How to apply for a grant

One volunteer shares their tips on applying for grants

27 July 2021

There are a variety of grants and funding opportunities available in communities across the country, but when it comes to applying and working out which one best suits your needs, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

We spoke to Steph Walker, leader of 3rd Bilston Guides and 3rd Bilston Rangers, about what she did when applying for different funding to help her units through the pandemic. Steph, who is also the district commissioner for Bilston and East in West Mercia County, found out about grants in her area by contacting local charities. She was also in touch with her local growth and communities coordinator from the Space to Grow Together project. The growth and communities coordinator worked with units across the county, supporting them to secure grants through Space to Grow Together to help with growth and retention, including in Steph’s district.

How has the pandemic impacted on your units? 

The pandemic initially turned our units on their heads. Stopping never crossed my mind and from the beginning I knew we had to move online somehow. We found a free virtual space and continued with the term’s plan as well as we could. At the forefront of my mind was that I needed to make sure we could still deliver guiding without financially impacting our members’ families, so we offered our weekly meetings for free. The girls handled the pandemic like real troopers! They decided they wanted to keep going and ended up earning their Bronze ward during the first lockdown. We also doubled in size which was amazing!

What grants did you apply for and how did you find out about them? 

I’ve applied for several grants from local charities and supermarkets in our area as well as Girlguiding. I initially learnt about local charities through previous events I had attended or had seen happening around Bilston. I also spent time online researching charities in the area that talk about supporting youth specially. Thanks to these amazingly generous people, I now have a list of charities I contact when we need support. I knew most supermarkets have community champions, so I approached them to see if they would offer some support. When I speak with them, they have been great and have always given snacks and resources in lieu of money, which are super useful!

What was the application process like? 

Every application is different. With guiding, the process was straight forward as they made the criteria for what they were happy to fund clear. With local charities, I write personal letters to each one explaining not only the situation we were in but how the units were supporting the local community. As a leader and commissioner, I wanted to get to know the charities and show them who they were supporting as well as why guiding is worth investing in. This involved phone calls, attending their meetings to chat about the work we’re doing and how the grants would be spent, as well as the impact they would make, which really helped build relationships. I always send a thank you card too, as it’s important they know we value their input.  

How did other volunteers help you in the application process? 

I always speak with my team and keep them up to date when applying for grants. My team are great. If they see a grant they think we could apply for, they send it my way. I usually take the task on myself as I enjoy putting all my passion for our units on the page, but they are with me every step of the way cheering me on.

How have the grants helped your unit?

The grants have made a huge difference. This year they allowed us to pay subscriptions without leaving the account empty. They also helped me buy badges the girls had earned and buy resources we needed to adapt the programme to being Covid safe. Support from local charities allowed me to make the girls’ Bronze awards celebrations special as they had earned a special moment during such a difficult time. In the past, they have also supported me to buy uniform for girls that have needed it when families have struggled, made summer camps and trips possible and allowed us to purchase equipment needed for trips, and even long distance transport.    

What advice would you give to others who are thinking about applying for grants? 

For anyone thinking about applying for grants, the best advice I would give is don’t be afraid to go for it. Write down a list or plan of what you need to achieve and start applying for grants from everyone who is willing to listen. Network with local charities and see if they would like to support what you do, support events they are running (when we all can!) and help them see the amazing work guiding does. It doesn’t matter what you are applying for, as long as it is needed and the girls are at the heart of what you do, help is always available. Don't be afraid to ask for help, invest the time and save everything you write, you never know when it will be useful if applying to multiple charities. Sometimes applying for grants shines a light on your units and shows Girlguiding is in the area. That can open up other opportunities for support too. 

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