Getting your ducks in a row to apply for emergency funding

The effects of Covid-19 are hitting vulnerable communities the hardest, with many social entrepreneurs feeling the effects of this on them and their business whilst serving these communities.

The third sector and funders are working to create funds and support offers that can be delivered quickly and effectively. Good Finance have an extensive round-up of available funding here.

Funding applications often require a lot of preparation and time, neither of which are an affordable luxury right now. The funds that have been opened for support have short application windows, which we know creates barriers for social entrepreneurs. While not ideal, this is to process applications and distribute the funding as quickly as possible, when many businesses are in crisis.

Based on our experience with both applying for and distributing funding, here is our guidance on what information it might be useful to have to hand to quickly apply for emergency funding.

Collating this information in an easy to access document, in a folder with all supporting evidence too, will make it easier to apply for funds when they open.

Legal Information

It is not uncommon for funds to be restricted to a specific set of legal structures. Having your legal information at hand will help you to quickly identify which funds you are eligible for. This includes your Charity number, FCA number, or Company number. You do not require all three, but if you have them, make sure you can easily access them and refer to them.

Context-setting

As you might expect from previous applications, Covid-19 grants want applicants to tell the story in a way that shares the project’s key information that would usually be covered in a face to face pitch.

In particular, funders will be interested in hearing about the difference between your work before March this year, what it looks like now, and what you are aiming for it to look like in 12 months.

Looking Back

How was your social enterprise addressing social need prior to Covid-19? Prepare a short summary of your work, whether it’s a sentence or 50-100 words, on the project that answers the 5 W’s and the H – Who, What, When, Where, Why, How.

Do you have a social impact report, or a short case study on your work? Are there any news stories published about your venture? This isn’t mandatory, but will help assessors to process your application.

The Situation Now

Funders will be interested in how your organisation and the people that you work with have been impacted by the crisis. Prepare by thinking about what you have done differently to meet your community’s needs – both in response to the crisis and what you will need to do over the next six months.

Our 4P’s Framework offers an easy way to interpret this: Proceed, Pivot, Pilot, Pause.

Another consideration is what market your venture operates in, and how that’s been affected. If you service care homes, when will they reopen to you?

Projections & Planning

Operating in uncertainty is a challenge for any business. Making detailed predictions might not be possible, but funders will be interested to hear your plans for the future. Some questions worth thinking about might be:

  • What are your projections for your venture’s future?
  • What scenarios have you explored and planned for?
  • What do you need to do over the next six months to achieve this? 

Grant assessors want to know your viability and see that approved funding will enable you to make a significant impact.

Show your working and planning, with how you see your service and delivery rolling out in both the short and long terms. Connecting this to your financial projections will strengthen your application. We’ve included some tips on that below.

Beneficiaries & Impact

It is critical to clearly show who your service benefits and the impact your venture has, both prior to and during the pandemic.

Which social issue(s) are you tackling, and for who? What protected characteristics and societal groups do you target your support to?

Funders are often interested in how your staff and governance reflect the communities you work with or have personally experienced the social issue you address. Having information on the background and lived experience of you, your board, and staff may come in handy.

Financial Records

While you may not be an accountant, it’s important to have evidence showing that your venture needs the funding, and how it will create impact. Read more about Financial Analysis here.

Your application will likely be assessed on your financial stability pre-pandemic, and how the grant will help you re-stabilise.

Work on the assumption that you’ll be asked for:

  • What was your financial situation before Covid-19?
    • Outline your prior annual income
    • What percentage of last year's revenue came from grants/other funding?
    • Do you rely on being a service your beneficiaries pay for?
    • What was your organisation's financial stability in the past year?
  • What funding have you previously applied for and received since April this year?
  • What spending projections have you made for the next six months?
    • What will you need to spend to survive?
    • How long will your current cash reserves last?
  • How much funding are you requesting?
    • Include an itemised breakdown of what the grant will pay for. Include staff hours, resources, support, digitisation etc.
  • Can you provide evidence of how you would have been stable and financially unaffected if Covid-19 had not happened?
  • Do you feel sustainable beyond Covid-19?

Other useful financial documents that can be attached to grant applications include:

  • Your most recent annual accounts
    • Drafts may be accepted, if they include a full breakdown of profit and loss, rather than just the balance sheet
  • Your management accounts up to 31st March 2020 so that funders can understand your financial situation before Covid-19
  • A cashflow statement. This is often required when applying for larger cash awards.

We understand that funding applications are new territory to many people, and are often written by professional fundraisers. Please do not be intimidated or deterred by this. Most support organisations offer advice and guidance.

Funders usually share the eligibility and questions before applications open for applicants to download to ensure all boxes are ticked, and prepared answers in advance.

This preparation will take time now, but significantly speed up your application - the information will be clear, concise, and ready to go. Any issues with your application will lead to delays and likely cause more work for yourself.

We strongly encourage applicants to always back-up their answers. Saving your application answers elsewhere will also mitigate any technical issues that could pop up if an application portal is under high demand.

We hope this information is helpful to you, and good luck with any funding opportunities you are seeking. An overview of UnLtd support is here.

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