Every grant programme will have a set of criteria. This tells you what type of organisation and what kind of project the funder is looking to support. Towards the end of the bid-writing process, return to the criteria and evaluate your work against it. Have you explained to the reader how you will meet all the essential criteria? For example, if you were applying for a sports grant that only funded projects to increase young people's sports participation levels and engage hard to reach groups, have you explained how exactly you will deliver both of these things?
Your bid should persuade the funder that your project is worthy of their support. To do this, you must explain why your project is needed. Crucially, this means answering the 'so what?' question in your application. Have you identified a problem? Have you explained how your project will make a difference to people's lives? Once you can stand up to the 'so what?' challenge, you will have a much stronger bid.
Any statement of need must be backed up with evidence. This gives purpose and weight to the argument you are making. Include statistics, survey results, or other research to demonstrate the exact level of need and how you will measure the success of your project in addressing this need.
It is critical that your project budget matches your project description. Have you accounted for all costs? Check that you've included any less obvious costs. Note any in-kind support you will receive - with a zero cost attached, so that the funder knows it has been considered. Finally, show how you have worked out your costs, including details of the procurement process you have undertaken and any selection criteria you have applied to suppliers.
Once your application is fully drafted and almost ready to go, ask someone to read it; preferably someone who has not been involved in the project development. This can help identify any gaps. Ask them to apply a 'funder's eye' when assessing your proposal. Are they convinced that your project is needed? Do they know what difference you are going to make? Do they have any questions about the project or your ability to deliver? And, ultimately, would they give you the funding?
In addition to the grant application, funders will usually ask to see some supporting documentation. The grant guidelines should provide you with a list of what to include. Typically, you will need to provide financial information such as a summary of the current school budget and a copy of your latest completed accounts. You may also need to send copies of quotations, project plans, and partnership agreements if you are working with other organisations.
Some funders - but not all - will give you the option of sending supporting documents to be reviewed alongside your application. This is a great opportunity to reinforce the case you make in the application with valuable examples of need and support for your project: photographs, essays or drawings produced by pupils, testimonials, diagrams, school council minutes, results of surveys or focus groups, etc.
Finally, before you submit your application, have you checked the funder's preference for submission? This might be by email, post, or digital upload. Make sure that you have attached or enclosed the application and all documents before clicking 'submit' or 'send'. Send postal applications by registered post so that you get confirmation of receipt.
Rachel Gordon runs 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