Struggling to make successful funding applications?


Are you applying or planning to apply for grants for your community energy project? Do you spend ages doing funding applications only to be turned down time after time?

Well, you are not alone: many community energy groups have walked the path you are on, with mixed success. And without funding or an established Community Benefit Fund to tap into, community energy groups often struggle to get projects off the ground, or offer vital services like energy efficiency advice and awareness campaigns.

But there are some groups which have grown their services exponentially thanks to successful funding applications which have opened doors to more funding, and their top tips for funding applications are as follows:

Top tips for funding applications

  • Contact your local authority and see if they have anyone that helps with writing funding bids.
  • Talk to the funder or attend their webinar if they have one for some useful insights into what they want.
  • Read all the criteria and application advice before you start.
  • If the bid is for a large amount of money and/or has multiple partners, write a project plan for the bid itself.
  • If your organisation is small or has no reserves to cover you being paid in arrears, partner with a bigger organisation or one that the funder has funded before.
  • Write your own project or business plan for the project before you start completing the application form, including:
  1. Clear rationale and objectives
  2. Provide lots of stats – not just what you have done, but also industry data to prove your point that there is a need
  3. Give examples of the challenges faced and how your project will solve the issues
  4. Create a budget, and ensure your budget makes sense
  5. The right staff in place with the right experience and qualifications and detail these
  6. Make sure you cover off risks and mitigation in detail if they ask for this.
  • Answer the questions fully and individually – like an exam.
  • Use bullet points to reduce word count.
  • Give lots more detail than you think is necessary.
  • Include every little you’ll do for the ££s even if you think it’s obvious from the description.
  • Repeat the key points as often as you can.
  • Ensure you use lots of key phrases that show you know what you are talking about.
  • Have a copy editor to edit the bid.
  • Don't give up! By their very nature most applications fail so don't let it get you down or take it personally when yours does.
  • But if you are successful, apply to the same fund next year with the same bid (with minor changes if needed)!

if you're looking for even more coaching on this tricky area, Community Energy England organised a Funding Applications Workshop to draw on the experience of some of our biggest and most successful groups so that you can skip the painful and time-consuming lessons they’ve already learned and give your grant applications the best chance of success.

Watch the video of the event here to learn how to be a better bidder from Nicola Davidson of Community Energy South and MaidEnergy, Dan Curtis from BHESCo and Tara Bowers of Exeter Community Energy, all of whom have a huge amount of experience of trying, failing and succeeding at getting grants for their community energy work.

Additional notes on the workshop have been made available to us by Alban Thurston here.