1. Find the right fund
As with relationships, some people are right for us but some people are most definitely not. Writing funding applications (and going on dates) can be a long and arduous process, so it’s important not to waste time applying for funds which aren’t suited to your needs. Many funders will provide a clear criteria for applicants but if they don’t, it’s best to get in touch with them before applying to double check you’re a good match for them.
A great way to judge whether they’re likely to fund your project is by researching what they’ve previously invested in. Generally, you’ve got a better chance of being successful by applying to funders who have specified an interest in your cause area or product type as the generic funds (such as ‘tech for good’ funds or ‘social innovation’ funds) are typically more competitive. It’s also worth checking if there are any restrictions on what you can spend the money on or when the funds get released as this could impact the delivery of your project.
2. Don’t change your product to fit a fund
It can seem tempting to manipulate your idea to better fit a specific funding criteria (I could continue with the relationship theme here, but I’ll resist). Changing your idea may be damaging as it could divert you away from the real purpose of the product, ultimately meaning that you don’t serve the needs of your service users in the best way. We’d always recommend being driven by the needs of your service users rather than being led by funding requirements. The last thing you want is to put money and time into something that nobody wants or needs to use.
3. Demonstrate that you’ve validated both the problem and your solution
If a funder can see that you’ve been through a rigorous testing and validation process before applying, they’re more likely to invest. At a minimum, this process means holding a focus group or completing some user testing with the types of people who will use the product or service. In an ideal world, we’d recommend something more structured, like a Design Sprint.
A sprint is typically a week-long, collaborative workshop used by creative companies across the world. It is a tried and tested way of quickly creating and validating ideas. And as if by magic, by the end of the week you’ll have a prototype which has been tested with real users.
We used this process recently with one of our clients, Brook, who were struggling to know how to reduce the long wait times experienced by young people in their clinics.