Public funding in the form of grants and loans are popular sources of start up and project funding. Most funding from public sources, trusts or charities is dependent on your individual circumstances and those of your project or business, as well as those of your audience/client group. Each funding scheme will have different criteria for eligibility and will usually fund a proportion, rather than the full costs, of any organisation’s activity. Public funding is very often targeted at project activity and is therefore not seen as supporting the organisation’s core work. Be prepared to commit a fair amount of time and research if you intend to pursue funding from these sources.
Competition for this type of funding can be high and many funders are risk averse and therefore want to know that they are going to get the best value for their (public) money, that the idea is sound, fits with their aims and will be carried out reliably and competently.
You can use the following questions as a checklist before making an application:
- What do you want the finance for?
- What are the funder’s priorities?
- How does your venture and circumstances meet the funder’s priorities?
- What are you investing eg. staff time / expertise, equipment?
- What support do you already have?
- Can you get finance/support elsewhere or by other means?
Public funders will most likely ask for evidence of match funding. By this they mean that they would like to see evidence of other sources of finance that you (and others) are investing, (e.g. personal sources, bank loans, grants), to match their investment. The match funding should be real money but may also include some ‘in kind’ support, e.g. the value of resources donated or leased to you at no actual cost, the value of hours contributed to your project voluntarily by supporting organisations.
If you intend to apply for funds from a Trust, Local Authority or any public body to help it achieve its aims, some of the questions asked may include:
- Who are you?
- How long have you been in existence?
- What are you aiming to do?
- How do you manage your finances?
- Who is responsible for making decisions?
All of these questions can be answered succinctly within a written constitution of an organisation. Some funders require that your business operates within a specific type of legal structure e.g. charity which provides an accountable management structure. Most funding schemes are aimed at organisations rather than individuals. It is up to you to decide how much you want your business to be defined by the funders’ criteria but it is better to make decisions about your legal status and objectives based on the aims and needs of your business rather than allowing yourself to be steered by the choice of available grants. Ask yourself:
- Would you be happy with the same structure and objectives if you didn’t get or need that particular fund?
- Will your options and creativity be limited by funding obligations?
- Will you be able to manage the additional administrative costs and paperwork?
Many funds have strict application deadlines so it is important not to leave your funding search too late. As soon as you begin to establish your business objectives start to investigate sources of finance and identify your need for funding or other investment.
Public Funding Resources
Sources can be found using Grant finder database through the Business Gateway Information service and the links given below. Grant finder is a comprehensive database of UK and EU funding initiatives, ranging from grants and loans to advisory schemes. You will be required to write a business plan to access this.
Useful website links
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations publishes a database of Scottish Trusts and Foundations as well as advice on raising money.