Helpful hints and tips for bid writing

Here’s are some helpful hints and tips to consider before you start your bid


Planning and Preparation

  • Plan your approach and ensure that the key people in your organisation are fully engaged in and supportive of the bid
  • Read the guidance notes!
  • Start with a clear summary and re-write this section at the end - keep to word count guidelines
  • If not already provided, create sections and sub-sections to help you structure your document; use sub-headings to break up large sections of text to guide the reader
  • Bids often fail because the project is not well planned or fully thought through. Such projects have unclear milestones and unclear delivery methods
  • Funders estimate that around 50% of all applications they receive are immediately turned down because they do not meet clearly laid out guidelines. Criteria are usually based on the age range of beneficiaries/specific geographical area/maximum amount of grant award to one applicant
  • Are you eligible? Be honest – does the delivery of this project fit with your current skillset and offer?  Does your bid fit in with the criteria/aims of the fund that you are applying to? 
  • Be sure you can deliver and it is a strategic fit - how well does this opportunity fit with your overall vision, mission and/or strategic plan?  Don't change the mission/focus of your organisation to fit the funding
  • Consider who you could reach out to and discuss your idea. Look for inspiration to help clarify your idea and maybe add something extra
  • Arrange for someone to be available to proof read through the final version of the bid and give enough time to make sure that everyone you need information from is available.  Leave time to partly rewrite your bid after proofreading
  • Specify what difference you will make and why it is important
  • Have you learned from previous bid successes or failures?
  • Give yourself time to write the actual bid - don't leave it to the last minute. Make sure all the attachments you need are ready
  • Meet the deadline!


Involve those who will benefit

  • The funder wants to hear about the needs of the group you are aiming to help - not the needs of your organisation
  • Funders don't like the idea that you assume that you know what's best for your users - they want to see that your users have been fully involved in shaping the project.  You need to demonstrate that you have contacted beneficiaries and have modified the project based on their input
  • Ask people with direct experience of the need. Ask potential beneficiaries of the project
  • Does your project genuinely involve beneficiaries or local people? Most funders are focused on supporting members of the general public
  • Point out the benefits that you are currently providing and then why they can't continue without funding
  • Collect quotes, recommendations, testimonials and case studies regularly



Carry out the research

  • What is the problem or issue you want to address with your project?
  • How do you know the unmet need exists? What are the reasons for the need? Why have you prioritised this need?
  • Why is your project an appropriate response to the need?  What are your relevant skills and knowledge in this area?  Why are you the best organisation to meet the need?
  • Use the experience and knowledge of the people in your organisation
  • Research into the scale of the need using feedback forms and questionnaires
  • Find relevant local, regional and national statistics about the population in the area, levels of deprivation or the particular group of people you want to benefit



Writing the bid - Tell the story!

  • Have some short case studies and examples of how people have been helped by your organisation - and what they have gone on to achieve as a result.  If appropriate include photographs or videos to illustrate the story being told
  • Be clear, concise and explicit; use appropriate and correct language; answer the question they are asking - Not the one you want to answer or the one you think they want the answer to; answer all aspects of questions answered, ideally in the order they are asked and minimise repetition
  • One or two key statistics can do more for your case than a page of waffle
  • Use any guidance provided and cross check at the end; check spelling and grammar
  • Try and make each answer stand-alone (don’t cross refer)
  • Be careful not to exceed word or page limits if provided
  • Avoid generalisations or assumptions of knowledge (e.g. “it is widely known that….”).  If you need to support your case, use statistics from a dependable source
  • Ensure consistency in language and style
  • Avoid ‘cutting and pasting’, but if you do be careful not to repeat information and be careful not to use information clearly meant for another funder!
  • Clarity and Completeness - Plain English
  • Have you answered ALL the questions
  • Highlight  your skills, expertise and track record
  • Use relevant data or documents which support your case carefully
  • Aim for brief, clear and frank - the objective is to pack in as many facts as possible in a short document
  • Walk away –and come back later (allow yourself time to do this)


Writing tips

  • The funder will read many applications, keep yours concise and to the point!
  • Short sentences with an average of 15 words each, use short paragraphs, consider the use of headings, avoid jargon or acronyms, keep your language clear and easy to read and understand
  • Keep it snappy; keep it factual; keep it relevant



Supporting Information

  • You have to know all about your own organisation – do you know their legal status – are they a Charity, Community Interest Company or Trust? How many years have they been active? How many years in existence in the current structure?
  • Have access to the formal documents such as constitution and annual accounts (Annual income, annual costs and reserves held)
  • Have details of the number of employees, board members and volunteers and sometimes you are asked for their qualifications
  • Quality marks or industry standards awarded
  • Evaluations
  • Successful projects and events and any media coverage
  • Individual case studies and testimonials
  • Sponsorships or other grants
  • Prominent patrons
  • Supporters and members
  • Governance matters such as a safeguarding policy for children or adults
  • Examples of delivery of similar projects by your own organisation in the past
  • Testimonials from partners in previous joint projects
  • Keep this information in a folder ready for use in future bids, build a library of information to support funding bids



  • There is increasingly less compatibility between different electronic devices
  • What looks stunning on your Windows computer might end up looking pretty awful by the time it gets to somebody's Apple iPhone
  • You should aim to have an application which is just as effective in plain text as it is with complex typefaces, text boxes and graphics



Measurement and Evaluation

  • Give the evidence of need for your project and the difference (impact)the project will make
  • Produce an Activity Plan (outputs, outcomes, milestones)
  • Clearly define audiences  or beneficiaries
  • Show how the work will be measured and evaluated - before and after evaluations, participant surveys, observations etc
  • How your track record shows that this will have the desired impact
  • The added value you bring to similar initiatives or projects
  • Show your 'Capacity to Deliver' can your organisation deliver this in the required timeframe if you are successful? Do you have the staff, systems, back office in place? Do you have the skills and experience to deliver the project? If not, do you have time to get these aspects in place?


The Budget

  • Prepare a realistic budget which backs up the activities - more important than getting the words right is getting the numbers right.  An application with errors in the budget cannot be approved
  • Find someone who is good with figures and ask them to check everything
  • The application needs to be specific on the funding requirement. Get estimates. The sum sought must be stated and justified
  • A reasonable level of reserves is seen as a sign of good management
  • Most organisations aim to have around 3 months income as reserves
  • Try not to bid for almost the maximum amount - be realistic.  No random laptops!
  • How much time would be spent on ‘servicing’ the grant/contract? Have you allowed for this in your budget?
  • Remember to include all supporting costs: staff time, management time, resources, travel, volunteer expenses, venue hire, proportion of annual costs eg insurance, utilities


Supporting Documents

  • Send what they ask for; probably the latest set of accounts and an annual report, but don’t send more than they ask for.  Have additional information to hand should they request it
  • A detailed budget for the project
  • A detailed plan for the project
  • Photographs of the project in action
  • A background briefing on the need for the project
  • Case studies or examples of what the project can achieve
  • A list of donors and contributors and any match funding
  • A fundraising plan of where and from whom you intend to get money
  • CVs of the key personnel involved in the project
  • Job descriptions of new posts being created
  • A list of trustees, patrons, vice-presidents or other key supporters
  • Letters of endorsements from prominent people, funders, users or beneficiaries


Some of the reasons why bids fail or are rejected

  • Did not meet the stated requirements
  • Sent too much unnecessary information
  • Application was badly written or presented
  • Did not state how funds would be used
  • Application was obviously not personalised to the trust
  • Insufficient information for a decision to be made
  • Application was too lavishly produced.
  • 'It sounds like work that should be funded by statutory sources.'
  • There are too many charities already doing the same thing

Remember many funders are very oversubscribed and you will not be successful every time but do keep going and try not to be discouraged.  Consider joint bids with partner organisations – funders like to see groups working together.

If you'd like some advice or support email to arrange a call