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Welcome to the first part of the new NCVO website. While we finish building it, you will find the rest of our help and guidance on our existing site.

Last reviewed: 17 November 2020

This page tells you about different ways to search for grants. It also has some recommended steps for first time grant applicants. If you came here looking for a grant search or list of grants go straight to Funding Central's search tool.

Covid-19 – coronavirus

Grant funding available changed in response to the crisis. Some small trusts closed funds temporarily. Many larger funders stopped running their usual programmes and diverted money to new funds related to the crisis.

More changes will happen. Overall grant funding will be affected by the crisis for years to come. Competition for funds will be even more intense. Well thought out projects will not always get the funding they need.

Some funders will make applications simpler and ask for less reports and less justifications from organisations they already support. We don’t know how this will affect new organisations yet.

But the process for finding grants stays the same. Finding grant funding is about making connections. It is about getting to know what funding is out there and deciding whether it suits you or not.

Key ways to find grants

If you work outside the UK start with funding guidance for working in international development.

Otherwise make sure you are taking a three-part approach:

  • Get grant information to come to you
  • Carry out a grant search
  • Use support and advice that is available

If you are looking for your first grant you could start with our first steps for new organisations (link to anchor)

Getting grant information to come to you

You should sign up to at least one online service that will send you updates about new grant funds and deadlines by email. Make sure that the service you choose lets you configure its settings so that you get updates that match your needs. NCVO recommends Funding Central. It is free if your organisation has a turnover of less than £120,000 per year. For other organisations it costs £100 per year. There are other similar services from other providers.

Carry out a grant search

Some grants won't show up in update emails. Many funders have programmes that run for years with no deadlines or rolling deadlines. Some funders don't keep the teams that run the services up to date with new plans, they just have one record on the system. So you should always use grant searches as well as updates.

The same online services that send updates also let you do online searches that display long lists of results.

It's best to do the grant search when you know exactly what you want to fund. You can use filters to narrow down your search.

Online service searches don't suit everyone, and they don’t always find all available grants.

You can use other methods. Pick the ones that interest you the most.

  • Go to other organisations' websites. Look on the funders or supporters page to see what grants they have.
  • When you visit an organisation, look for a board in their entrance listing funders.
  • Talk about funders with other organisations. Encourage a spirit of cooperation not competition.
  • Browse lists of grant-making trusts. The most popular is the book 'The Directory of Grant Making Trusts'. The Directory of Social Change publish it once a year. It is often available in libraries.

Using support and advice that is available

Local advice

In every area of the UK there is at least one local support or infrastructure organisation that helps charities and voluntary sector organisations look for funding. Some also have funding to give out. In many areas there are several organisations with slightly different responsibilities. You should start making connections with those organisations as soon as you start thinking about grants.

Advice related to the work you do

In the UK you can find a support organisation or network for almost everything. They are all different but they may be able to help you with some important things.

  • Funding newsletters featuring funders who support your activity.
  • Guides on how to describe your work to funders.
  • Evidence you can use to show the impact of your type of activity.
  • Partnership programmes you can get involved in.
  • Informal groups to chat to others about different funders.
  • Training and events.
  • Small grant funds (less common).

There is no one complete list of all these organisations. Some are free and some have membership fees. Some focus on the activity you do and others focus on who you support.

To find these organisations

  • Ask people who do similar things to you which networks they belong to. Create a spirit of collaboration.
  • Search by combining 'the activity you offer' or 'the people you help' with the phrases 'membership organisation' or 'governing body' or 'network' or 'umbrella body'.

Example

Active Now is a social club run by and for people with learning disabilities. They go to lots of activities and do lots of swimming. They google 'learning disabilities' and 'umbrella body'. They find Learning Disabilities England. They join this membership organisation and get a digital newsletter, resources and training. They talk to the swimming pool that they run sessions at. The staff tell them about Swim England, the governing body for swimming. They join this as well and start to think about training as coaches.

First grants: National Lottery funding

Most of the National Lottery funders have grant schemes that support first time applicants. This makes them a great first step. Right now, some of them are running Covid-19 specific programmes rather than their usual funds.

These links go direct to the home page of each organisation.

  • National Lottery Community Fund (UK wide). The starting place for many organisations making a difference to people’s lives. They are particularly interested in helping communities most in need. Covid-19 scheme is open to new applicants.
  • Heritage Lottery Fund (UK wide). Focuses on understanding, valuing and sharing heritage.
  • Arts Council England. Focuses on creativity and culture.
  • Sport England. Aims to build an active nation.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own equivalents of Arts Council England and Sport England.

First grants: Community Foundations

Most areas of the country have Community Foundations that manage at least one local grant fund. Many of them are good at helping people make their first application.

Next steps

Get advice on applying for grants.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 17 November 2020

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