Every week, I get lots of emails asking for advice and ideas for grant applications.

“There’s this fund, can you think of something we can do to apply for for it?”

And the short answer is:

“No.”

If you read the guidelines on a grant – who it’s aimed at, what they will and won’t fund, and it doesn’t immediately jump out at you, grabbing you by the lapels, screaming “this is perfect for you”, then, chances are, it’s not for you.

Just because you can apply for grant funding, because you’re a registered CIC or charity, doesn’t mean we should apply for every grant that comes along. You had a vision when you started your social enterprise, and that’s really what you should focus on. If a funder doesn’t want to fund your activities, don’t change your activities. Find a funder that wants to fund your work.

Companies do evolve of course, you might start out delivering one thing and expand or naturally find yourself offering something else. But these changes usually happen organically, through trial and error. If you’re running a foodbank, don’t start applying for funding to run a kids reading group, just because that particular grant is wants to fund kids activities.

It’s not for you.

Applying for funding that isn’t for you is a waste of your time: first you probably won’t get the grant. It’ll be clear you have no track record and it’s not your main thing. So you’ll waste time writing an application. You’ll also waste time coming up with an idea, costing it out, planning the delivery. 

And if by some chance you do get the grant, you then have to spend time learning new things, to enable you to deliver a project that doesn’t quite fit with your usual activity, and takes away from the time you should be spending on the goals you set when you started.

And you might have prevented an organisation, that already delivered the right sort of activity, from receiving funding. That’s not cool. As social entrepreneurs, I think we should be supporting each other and working together, not competing against each other.

There are plenty of general funds. And plenty of specific funds that will match your organisation’s activities and goals. So leave those that don’t, for the organisations they’re designed for.