What makes a good grant application?

Categories: Care and People & Places.

Gaby Newton, Major Giving (Trusts) Executive and Karl Benn, Head of Grants at Hospice UK take a brief look at what makes a good grant application.

Sadly there is no hidden secret or magic wand that generates a cash flow. However, many tools and online resources are available that offer expert help and advice on writing a successful application. Below, we try to draw on some of that wisdom and our own experience to highlight some of the points that may mean the difference to securing that all-important grant.

Read the criteria

 Obvious, but often overlooked. Read the grant application guidelines carefully to ensure you are really eligible to apply for funding. Ultimately, you need make sure there is a strong match between your project and the grant criteria. If in doubt, call the Grants Team and clarify any questions you may have, we are always happy to discuss your application. As competition for funding is high, only those applications that most closely fit the criteria stand any chance of success.


There is nothing worse than submitting a piece of work that is riddled with spelling errors. It gives the impression of lack of care and attention to detail, which is not the message you want to convey to a grant provider. If you are completing an online form, create your responses in Microsoft Word first, save, and when you are ready just cut and paste into it (the Word version is a handy record of what you wrote too!).

Watch for word counts and stick to them. Keep your language simple, straight forward and logical. Avoid jargon, abbreviations of key terminology and use short sentences. Grant assessors often have many applications to read through, so make your application memorable for the right reasons. Accuracy is key, so before clicking the ‘send’ button, ask a colleague to double-check your application.


Be specific about what you plan to do. For example, rather than saying “we will offer a drop-in service for carers”, say “we will run weekly drop-in sessions for carers of people with dementia over a six week period. Each session will be two hours long and will be attended by six carers”

Be clear about who will deliver each part of the project – clearly outline their title, roles and their responsibilities. Are they current members of staff or will you need to recruit?


Ensure you complete every section on the application form, do not write ‘see attached’. Be specific and clear so the application reads well.

Use an appropriate font and size and remember there is rarely the need to CAPITALISE your sentences.

Reinforce your case for support

Include all the information specified as a requirement and send any additional information or documents that may be required. Missing things out, such as letters of support from key delivery partners and stakeholders, will likely result in your application not being successful.


Make sure you provide a clear breakdown of your budget and a total figure that adds up correctly – and that all costs relate to the project. The costs should be based on realistic values and not best guesses or rounded up figures. Do not forget to include admin time and other potential costs that may incur outside of the project itself, if the criteria allows it.

Risks and mitigation

It is important to outline any potential risks or challenges that your project may face. Outlining how you might address risks can give grant assessors confidence in your project. For example what will you do if you can’t recruit a project lead? What happens if fewer volunteers are participating than you hoped for or you have a low referral rate to the project?

The need

Be focused in what you want to say – it’s quality not quantity. Aim for a clear, compelling and concise argument, which demonstrates the beneficiaries’ need for help. While adding stats can be helpful in painting a picture of need, too many figures will dilute what you are saying and likely become meaningless to the reader.

It’s important to reflect and ensure that the user (patient, family, carer) voice has been heard. This emphasises your case for support and helps to bring the project/application to life.

Finally, learn from past declines

If you are unsuccessful in your application for funding, call us. Like many funders today, the Grants Team at Hospice UK is happy to provide informal feedback in the interest of improving the quality of future applications. It will not change the decision, but you can learn from it.

Further information and useful links

There are many tools to help you write your application, these are some we looked at to write this article:

How to get your charity’s funding application to the top of the pile

A guide to writing effective funding applications

Writing fundraising applications

How to write successful fundraising applications

Writing a funding application

Planning a funding application

PopNAT can be used to identify unmet need, based on intelligence about the end of life and palliative care needs of the local population.

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