What to say about the issue you want to tackle
Why should anyone give your group money? No organisation has a right to funding. Unless you can show that you are going to do something useful or effective or valuable - to benefit some people or some thing other than the members of your group (unless you are a self help group) - don't be surprised if you get rejected by funders.
Help and guidance
Why you need an issue
It may help to ask yourself, What's the problem 'out there' we want to tackle? or What's the underlying reason for the work that we do? Your group may want to buy a computer; you need to convince the funder that it will help you be more effective in your work and therefore benefit others (or the environment). The point is, they're funding the issue and not the computer. They're funding the work with isolated elderly people and not the minibus. They're funding the service you provide to vulnerable refugees and not the administrator. They're funding the improvement to the environment and not the phone bill. You must be explicit about the issue that you are addressing in your funding application.
You should be able to describe the issue or issues you aim to tackle in a short paragraph. Keep it short and to the point for greatest impact.
Where's the funder coming from?
The way that you explain the issue needs to take account of the funder you're writing to. In particular you need to think about the use of language and specialised terminology. The funder might know nothing about the issue you're dealing with, or might be extremely knowledgeable. They might be experts in the type of beneficiary you are working with, the geographical area, or other aspects of the problem. They may know your organisation well. All of this will affect what you say and how you say it.
If you want to come across as one expert talking to another, the judicious use of jargon may be appropriate. On the other hand, sprinkle an application to a generalist funder with initials and technical terms and you may prevent them from understanding the issue properly. Err on the side of stating the obvious - don't assume that they will immediately see what the problem is if you don't tell them.
It's worth considering whether you need to describe the general context that the issue comes out of or say a bit about the background to the situation. A refugee group might want to describe what's going on in the country they've fled from, as well as what they are trying to do here. A disability group might want to say something about the general climate in which people with disabilities are operating as well as the particular issue they want to tackle. Sometimes this sort of background material can make the issue come alive to the funder. The danger is that the funder will think it irrelevant or 'general waffle'.
Can it be tackled?
The nature of some problems is such that one organisation, however committed, cannot make a real difference. Beware of making unrealistic claims for what you can achieve. It's better to set small, achievable goals than attempt to change the world overnight.
Be sure to show how some people are disadvantaged by whatever issue it is you want to tackle. Can you show that people are (or the environment is) being harmed in some way by the current situation? Funders may not perceive the need unless you point it out to them. Don't assume they'll make the same connections as you.
Making your case
Although a lot of the time you can 'demonstrate' that something is the case by simply saying so, your application will be much stronger if you can produce hard facts to back up what you are saying. This is particularly true when talking about the issue you want to tackle. Children are excluded from school - how many? Which age groups? Which gender? What ethnic background? Is it getting worse or better? The area is deprived - how deprived? Where does it stand in the Index of Deprivation? What's the unemployment level? What percent of children get free school meals? ........
How do you go about getting this statistical information if you haven't got it? Try your library, your town hall, a local development agency, your national organisation (if you're a branch), the health authority, Learning & Skills Councils or in Scotland LECs (Local Enterprise Companies), government departments or the regional office. All this information should be free. You may also find a lot of it on the Internet if you have access to it. Libraries and town halls are particularly good places to start because they often have the information you need readily to hand.
You may also have information from your own work that will provide useful statistics about an issue.
Don't go over the top, though. Masses of statistics are not a substitute for a good argument. You need to provide the logical link between what the statistics show and the work you want to do.
Think how the issue you want to tackle appears to others - perhaps people with different values and attitudes. If the issue you are tackling may be seen as controversial, approach funders that have a robust attitude to publicity and a history of funding controversial or 'difficult' issues. Don't try and hide the controversial nature of the issue. If you give the impression you can handle it, this will give the funder confidence in your application.
How much general knowledge can you expect the funder to have about the issue? If it's been around for ages, you may not need to describe the problem in great detail but you may find that funders are particularly cynical about any group's ability to make much of a difference. On the other hand, if you want to tackle an emerging problem, you will probably have to describe the issue in greater detail but may find it easier to convince funders it's worth tackling.
Because funders are much more likely to respond favourably if they think there's some urgency about the issue, it's tempting to say that everything is urgent. Ask yourself if it's really urgent and what makes it urgent. Be specific about why you need the funding now and not later. Whatever you do, don't make a song and dance about needing funding urgently and then fail to spend the grant for some months.
If it's not obvious that your group has the experience, competence, skills or remit to tackle a particular issue, then explain why you're doing it. It may be obvious to you why this issue should concern your group but it may not be so clear to others. Make the link between your objectives or your strategic plan and this issue.
This information is reproduced with the kind permission of FunderFinder.