Given the time and effort it takes to compile a grant application, it remains extraordinary the sheer number of applications which are actually ineligible for the funding they apply for.
A notable UK study in 2009 found almost 35% of funding applications made to UK charitable trusts were ineligible. Yes, more than a third of every application made during 2009 fell at the first hurdle by failing the funders’ stated criteria.
This of course represents a massive waste of resources - not only for those groups chasing funding, but those providing it.
Every ineligible grant application is not only a waste of time, effort and money for the grantseeker, but for the grantmaker as well.
Fewer ineligible applications could mean quicker responses to the eligible ones, better feedback or engagement with applicants – a common request among grant applicants – or more resources to allocate as grants.
So it is in everyone’s interest for grantseekers to submit eligible grant applications.
1 - Have a plan
It can be tempting to apply for every grant in sight, sending out many applications hither and yon, on the logic that eventually one of them will hit the mark and result in success.
Resist that temptation.
Recklessly sending out applications for every grant that you might be eligible for guarantees plenty of rejections and is more than likely going to raise the ire of grantmakers stuck reading – and most likely discarding – your applications.
Before you send out grant applications (and in fact, before you start fundraising in any way), develop a fundraising plan. And the Funding Centre is of course a great place to start.
Having plans will help you decide exactly what you need to apply for grants towards, and will clarify in your own minds the types of grants – covering grants providers, geographical area, grant amount limits and funding categories – your projects best fit into before you even look at the range of grants available.
2 - Read the grant guidelines
Once you start searching for specific grants to apply for, your priority should be to carefully read the program’s eligibility guidelines
Good grantmakers will ensure these guidelines are clear, easy to find and easy to read.
By taking five minutes to carefully read and understand the guidelines – including the eligibility critieria – you should quickly discern if your group is not eligible on obvious grounds like geographical area, funding category, grant size and/or other pre-requisites.
If you do believe your group is eligible for the grant, your next step is to ...
3 - Contact the grantmaker directly
The majority of grantmakers and grants programs include contact details for inquiries – be they a phone number, email address or otherwise.
If you are unsure about your eligibility for a grant, your priority must be to get in touch with the grantmaker and ask them directly.
Sensible grantmakers have a vested interest in ensuring applicants are eligible. It lightens their workload by reducing the number of ineligible applications they have to look through. It also makes it easier for them to give away the money they have.
Find the right person at the grantmaking organistation – for example, the grants or program co-ordinator – and discuss with them the specific funding program you are interested in, and the project, program or group you are chasing funding for.
Ask them also if there are any key things you should look to include in your application. This information can guide you further down the right track towards a relevant, eligible application.
4 - Look at past grant rounds
While you are on the phone to the grantmaker, you could ask for information on previous receipients of the grant you wish to apply for.
Another alternative is to scan the grantmaker’s website or other publicly available information to find out who has received funding in the past.
Sometimes chatting with previous funding recipients can help you ensure your application is eligible, and can also shed light on what you could do to have your application best address any stated criteria.
5 - Present the argument yourself
Where appropriate, your application should emphasise how you meet stated eligibility critieria.
You might need to (or want to) frame some sections of your application directly around certain key eligibility criteria, responding to them and directly relating your group’s aims back to the grant’s criteria.