Bidding on behalf of a charity?

Working in the third sector is hard enough; every penny has to stretch that little bit further and funders want to know that money helping to fund a particular project, is money well spent.

And let’s face it … large donations and the occasional unexpected legacies rarely arrive just when you need them. Income can be sporadic and unpredictable. Bid writing to successfully win financial support for staff, marketing, equipment, training or anything else necessary for the charity to function efficiently and effectively, can be hard work. Simply describing what you need the funds for just won’t cut it.

Sources are varied and extremely diverse, so it follows that their criteria and requirements will be equally searching and wide-ranging. Thus, you will have to think carefully about how to approach this type of tender writing, who will form part of the process and what you need to do to prepare. You’ll also need the why and the when factors

why you need the funding and when you will have the time to do it all and submit it in time!

And when I say… “why you need the funding,” what I really mean is… “why you should have the funding.” This is the crux of the matter. Why should you have the funding in preference to any other charitable cause? I can’t possibly cover all the different formats of tender application here, but I can certainly give you some useful pointers and typical information about how to make your bid more attractive, well presented, suitably evidenced, and professionally written.

Having done your research, you will know where the funding streams are, along with deadlines for your bid(s) and any possible restrictions such as size, demographics and location. There are generally two types of funding bid. The first is an application to foundations or companies. These require the charity to explain why it needs the money and what difference receiving it will make. The second is a bid to a public sector body such as a local authority, which may be for funding to deliver a service. Your charity must show it is able to provide the service at a competitive price.

The exact words and phrases included within your bid will be down to you however, I can give you some common sense guidelines, in plain English, that will hopefully help you to get focused on writing a winning bid for your charity.


1. Refrain from using jargon. It sounds obvious but many bids fail because the fund provider simply doesn’t know what a certain sentence or paragraph means. If you’re going to use technical terms or acronyms that you are familiar with, take time to explain them in full at an early stage. Provide a glossary if necessary and use a suitably sized font if typing and your neatest writer if doing by hand. It’s the little things that go a long way.

2. Don’t assume anything! Even if you’ve tendered to this provider before, don’t assume they know everything about what you do. More often than not they will not. Panels of assessors change frequently so explain your role clearly.

3. Do your research. Have the providers funded similar projects before? What do they seem passionate about? Seek out this information because knowing a little about them will reap rewards. See if you can secure a little chat with someone from the funding department in the initial stages.

4. Gather and present your evidence. Your charity may well do absolutely brilliant work. You may be like a breath of fresh air out there but you will need to prove its worth.  Evidence such as feedback, case studies, thank you letters, awards etc. will be needed to show that what you provide actually does work!

5. Do the maths. Whatever you’re asking for, you must ensure that the numbers stack up. Can you deliver the service efficiently for the price? Have you budgeted for everything?

This list is by no means exhaustive and you will probably think of other important points that could be included. But common sense must prevail. Explain everything. Assume nothing.

Anyone who has a good command of the English language and knows a few ostentatious phrases can write what looks like a grandiose bid. But the best bids will be written by people who are actually involved in the charity at a grass roots level. Ensure those working with the clients and delivering the project provision are involved on the bid writing team. They are the ones that know what a different the funding will really make!

The opportunities are there. Don’t mess it up!

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