what the project actually was and b) assess how well it aligned with the criteria and what points to draw out. It didn’t really stand a chance, and I got indigestion and had a very late night!

Then and there, I told said organisation that they may well not get funded – they didn’t – but that they should look on it as a capacity building exercise. And if they learnt that chaotic, last minute applications don’t work, then my job was done!

It wasn’t just the program content and rationale that needed clarification, they also needed letters of support, financial documents and other attachments such as work and risk management plans. Not items that can be created on the fly.

Working on a grant proposal at the 11th hour is like building the roof of a house without first laying the foundations; it’s attempting to run before walking.

Given charities and for purpose organisations are navigating so much challenge in the COVID world, whether it’s hybrid models of working at home and in the office, managing complexities around service delivery as we cycle in and out of lockdowns, decreases in volunteering, falling revenues, increased demand for services and the ongoing climate of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to be prepared and on the front foot when it comes to applying for grants. Turnaround times can be short so you need to be ready to respond and able to present quality applications as new grant rounds open.

Getting your house in order: ask yourself these questions: 

  • First of all, is your project eligible – have you read the small print? You’d be surprised at how many projects are ineligible…
  • Does your project align with the funder’s vision and criteria? Or are you shoe-horning?!
  • Have you got a list of grant-fit evidence-based projects that are ready to go?
  • What about supporting documentation e.g.  letters, financials, implementation, work and business plans?
  • Are you capturing evaluation data and able to show the outcomes and effectiveness of your project?
  • Can you demonstrate that your organisation is flexible and agile in the current climate, guided by a robust strategy and strong governance and risk management?
  • Do you have the resources to carry out the project and meet the funder’s granting requirements?
  • Are you subscribing to a specialist grants database and staying up to date with new grants as they are announced.  For a list of grants research sources, please head to: