Looking for grant funding

Grants enable many not-for-profit organisations to provide services that make a real difference to people’s lives. Finding and applying for grants takes time and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The process of applying for grants requires careful planning and management.

What are grants?

Grants are subsidies. The grant-giving body (or ‘funder’) offers funding for specified activities, usually following an application process. The recipient must use the grant for the purposes specified and the money is restricted. Grants are, therefore, different to donations as donations are normally unrestricted.

Grant funding is changing with increasing levels of competition and some funders preferring to offer contracts or loans. Increasingly, not-for-profit organisations are combining grant funding with other options such as trading, contracting and social investment.

What are grants used for?

Grants offer the opportunity to undertake activity that cannot generate enough income to cover its costs. Grants are ideal for supporting activities such as research and development, building capacity or for pilot schemes to test a new area of work, which over time could become self-sufficient. Grants are also widely used for projects and to cover the core operating costs of not-for-profit organisations such as salaries and overheads.

What are the challenges of grants?

  • Short-term nature – if the activity is to continue after funding ends and it is funded through grants, there needs to be a plan for how it will be funded longer-term.
  • Conditions/Specification – many funders have specific priorities for types of activity they want to fund and this doesn’t always correspond with what organisations want to do.
  • Oversubscribed funding – the total amount of grant funding received by the not-for-profit sector has fallen in recent years and is likely to fall further. There are also more organisations and groups looking for funding which means greater competition.
  • Organisation management – funders may have terms and conditions that require you to manage your organisation in a particular way. For example, you may need to introduce additional financial procedures and systems.
  • Time – each funder has their own criteria, priorities and processes, which means every application has to be tailored. Once you’ve managed to submit your application form it takes time to get a decision – on average from two to six months depending on the individual funder and scale of grant requested.

Where to find grant funding opportunities

Here are some useful links to help you get started:

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community FoundationHIWCF is an independent charitable foundation dedicated to connecting donors with the local causes and charities they care about. They specialise in awarding grants to smaller, lesser known charities and community groups who offer the support, services and activities that can really make a difference to local people’s lives.

Big Lottery Fund – responsible for distributing 40 per cent of all funds raised for good causes by the National Lottery. They give grants from £300 to over £500,000 to organisations ranging from small local groups to major national charities.

Funding Central – a free resource for charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises with an annual income below £100,000. They list thousands of funding and finance opportunities, plus a wealth of tools and information.