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Top Three Tips for Successful Funding Applications

Ever wondered how to give your funding application the best chance of success? Of course you have! Securing funding is an essential part of launching and growing a successful social business, but doing so can be time-consuming and can distract you from having the impact you have set out to create. So, if you are going to invest time in securing funding you want to ensure your time is well spent and that your application has the best chance of success.

I have worked across Government, Corporate and non-profit sectors for the last 20 years. Throughout my career, I have both submitted and reviewed thousands of funding applications and been a part of many Selection Panels making decisions about where to allocate funding- including as part of the Selection Panel for Dreamstarter by ING.

Here are my top three tips for what it takes to be successful in your funding application.

Selection criteria are there for a reason

Far too often I read funding applications whose proposals clearly do not meet the selection criteria. It is frustrating because I know these applicants have spent their time applying for funding that they have little chance of receiving and the last thing we want to do as funders are waste the time of the very organisations we are trying to support.

My recommendation: Listen to what the funder is saying they are looking for. Does your proposal meet those criteria? If not, you are better to focus your time and energy on applying for funding that you have a stronger alignment with. You will not only have greater likelihood of success, but the resulting partnership is more likely to be of benefit to your organisation in the long term.

Put yourself in the funder’s shoes

When you are passionate about your cause and your business it can be hard to step out of your bubble and see things from a different perspective. Most funding these days takes the form of some kind of partnership, and a partnership is most successful when it is mutually beneficial.

My recommendation: Consider why the funder may have established this funding program. What do they want to achieve from this funding? What do they want this program to say about them? How could your organisation help them with that? Once you have an idea of why they may have established this funding program, consider how your proposal will help that organisation achieve that objective and find a way to articulate that in your application.

Keep it clear & concise

The person or panel reading your funding application will likely be reading hundreds. They want to quickly and easily understand what you do, what the funding will allow you to achieve, the impact that will make and why your organisation is the best choice to create that impact. Many times I have read, and reread funding applications and been no clearer about what the organisation does, the impact it is seeking to create or what it is actually asking for. Many use jargon or specialised references while other submissions assume the impact of the problem it addresses is commonly understood and/or the impact of the applicant’s solution to the problem is obvious.

My recommendation: Always have a top-line (1 or 2 sentences) response that succinctly answers the question. You don’t want the person reviewing your application to have to read between the lines or search for your answer among paragraphs of detail.

Once you have succinctly answered the question, then you can go into a little more detail below that to further illustrate or provide supporting evidence but always keep this brief.


Shannon Carruth has worked in various roles in community, government and corporate sectors over the last twenty years. Working in organisations such as the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, the NSW Community Relations Commission, the Starlight Children’s Foundation, MBF and ING, Shannon has experienced funding applications from a number of perspectives.
Social Change Central
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