March 27th, 2020 / Insight posted in Articles

Grant fundraising in a crisis: How can charities access grant funds quickly and successfully?

In the face of the Coronavirus crisis, charities are crucial now more than ever and many need urgent support themselves. Parts of the sector that were already struggling have suddenly been hit with challenges of extraordinary proportion and no one knows what the future holds.

Charities often serve the most vulnerable people in our society. Unlike other businesses that have shut down during this time, there is no reduction in demand for charitable services; in fact, demand has soared. There are multiple challenges:

  • Staff and volunteer numbers are down
  • Beneficiaries are unable to access services but still in desperate need of them
  • Fundraising events and appeals are cancelled; and
  • Charities are having to rapidly rethink how they keep their operations running.

As everyone is adapting to the ‘new normal’, charities need new ways to fund all of this. In short, the sector needs financial support and it needs it quickly.

An article announcing the pledge of 150 funders to support charities during this crisis has been published (covid19funders.org.uk) this week. Other funders like Arts Council England have also announced extraordinary grant fund options (www.artscouncil.org.uk/covid19). Funders recognise the gravity of this situation and want to help. There have already been and will continue to be funds being distributed in the sector, so there is a glimmer of hope and we want to encourage you to embrace that.

Understanding and articulating how the crisis is impacting you, what your plan is, and what resources you require is paramount in order to craft the best ‘ask’ and get the help that you deserve.

Writing effective applications is not always easy and, now that time is not on your side, or perhaps you are a charity that has never applied for grants before, this can be a daunting task. Grants often take time to access and bid-writing isn’t normally part of an emergency appeal. In these extraordinary times, trust fundraising needs to step up. To assist you, here are our top five tips that will help you to craft an ‘ask’ that is authentic and powerful.

1. Keep it simple. Funding committees are made up of people like you. Help them understand your proposal by making it interesting and easy to read. People give to people, so make your application human.

2. Read the guidelines. And follow them! While the grant on offer will be attractive, the funder will only be allowed to fund things within its charitable objects. If your cause doesn’t align, don’t waste yours and the funder’s time by trying to shoehorn your case in.

3. Use the language of the funder. Everyone has their own jargon and insider language. Don’t use it for grant applications. Look at how the application details describe the funder’s interests and use these to describe your work.

4. It’s all about impact. Ask yourself, ‘so what?’ What difference does your work make? Why is it better to fund your work than another charity’s work? Don’t just detail what you do, articulate the change that happens to beneficiaries as a result. Building a school in Africa is nice. Empowering young women in Africa through education so that they have control over their futures is more powerful.

5. Cost your bid effectively. Articulate transparently how much funding you need and for what purposes. If you cherry-pick your costs to appear cheaper or forget to include the full costs, this expenditure will need to be funded from another source. This might be reserves, which will be precious in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis. When budgeting for a grant, include a fair portion of overheads in the total amount. This should be a realistic reflection of the infrastructure needed to run your organisation.

At Moore Kingston Smith, we have a team of highly experienced fundraising, impact and finance specialists. We are passionate about the sector and are extending a virtual hand to support in any way that we can. Please contact us at fundraising@mks.co.uk and we would be happy to help however we can.

In the meantime, the entire Moore Kingston Smith team sends our appreciation to all of you in the non-profit sector working hard to protect and serve our communities during this time.