Fundraising: Proving your project is needed

Written by: John Ellery | Published:
Photo: iStock

When looking to secure funding for your school, a key challenge is successfully arguing a need for your project and deciding who should lead your grant fundraising efforts. John Ellery offers his advice

One of the most challenging questions that most fundraisers find difficult to answer is why their project is actually needed. You know yourself why you want it and what a huge difference it will make, but it is the writing it down and telling the funder why it is needed that is often the hardest part of any application form.

One of the most common pitfalls people fall into when writing an application is thinking that just because there is a lack of something, it therefore means that it is needed. This certainly is not the case and you have to be prepared to fully evidence exactly why your project is necessary.

This aspect of your application will often make the difference between getting your project funded (because it is clear that it will make a difference) or seeing your application rejected (because, in the funder’s eyes, it is simply a project for the sake of a project).

Below are three types of examples to prove to funders that your project is greatly needed.

Using statistical evidence to show need

As professional fundraisers, statistics are our “go-to”. By using statistics, you can show that there really is a recognised issue that your project is specifically targeting.

When carrying out research for schools, I often look at their Ofsted reports and Dashboard Data to get an idea of the school. However, this only provides a small snapshot and unless the funder specifically asks for information from Ofsted, you should aim to include information about the local community. This is something funders like and want, as a community aspect is often a must in order to be considered for funding.

As such, the first statistics to check is the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), which give an overview of an area’s overall deprivation statistics, living area, crime and access to services among other factors.

To find these statistics, you can use UK Local Area (see further information for all links), which allows you to search for the deprivation of a postcode or place, or you can use Open Data Communities, which shows the deprivation in each area in map form and uses a handy colour-code system to indicate the levels of deprivation. Also of use are statistics like the Active People’s Survey (Sport England), Public Health England’s Health Profiles, and any other reports or research that relates to and backs-up your specific issue.

Surveys, questionnaires, waiting lists, etc

Other types of evidence you can use are surveys and questionnaires. These are a great way of finding out exactly what people want and are having issues with – and you can tailor the questions to match your project or the issues you want to address.

You can create surveys and questionnaires yourself, and distribute them in your local community in order to generate some hard-hitting evidence. If you are currently running a project and want to apply to extend it, you can gather information from your current participants, including details about why they want to carry on participating.

You can then use all this information in your application form as evidence for your project. Some funders may let you attach the surveys or might even want to see them as proof at a later date, so make sure you have kept good records just in case.

If you do not have time to make your own surveys or questionnaires, you could always try to find ones specific to your project’s aims and outcomes on the internet.

If this isn’t fruitful, there are many other types of information that you can use, such as existing waiting lists that you have for activities or even minutes from meetings such as School Council or PTAs which show that what you are telling the funder is a pressing issue that is being talked about.

Community consultations, discussions, etc

Another great way of showing your project is needed is by referencing conversations and consultations that you have had. This can be in the form of informal chats with pupils and parents, neighbourhood meetings and conversations with community members.

We find that these are great for demonstrating that there is a distinct need for something, as this shows the funder that not only have you researched the need for your project by including statistics and surveys, but you have made the effort to learn more about the people that are affected by the issues. It gives your project a more personal approach, and adds further weight to your argument that the project is needed.

You can tell the funder about people’s positive reactions to your project, and the types of activities that “real” people want to see and take part in. This way you can really show the funder that you have done your homework and have a clear idea of what will be welcomed by those people you want to work with and support.

We think that this is a great way of evidencing the need for your project, and showing the funder that you are committed to addressing the issues present in the community.

By following these tips, we think your school will have the best chance of success in evidencing need and proving that your project is worth funding.

Who should take the lead

When approaching grant applications, you may think the best people to write them are the people who are directly involved; an English co-ordinator would write the application for an English project and so on.

However, we strongly believe the best chance of success is to appoint one person as the school’s “fundraiser”. This could be the school business manager or another member of staff who has the time and effort to commit to gaining new knowledge and experiences.

These can be gained by attending bid-writing workshops or by taking part in online bid-writing courses. This will enable you to train and invest in someone who can become an expert in fundraising and can truly get to grips with the process of grant funding and applications.

They can then liaise with the staff team at your school to learn about each individual project and will gradually learn and improve their fundraising skills with the more applications they do. Speaking to other fundraisers is another great way of learning about the dos and don’ts of fundraising and will further help your school fundraiser in their efforts.

Whoever you choose to lead your fundraising, it is important to accept that grant applications are tasks that need both in-depth preparation and professionalism in order to provide prospective funders with the relevant information in the right format.

  • John Ellery is founder of Get Grants, a training provider specialising in bid-writing training and information for organisations seeking funds.

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