Bid Writing for Charities: How I Took a Chance and Made a Difference
Bid writing and grants fundraising aren’t jobs you’re usually told about in school, but they’re massively important to ensuring a charity receives proper funding. Here, Hayley Dennis, Scotty's Little Soldiers' Grants and Trusts Fundraiser, shares her expertise:
I joined Scotty’s Little Soldiers, the charity for bereaved military children, in 2020 and took up a brand-new role as the charity’s Grants Fundraiser. Working for Scotty’s is like landing a dream job that I never knew existed. I’m able to make a real difference to the lives of the children and young people whose parents served our country – and it’s my job! How wonderful and humbling is that?
First steps into Fundraising
My journey to becoming a Grants Fundraiser has been an unusual one. I trained to be a teacher of acting/musical theatre and moved back home to Norfolk in order to be closer to my family. Unfortunately, there weren’t many job opportunities available in such a rural area. In desperation, I applied to become a marketing assistant for a regional building contractor. Perhaps they recognised my transferable skills, perhaps they liked my total honesty when I told them I just needed a job, or perhaps they were as desperate as me to fill the vacancy. Whatever the reason, I got the job!
Becoming a bid-writer
But the plot thickens, I was employed to be a marketing assistant, but the actual role was for a bid-writer with a bit of business development thrown in. Over the next six years I learnt everything I needed to know about the company, their processes, their culture, their history, their finances, their goals, their experience, their people, how to create proposals/tenders, how to effectively write a response, how to gather/present evidence and how to manage opportunities and relationships with new and existing clients – all the elements of successfully managing grants. It turns out I wasn’t half bad at it, either.
Discovering Scotty’s Little Soldiers
Eventually, I wanted a new challenge. I hadn’t completely abandoned the fabulous world of musical theatre and for several years had been a member of a local Amdram society, who I helped to write a successful bid for funding towards refurbishing their rehearsal rooms. That feeling of helping my local community and continuing the legacy of the society gave me the warm and fuzzies. Not long afterwards, I saw a job advertisement for a Grants Fundraiser at Scotty’s Little Soldiers, the charity for bereaved military children. All my skills were transferable to this role – is this what I had been looking for? In a word: yes!
What makes a good bid-writer?
I’ve met several good bid-writers and grant fundraisers over the years of all different backgrounds, from journalism to project managing, sales, the Armed Forces and fundraisers who started off shaking a bucket in the street. No one ever leaves school saying I want to be a bid-writer or grant fundraiser - I doubt most even know what they are – but it’s an incredibly rewarding career. There are no professional qualifications beyond a training certificate, so the best way to become one is to recognise your own potential and go for it!
What are grants?
A grant is an award, usually a specific sum of money, given to an organisation or individual to help facilitate a goal or outcome. In Scotty’s Little Soldiers’ case, they are awarded to the charity to help deliver the very best long-term bereavement support for bereaved military children, giving them the chance to smile again, providing wellbeing and emotional support and offering outstanding developmental opportunities.
Are grants a form of fundraising?
Yes, grants are a form of fundraising. Fundraising from grants is one of Scotty’s Little Soldiers’ biggest revenue streams. It’s vital to the charity’s sustainability and being able to continue to support bereaved military children and young people.
How do you write a good funding bid?
Being able to write a good funding bid is a skill you have to learn. Most grant giving organisations prefer to fund an individual project or certain beneficiary groups – like children and veterans – or a specific objective such as tackling loneliness or supporting disadvantaged children in education. It’s my job as the grant fundraiser to find matches and links between Scotty’s Mission and the grant giving organisation’s funding criteria, then put the best case forward as to why we should be awarded funding.
What is a Trusts Fundraiser?
A Trusts Fundraiser may only be applying to charitable trusts for funding in the form of a grant or an unrestricted donation. Usually, however, a Trusts Fundraiser has exactly the same job description as a Grants Fundraiser / Grant Officer / Grant Manager and will look after a portfolio of charitable Trusts, Foundations, Corporate, Philanthropy and Institutional grants.
Would you like to work at Scotty’s Little Soldiers?
Want to make a difference in the lives of bereaved military children? Scotty’s Little Soldiers are a £1.5m UK national charity which provides specialist support for bereaved military children and young people (aged 0-25).
We supported 591 young people in 2022, we have a long-term goal to be supporting over 1,000 children and young people by 2030 and will need to grow our income streams to around £3m to achieve this. We’re growing fast and since I joined the team has more than doubled in size as we work towards achieving this goal.
We deliver 4 Family Programmes; SMILES, SUPPORT, STRIDES and SPRINGBOARD, which provide a range of emotional and educational support for bereaved military families.
We currently have multiple positions, including maternity cover for the Grants and Trusts Fundraising role, available now.