September 21st, by Pilar Balet
What will make your funding application a success? What are the key ingredients that will gain your initiative access to a new donor? Preparing a funding application can easily turn into a headache or a time waste feeling for many of those working in the social sector. However - and although nobody has the recipe that will guarantee your application’s success -, years of experience in the field can get you closer to your funding goals.
A long path dedicated to working in charities, evaluating hundreds of funding applications, supporting social entrepreneurs and leading our own social initiatives have given Stone Soup good knowledge of what works and what doesn’t when applying for funding. It has even inspired us to create the Superform, a tool for clients wanting to improve the technical quality of their funding applications and be a step closer to their financial sustainability.
“One of the major issues in fundraising is that applications are generally very poorly done”, states Stone Soup’s Managing Partner Cláudia Pedra. To her experience, the vast majority of submitted applications are not technically correct and objectives, results or impacts are misconstructed. But most importantly, the justification of the project – the most valuable aspect of a project for most donors - is usually unclear or not focused.
The Superform was created by Stone Soup’s managing partner to help social initiatives improve their success in getting funding. Cláudia Pedra claims that “the Superform prepares you for all kind of funding calls, it’s a nine page document that unites all the major application forms in the world.” According to Cláudia Pedra, the clients that go through this tool are ready to apply for any funding opportunity without using so many resources – working hours of an already very busy staff mostly – and achieve much better results.
Stone Soup’s team of consultants has evaluated hundreds of funding applications for all kind of donors, from the European Investment Bank, EDP Foundation and REN to the Union for the Mediterranean or Ashoka. Their experience underlines the need for applications to be clear and not take the evaluators’ knowledge in certain fields for granted. “Usually, the first people that will look at the application won’t be experts on the organisation’s field of work, but experts on how to build an objective. They will check if the indicators’ format is correct or if questions are answered thoroughly”, states Claudia Pedra. In this regard, Stone Soup works with clients in the need for them to be technical in their answers and not only showcase what they do, but also how they do it.
Coaching clients through the Superform and reviewing together their Theory of Change is one of the services that we deliver to clients who want to improve their financial sustainability. We work the project’s vision and mission, strategic goals, specific objectives, results and impacts and help them prepare their indicators for possible funding calls. We help clients rethink their projects, even the way they design them. “By working with us they identify a path to follow. They learn about new funding calls, prepare better applications and improve their fundraising skills”, says Cláudia Pedra.
*Stone Soup is a founding member of GEOfundos and part of its consortium.