Those who read funding applications spend on average 10 minutes on each one of them.

Sanja Djeric-Kane’s diary notes from the FSI Fundraising conference 2019 – Part 2 

Sanja Djeric-Kane, KVA, Funding, Outcomes and Evaluation Officer, continues her blog about her key learnings from the FSI Fundraising Conference that are most relevant for Kingston charities. This blog focuses on tips from David Burges, Apollo Fundraising on how to get it right. 

David told us that those who read our applications spend on average 10 minutes on each one of them.

Lesson 1: Funding officer are frantically coming up with the reasons why to put your application in the bin as they have to go through too many!

What can you do to prevent it?

  • Keep it short – only say what you need to say. Yes, funders need a bit of a context and to know that you are a credible organisation, but if you want them to fund a project, don’t tell them about all of the 8 projects that you run.
  • Funders are interested in the need for your project, what you want to achieve and how they can help you with it, but top and tail and give key points only
  • It is not your full proposal that is going to the Trustees, so be precise and succinct, otherwise the funding officer might misinterpret what you are saying
  • Highlight key points with bold text
  • Don’t put key information in the main header
  • Don’t rely on attachments and external links
  • Reading hundreds of applications is draining. Make it easier for a funding officer: don’t make them look like a black wall of impenetrable text; use paragraphs; protect the white space; keep it easy on the eye (by cutting text)
  • If what you are saying is not adding to anything, don’t put it in
  • Use short sentences and simple language
  • Use headings, pictures and bullet points
  • Use left-justified text as it is easier on the eye
  • Get the proposal in nice and early. This is when the officer has more time and might even come back to you with question. If your application arrives last minute it is likely to be in a huge pile with others.
  • Don’t ever be late. Not even a second. This goes straight in the bin.

Lesson 2: Most proposals are gobbledygook!

This is about the curse of knowledge. (David strongly recommends a book called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath) Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. We forget our knowledge and jargon don’t make much sense to others. You must give a reader something to hang it on. Simplicity is important. Also, building a picture with your story, as the officer most probably won’t be able to visit your project.

Lesson 3: Why are most applications painfully boring to read

Trust managers are real people. Don’t treat them as if they were robots! A good proposal should tell a story. Be passionate. Be different. Try and stand out of the crowd. Not all the proposals have to be the same, but they are, despairs David and tell us of two proposals he particularly liked. One was written in the form of a dialogue and the other was written in form of a letter from a beneficiary. Of course, both of them still had the main elements of a bid: the need, what charity does etc. 

Lesson 4: All proposals are written the other way round.

They start with explaining to the funder why they should give you the money instead of how ca we help the trust to achieve their objectives. Research the trust and their aims, reflect the words and phrases they use in your bid. Show the impact you will achieve, even if you are asking for core funding.

Don’t be amongst just under 50% of all applicants who get the name of the trust wrong!

Avoid typos and spelling mistakes; don’t miss out words.

Read your application allowed that will help you spot the mistakes.

Up next in this series of blogs is - Understanding UK giving behaviour, an insight for small charities, digital and corporate fundraising.