What do you think is the most important thing to get right in funding applications?

If you could get grant-makers / grant-seekers to stop doing one thing, what would it be?

How can we collaborate (as grant makers and seekers) to better serve our communities?

These are some of the questions we asked fundraisers, charity leaders and grant-makers for our new report, which also analyses data from our Trust Fundraising Scorecard.

Our report draws on:


charities answering the 40 questions in the Scorecard


conversations with fundraisers/charity leaders to discuss their results


conversations with grant-seekers and grant-makers to discuss the questions in this report.

The aim of our report is to provide insight so that grant-seekers can benchmark their activity and identify where they can make improvements; and grant-makers can gain further insight to the views and experiences of grant-seekers to inform their grantmaking practice.

The Trust Fundraising Scorecard is an online self-assessment tool that helps charities to benchmark their approach to grant-seeking and make targeted improvements to increase grant income. The Scorecard was not designed with the intention of undertaking research, but the strong level of participation and the subsequent conversations provided a rich pool of quantitative and qualitative data that we felt a duty to analyse and share.

Some of the key learning points we would like to explore further are:

Everyone wants there to be better lines of communication and more effective relationships but there isn’t consensus/clarity on what that would look like

Most frustrating is when they don’t give any guidance and try to be open to everything. Because, usually they won’t be and will have areas of work that interest them more than others, particularly the small ones that give no criteria, no list of grantees etc. The biggest frustration is spending time on applications that were never going to be successful, particularly now it is so important to be targeted. They would get less but more suitable applications.

Clare Chillingworth, Trusts & Foundations Fundraising Manager, Bone Cancer Research Trust

There is a divergence in thinking when it comes to applications – grant-seekers focusing on tailoring answers to ‘fit’ with what grant-makers are looking for, while grant-makers want to learn about the issues and how to address them from the experts i.e. the people with lived experience

The thing that really stood out was the paradox of having to pitch with authenticity and try to anticipate what you think the funder wants to hear. I think using your genuine voice is the most helpful thing that you can do, as the application will be written in a more engaging/accessible way that will support with the review of the application.

Sufina Ahmad, Director, John Ellerman Foundation

There is an opportunity to explore how we fund social change more effectively, with increased collaboration and co-production potentially being an important part of this.

Charities have the knowledge and ability to affect change in their communities. We need more joint conversations together (grant-seekers and grant-makers). We need more confidence from grant-seekers – who have power in their knowledge, networks and expertise. It does feel like there is more desire and emphasis from grant-makers to operate differently. At a recent London Funders event, the main topics were on flexible funding, DEI and co-production.

Sarah Ridley, Advisor to grant-seeking and grant-making charities and former Chief Grants Officer at London Marathon Charitable Trust

Please read the report and share your thoughts with us by e-mail or on LinkedIn / Twitter. We would love to hear from you.

What next?

Rather than drawing conclusions or making recommendations, we share this report with you as a way of adding further insight to existing conversations on these topics and invite you to explore these questions with us further:

  • Take what insight you can from this report to inform your approach to funding social change, whether you are grant-seeking or grant-making.
  • If you are a grant-seeker, and haven’t already participated (or you have and want to see if your score has improved), take the Scorecard at
  • Engage in our programme of trust fundraising training and grant-making trends events at
  • Please read the report and share your thoughts with us by e-mail or on LinkedIn / Twitter. We would love to hear from you.
  • Following the report launch we held an event with 30 people working in grant-seeking and grant-making, who discussed community voice in the funding system; collaboration between grant-seekers and grant-makers; and envisioning a radical alternative to the current system. You can view our write up of key themes, questions for funders to consider and the sticky notes from the small group conversations here
  • Register your interest as a grant-maker in piloting an alternative model and/or improving the funding system, by e-mailing

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