How to apply for funding if you’re not a registered charity
Blog originally published in 2022 via The Social Change Agency.
A guide to finding and applying for funding as an unincorporated group
Grassroot movements, community groups, and campaign networks are often at the frontline of social change, but when it comes to funding, your options can be limited.
Funders often need to meet high levels of compliance and risk management. This usually means they require applicants to be registered as a charity, non-profit or Community Interest Company (CIC).
Don’t worry though, that doesn’t mean you need to start doing the paperwork to register as a charity.
In this guide for community groups and grassroot movements we’ll take you through the steps to apply for funding even if you’re not a registered charity.
Finding the right funding opportunity
First step is to search for funds or grants that fit your social mission and activities.
If you’re in the UK, Grants Online is a great place to begin your search. As well as being able to filter grant opportunities by location and area of focus, you can also choose to show only grants that fit your organisational status.
Using a fiscal host
If you have a fiscal host (or fiscal sponsor), you’ll be able to use their legal status to also apply for grants that are open to incorporated not for profit organisations.
Your fiscal host will act as your guarantor, holding the funds on your behalf, and providing legal assurance to the funder that the money is spent according to the funding terms agreed.
Not all funders are able to make grants to hosted groups, so it’s worthwhile checking the funder’s websites (usually in the FAQ). If the information isn’t available then you can always send a quick email to ask their eligibility requirements.
Decide who is going to fill in the application
So you’ve found a grant opportunity that’s a match! What’s next?
It can take quite a lot of time to put together a good application so it’s important to make sure everyone knows in advance what’s expected of them and has time set aside to work on the application.
We suggest deciding together who is going to take the lead on the application, who is going to support them and exactly what each person is responsible for.
If there are parts of the application (eg. the budget) that need to be agreed by all or part of the group, be clear from the offset on how you’re going to accomplish that.
Will everyone sign off by email? If someone fails to reply by a certain time will you wait for them or go ahead without them? If you think you’ll need a meeting to agree or finalise some details get it scheduled as early as possible. Don’t leave it until the last minute.
Gather your evidence
Look carefully at the guidance and application to see what evidence you need. This varies from fund to fund, but often includes bank statements, articles of association and annual report, among others.
If you’re fiscally hosted by us, we’ll be able to provide you with much of the required evidence, just let us know what documents are needed and when the deadline is so we can ensure we get these to you on time.
If you have direct contact with your service users/beneficiaries (especially children or vulnerable adults) it’s quite likely you’ll need a safeguarding policy.
We’ve put together some guidance on how to do that here. As a rule of thumb, always scan through the full application process and note what evidence documents you need so you are not scrambling to put these together last minute.
Put together your budget
Most grant applications will have a specific format they ask your budget to be in. Some are Excel sheets, others are just lines of text on an application form. It’s important to pay attention to and follow the format.
Even more important is to make your budget clear, relevant and realistic. Your budget should be directly related to the activities you’re delivering. If, for instance, you are running a food bank, your budget lines will likely include: costs of food items, packaging, delivery/fuel.
Give the cost breakdown where possible. For instance, instead of saying you need: £100 to deliver training, you should say: Trainer @£10 an hour, for 10 hours.
Check your application
Check your answers for spelling and grammar errors. If possible, get someone else to proofread.
After that, you’re ready to apply and we’ll be here to support you with the next steps when you’re successful.
Keen to learn more about fiscal hosting?
Book an intro call with our team.