Grant funding comes from two main sources: public funders (such as local councils or Arts Council England) and private funders (charities, trusts and foundations).
Government departments, local authorities and ‘quangos’ (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations – organisations like Arts Council England that receive money from the Government to carry out funding on their behalf) operate grant programmes using money raised through taxation and/or the National Lottery.
Funding policies and funding bodies are subject to evaluation and change, so a funder you have already researched may have changed priorities or application processes since you last checked them.
When distributing public money it’s important that funders operate in a fair and transparent way. This means that full details about assessment criteria, processes and decisions are published so that applicants can understand the basis on which grants are awarded.
If you receive a grant then you are usually required to abide by standard terms and conditions (such as displaying the funder’s logo, paying people involved a fee set at a professional level, or providing accounts that show how the funds have been used) and your grant may be released in instalments, not all at one time. You need to plan how you will manage your project alongside the funder’s release of money.
Trusts and foundations
Technically, a foundation has income from an endowment of land or investments, and not all of them make grants – some use their income to support their own activities. A trust is just another word for a charity. Many grant-giving bodies are both a foundation and a trust.
Independent Trustees govern trusts and foundations, and they have greater freedom to choose what they fund than public funders (within the limits set by their founding charter). They will usually have been set up to follow particular aims and support particular activities, so although their specific focus may change from year to year, they tend to have more stable funding criteria than public funders.
There are over 8,000 trusts and foundations registered in the UK, so there is enormous variety in what they support and how they work. Larger trusts and foundations may have a website, paid staff, published guidelines and application forms – just like a public funder. Smaller trusts and foundations may be run by volunteers and have no resources to provide information or advice to applicants. Many ask simply for a letter of application and may not be able to acknowledge receipt or notify unsuccessful applications.
In all cases, independent Trustees will make the funding decisions – although in a larger trust or foundation their staff may be involved in assessing the applications and making recommendations about which to support.
Every funder – public or private – supports different kinds of activity and has different conditions attached to their grants (i.e. what they expect in return). Application processes and priorities can also be quite different. You have to research potential funders carefully to find grant opportunities that you are eligible for and that support activity you are interested in doing.