Making an effective funding bid can be a complex and time-consuming business, but the rewards can be substantial. For many organisations, successful funding applications are vital to support their products, services and operations.  But although applicants put a lot of work into their bids, many still find they have been turned down.

In 2018, GRANTfinder conducted a survey of funding practitioners to raise awareness of the latest developments in funding opportunities. The survey was sent to all funding providers on GRANTfinder, the UK’s most comprehensive funding database. 78 responses were submitted from a wider range of organisations, including national and local government, charitable trusts and corporate sponsors.

This article and report highlights important insights generated by the survey which organisations can use to improve their chances of success when making funding applications.

The survey found that substantial sums of money are available from funding providers. A total of 30.3% of respondents had budgets of £100,000 to £1 million for their funding programmes, while 19.7% had budgets in excess of £1 million.

What are the chances of success?

The survey highlighted the wide range of organisations that are eligible for funding programmes. These include:

  • Charities
  • Social enterprises
  • Private sector
  • Voluntary groups
  • Colleges and universities

To gain a clear understanding of whether a funding bid is likely to succeed, the survey asked respondents about their programme budgets.

Only 26.6% reported that they were able to fund over 70% of applications they receive. In addition 18.2% of funders were left with uncommitted budget.

This indicates that significant amounts of money are not allocated to deserving applicants because not enough applications are received, or those that are don’t meet the minimum standard.

Why do funding bids fail?

Funding providers were asked to identify the reasons why applications would be declined.

The most common reason for failure is competition: 45% of respondents said it was common that the number of applications exceeded the available budget. The survey also highlighted other key reasons for bids being turned down.

  • Ineligibility of the applicant
  • Unclear outcomes
  • Failure to sufficiently demonstrate viability of the applying organisation
  • Incomplete application
  • Poor standard of presentation


There is little that applicants can do about the ferocity of competition for funding. But factors such as poorly completed applications and failure to check eligibility are factors that applicants can easily address to improve their chances of success.

What are the secrets of success?

As we’ve seen, the Funding Survey Report shows that significant amounts of money don’t reach deserving applicants because their applications don’t meet the required standard.  But while making an effective funding bid might appear formidable, it need not be impossible.

The findings from the survey make it clear that there are some key imperatives for funding applicants looking improve their chances of success:

  • Identify the right funding opportunities – subscribing to funding portals such as GRANTfinder can streamline and automate searching.
  • Plan your project – lay the groundwork by setting objectives early on and gathering research materials and statistics to back up the need for funding and substantiate the social impact.
  • Ensure success during and beyond the funding project – developing good relationships with funding providers and flagging up any delays or issues in advance will enhance your reputation as a reliable and responsible funding applicant.
  • Meet or exceed outcomes – be clear about your project’s outcomes and be specific about how they will be reached and measured.

In addition, survey respondents provided their own insights into the practices applicants should adopt to achieve success:

  • Follow the rules: read and re-read the guidelines, and match the application to the criteria set out.
  • Don’t leave it too late: start the application well in advance of the closing date, and don’t be afraid to ask questions while preparing your application.
  • Be transparent: demonstrate clear costings and have strong preliminary data and rationale.
  • Point to the evidence: provide supporting documents to show the benefits of the project to the wider community, have objectives linked to priorities and do market research to demonstrate demand and value for money.

Further support

As the Funding Survey shows, there are many ways that funding applicants can improve their chances of success. But you may also need additional knowledge and expertise.

GRANTfinder is Europe’s leading and most advanced grants and policy database, bringing together funding opportunities and related policy across the UK. The database covers the key details of all major EU, Government and Lottery funds, along with more difficult-to-find regional and local programmes, charitable trusts and corporate sponsors.

Two further important elements of GRANTfinder are training and consultancy services. GRANTfinder offers a wide range of training courses for those who are new to funding and need to know the basics, and for those more experienced users who want to keep up to date with new trends, or who just want a refresher. Our consultants offer support for every step of your funding journey, from the identification of funding opportunities to advice on rules and regulations, as well as help with drafting business cases and support during the lobbying process.

GRANTfinder’s team of funding professionals will help guide you through every stage of the funding process and keep you on the right track to success.

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