How to Significantly Increase Your Chances of Bid-writing Success Before Writing a Word

It is not surprising that many voluntary sector organisations are currently panicking; competition for funding has increased alongside service needs, and funding periods are shorter with fewer opportunities for core funding.

As a result many VSO leaders are applying for funding that they have little or no chance of securing, increasing stress and anxiety, demotivating staff and further stretching the workforce.

Sound familiar?

Here at Clear Thinking Consultancy, we’ve supported hundreds of VSO leaders to gain a better understanding of the strategies needed to succeed in grant fundraising and feel more confident in securing funding that they need to deliver their mission.

The key to their success? The Three P’s.

Believe it or not, there are three (yes, three!) things you can do to significantly increase your chances of bid-writing success before even writing a single word. It just so happens that they all begin with the letter ‘P’:

  • Prospecting
  • Programme design, and
  • Application Planning

1.Prospect research: finding the right funder

Research, research, research.

When it comes to funding applications, less is more. A handful of applications to a select few well-researched funds is far better than tens of generic, last-minute applications to every single fund you come across.

Spending time doing your research and finding strong and relevant prospects will ensure you apply for funds which you are more likely to be successful in securing, instead of wasting time writing bids that are likely to be weeded out at the first stage of application.

2.Programme design

It’s vital to invest in the design process of your programme.

Often, when we’re busy, what tends to happen is: “OK, there’s a fund for £10k, deadline in a fortnight. What should we put in for?”

And that’s if there’s a conversation!

Lack of exploration leads to applications that funders have seen a million times before and this, ultimately, leads to lack of success.

Why not shake up your design process and organise a pizza evening with your team to explore needs and possible solutions in a relaxed, informal environment to get the creative juices flowing?

3. Planning the application process

When it comes to our third ‘P’, we swear by the second of Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which is to ‘begin with the end in mind’.

This is exactly the approach we advise our clients to take when it comes to planning funding applications.

In other words – start with the deadline date and work backwards, making sure you allow enough time for each stage of the process.

First things first, it’s the programme design process. Remember to dedicate adequate time to having conversations to explore needs and possibilities.

Then, begin to gather and collate your evidence, giving yourself enough time to make sense of it.

Next, it’s on to content. We suggest using Word first, initially bullet pointing areas to cover and then circulating for feedback so you don’t miss anything further down the line.

Then comes the budget. It’s important to work out how much the programme will cost you first before working out how to present it in the most palatable way to a funder. When we rush, we don’t factor everything in (or we reuse a budget without considering its accuracy!)

When it comes to supporting documents, resist the urge to just ‘attach’. Take time to read through the documents and check everything is accurate and in-date.

Now it’s approval time. We suggest not only sending it to those who have to see it, but also to those whose input will really enhance – a support officer, for example.

Finally, factor in a buffer to give yourself enough time in case any of these stages over-run.

So there you have it – the three P’s.

Incorporating these three important areas within your funding application process is a sure fire way to increase your chances of writing successful bids whilst also saving you time and money.

If you feel like your organisation could do with some more support in becoming financially sustainable, we are here to help.

Get in touch today to find out more about the various ways Clear Thinking Consultancy can support you including producing accurate project budgets that cover your overheads and achieve healthy reserves without the need for a specialist finance manager.