Written by Ashley Kuchanny - Grantmaker at BFSS, Consultant at Donor Perspectives and member of the Fair Development Collective
Fundraising for amazing projects can be incredible rewarding, but it can also be hard work.
I’ve been working in international development for over 15 years, many of which have been spent either living or working in Zambia, Bangladesh and Tanzania working with local communities to deliver high impact projects and so I understand many of the practical challenges and realities that practitioners face.
Since 2009 I’ve been using this experience and understanding to assess applications for a major grant maker. I thought I knew what made a good application but after assessing over 500 of them I’ve learnt a lot about what makes a great application really stand out – and why many potentially great projects fail.
"I thought I knew what made a good application but after assessing over 500 of them I’ve learnt a lot about what makes a great application really stand out – and why many potentially great projects fail."
Top tips from a grant-maker perspective
1. Use simple and jargon free language
A good tip I like to give people is to give your application to a colleague who is not familiar
with the project and see if they can understand it. If it’s not clear to them, it’s probably not
going to be clear to the donor.
2. Your budget is your best friend
A budget is an amazing tool to really expand on all of the activities that you want to do.
Many have a ‘notes’ section which is an excellent opportunity to explain in more detail what
you are planning to do, which is especially helpful when space in the narrative is tight.
Ensuring that the budget aligns closely with the text and has adequate detail will go a long
way in making the donor feel that you have carefully thought through your project.
3. Celebrate your success
If you have run a successful pilot, or have clear quantifiable impacts to share from your
approach, then don’t forget to include that! This gives grant makers confidence that you
know what you are doing and gives them confidence that their investment is also likely
result in impactful change.
4. Organisation health is key
Almost half of the projects which get rejected are not because of a problem with the
application, but because something in an organisations accounts or annual reports has
raised a red flag. Grant makers need to trust that an organisation is in good health and can
manage finances well. There are many reasons why there could be anomalies in your
accounts (low reserves, significant changes in income or expenditure, a sudden loss of
several trustees) so if there are then make sure that you’ve identified them and what steps
you are taking to ensure that the situation will level out again.
5. Read the grant makers criteria and eligibility carefully
And then read it again. And then read it again. This is obvious, but often overlooked. If every
part of your project fits but they don’t fund salaries and yet your budget requests funding
for salaries then you are likely to be rejected. If they only fund projects for young people
with additional needs then don’t spend your time applying to them for a project for deprived
young people. If they state that they require additional documents, then make sure that you
send them! Simple mistakes from not fully reading the criteria can result in instant rejection,
even if your project is outstanding.
I could go on…
How can I help?
"I love working with these promising projects to get them as ready as possible to go to the Grants Committee to maximise their opportunity for success."
Many of the applications that come to me are clearly for excellent projects which are likely to result in a significant impact, but often these have a number of areas which can be strengthened. I love working with these promising projects to get them as ready as possible to go to the Grants Committee to maximise their opportunity for success. It’s always incredibly rewarding seeing them get the funding that they require.
I’d love to help you if you would like support from a grant-makers perspective. I can review your application before you submit it to a funder and work with you to improve and strengthen it so that it has highest chance of success. I’ll also review it against the funders criteria to make sure that it’s the best fit it can be.
If you’d prefer, you can book in for a 1 hour virtual consultation either to trouble shoot projects which you are struggling to fundraise for or to just discuss general advice and insider tips on how to submit winning applications.
Costs are by charity income size:
Tier A: Organisations with an annual income of less than £100k
Tier B: Organisations with an annual income of between £100k and £1 million
Tier C: Organisations with an annual income of over £1million.
1 hour virtual consultation - If you are struggling to fundraise from trusts or foundations, or just starting out in fundraising and don’t know where to start, I would be delighted to help you with a one-hour telephone or online consultation to give you advice and insider tips on how to submit winning applications.
Tier A: £50
Tier B: £75
Tier C: £100
Stage 1 or Concept Note Review - The key to a successful stage 1 application is being able to hook the interest of the donor immediately. Having assessed over 500 Stage 1 applications over the past few years, I can help you to refine your application for maximum impact, even when space is tight.
Tier A: £100
Tier B: £150
Tier C: £250
Full Application Review - You’ve invested hours and often days of your time writing a full application for your project, usually to very specific funder criteria. Maximise it’s chances of success by using an experienced donor to review the application and help you to refine and improve it before you submit.
Tier A: £150
Tier B: £300
Tier C: £400
(For applications of up to 15 pages. Please contact me for a bespoke quote for larger applications)
Please note that I cannot provide these services for any BFSS applications.
I’m very friendly and understand how important your work is to you - bring all your questions and we can chat them through!
If you'd like to explore this work with Ashley, please email firstname.lastname@example.org