First impressions count in the funding world.
Want to boost the chances of your funding application being successful?
First you need to boost your online presence.
For small charities, never more has the good they do been needed. COVID19 has changed the funding and charity landscape considerably. Over the last 5 months, grassroots and small charities have seen a rapid increase in need and an increased spotlight in the grant funding landscape.
There have and continue to be, a large number of available COVID19 grants and many are aimed specifically at small charities who are working at grassroots level. This response has been fantastic as resources have been stretched well beyond limits - but it also does mean competition for funding is fierce.
Funders are reporting an “overwhelming response” with release dates pushed back and literally hundreds of applications for thousands of pounds. Many have shortened the application process or relaxed criteria but at the end of the day, not everyone can get a slice of the pie. Making your application stand out in a sea of others, can be tricky.
So how can you increase your chances of being chosen?
There are many important tips to remember when applying for funds but there is often one which is over-looked by smaller charities and community organisations:
The importance of a clear online presence.
Small, volunteer-run charities are the lifeblood of many communities. Often, they don’t have the time, money, or expertise to invest in developing a fancy website and regularly updated social media. Many may also ask “Is it really necessary?” When you are invested in human need and frontline delivery, singing your own praises on a website, or reporting on the life experiences of beneficiaries, may feel a little bit showy and superficial.
But when it comes to boosting your funding applications, an up-to-date and functional website plus social media presence, can be the ticket that takes you from the “Maybe” to the “Yes!”
Who are you?
Funders receive staggering numbers of applications all of which tell of urgent and worthy need.
They read hundreds of applications, dissect wording, add up budgets and DO THEIR RESEARCH.
Yes, that’s right – they will Google you.
If a funder finds your website and it's relevant, real (reporting on beneficiaries and aid effectiveness) and useful (gives them easily the answers to their questions) - then this will go a long way in helping your application more credible.
Furthermore, discovering your Twitter, Facebook or Instagram is (moderately) active will help a great deal too. It shows evidence not only of your work but also of the real need you are responding to. It answers the key question– are you credible? And that's not the only question - are you genuine? Are you active? Are you professional? Can you deliver? Are you likely to monitor and report funding spend clearly? In short, show them the answers and your application will come to life.
If however, a Google search brings up nothing in the way of a website or brings up a site which is inexplicably out-of-date and omits key information such as a donation page, contact details – or your charity number! – this can ring alarm bells. It is very likely you will end up in the “No” pile.
Investing time and a little bit of money in your website is crucial. Keeping your social media active is essential – not necessarily posting every day, but once a week or so should be enough. No-one expects you to be posting at an Instagram Influencer rate – but dedicating some hours to this each week to report on your work, ask for donations, promote projects and share relevant content will all really help.
So, if you are a small charity without a website or online presence – what can you do?
Here’s some quick tips to get your website, branding and social channels sorted, on little or no budget:
Look at web hosting. Consider Wix or look at SquareSpace. Try Wordpress. All can be pretty cost effective with just the need for hosting costs if you can source skills from within your staff or volunteers. Stuck for manpower and know-how? Check out the Media Trust – connecting media and creative professionals with good causes on a volunteer basis.
Concentrate on 2 social channels. Consider which is best for you – Instagram is image-heavy so think about if you can get enough photos relating to your work to make this a good channel for you. Consider safeguarding and consent, and if your beneficiaries would be comfortable with being featured. Twitter is clearly more text-based (although images improve engagement) and is ideal for updates, sharing blog posts, news and information. Facebook can work well in getting your fundraising campaign in front of your supporters and local community.
Whatever channels you choose, share content and not just your own. Follow charities, umbrella organisations and news outlets that work in your area. Share content that is interesting for your followers and reflective of the need you are serving and the work you are doing.
Get a crowdfunding page. If you can’t launch a website just yet (or even if you can), then creating and launching a crowdfunding page will help you gather donations as well as improve your online credibility. Look at JustGiving, LaunchGood or GoFundMe as a starter. It’s often very easy to set up a page as many offer a page template – you simply write your story, add content and asks, publish and share your page.
All in all, keep things up to date and presented clearly. You don’t need loads of pages on your website – Home, About Us, Our Work, Donate Now and Contact Us will do you well. If you can add in a News or Blog page, all the better as this will ensure you can create your own shareable content. Think carefully about your website copy – use a copywriter to craft this so it works well for online audiences and doesn’t miss an opportunity to add weight to your charity brand or ask for support.
It may take a while to get your website up to page one on Google so don’t expect it to happen overnight. Make use of SEO and work this into your site and through the website copy. Link to and from your social media channels. Share blog posts from your site that redirect to a call to action – asking for volunteers or donations. Post about your achievements, use case studies and report on the numbers of people you have helped and hope to help going forwards.
By investing a little time and maybe a little money, you can dramatically increase your funding application chances. You may even be able to claim funds for further online development as part of a funding application - but check first to see if each funder will
fund digital elements.
First impressions really do count, especially when competition is high and funders have to make ruthless decisions about where to invest their money. What they find when they turn to Google could make all the difference to whether you secure those precious funds.
If you need a little help, drop me a line and I will be happy to help: firstname.lastname@example.org