Do describe your project in as much detail as possible. Tell the reader where and when your project will take place, who will deliver it, how it will be delivered, and who will take part. It's like painting a picture with words. There are two reasons why this will strengthen your bid. Firstly, it will help the reader to understand what exactly you will do with a grant if they decide to support you. Secondly, it will demonstrate that you have undertaken thorough project planning. This will give the right impression - you are competent and are likely to make this project succeed.
Don't assume that the funder knows who you are and what you do. It's all too easy to miss out important details in a bid because they seem too obvious or mundane. A short introduction about your school, including number of pupils, location, and any relevant achievements will help the reader get to know you.
Do provide a detailed project budget, showing the breakdown of costs. Tell the grant-giver how you have come to these figures. If the total project cost is larger than the funding you are asking for, show how you will fund the rest and, if relevant, how the project will be sustained over the long-term.
Don't focus on things at the expense of people. If you are asking for a grant to help you build an outdoor classroom or purchase ICT equipment, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of writing solely about the material benefits your project will have... grants are given to make a difference to people's lives.
Do tell the funder how you will help them to achieve their own objectives. Every funder has their own charitable objectives and funding criteria. How will you meet them? What common interests do you have? How can you work together?
Don't ignore the fact that many funders will only support projects that clearly fall outside of the school's statutory remit. You must tell a funder directly how a grant will complement statutory funds and enable you to achieve something amazing, which is above and beyond your normal work. You may wish to emphasise the ways in which your project is extra-curricular or how it involves groups other than your pupils, such as parents or local community organisations.
Do tell the reader how you have involved potential beneficiaries. Funders want to know that you have consulted people and, where possible, involved them in the design and development of the project. You may have asked your school council to canvas views of pupils or invited parents to a consultation evening. Or you may have involved groups within the wider community. In your bid, explain the process and describe how people have shaped the decisions you have made. Also, state how they will continue to be involved as the project develops.
Don't be too negative. When trying to put forward a convincing case for support, it can be easy to fall into a doom and gloom account of your situation. The problem is that a situation so hopeless is unlikely to be funded. It could be deemed too risky. In writing, it is a matter of striking a balance by maintaining an achievable and optimistic outlook for your future.
Do tell the reader why you need their support. Bidding for funding is a competitive process. Funders are looking to support the schools that identify and communicate a strong need for funding. To do this effectively, you need to tell the reader how a grant will help you to address a real problem or issue currently experienced by your pupils, families or wider community. What is the problem and how do you know it exists? Remember to write specifically about your case. Avoid just writing generally on issues within the education sector.
Don't miss the opportunity to talk about the legacy or sustainability of your project. Funders want to know what the long-lasting difference will be, and how you will sustain this in the future, long after the funding has ended.
Do write about the difference your project will make. Refer back to the problem that you outlined and present a vision of how the lives of those involved will be improved. What skills will they develop? How will they use their new skills in their daily lives? How will it improve their access to new experiences? What new opportunities will it create?
Don't underestimate how long it will take you to complete a bid, especially when you have other responsibilities competing for your time. Many grant programmes have deadlines, so work back from this date. A deadline is not something you want to miss and you certainly don't want to submit a half-baked bid as this can damage your relationship with the funder. Estimate how long it will take you to get all the information required such as financial information and cost quotations. Check what supplementary documentation, if any, is needed. Be generous when allocating time to writing, revising, and editing your bid, and consider asking others to cast a useful eye over your work before it's submitted.
Do provide evidence. This is all about backing up the statements you make in your bid with the research you have done. What do you know about the problem? How do you know your approach is the right one? How do you know it will be successful? You could use independent reports or statistics, results from a pilot study you have carried out, findings from your own consultations, or case studies from people who are going to benefit from your work. This will give credibility and authority to your argument.
Rachel Gordon heads up the School Funding Service, which helps schools across the UK win grants for a wide range of projects, from playgrounds and sports equipment, to after-school clubs and extended services. She writes bids for schools and advises them on how to maximise their funding potential. Visit schoolfundingservice.co.uk