Whether you're approaching philanthropic funders, local private trusts or foundations – the basic rules remain the same and form the core of your funding project.
Your great idea
What would you like to do? Who will benefit from your project and how? Understanding this is central to knowing which funders to approach. Get key members of your community group together for a 'brainstorming session' to find out what ideas they have or what problems they would like to solve.
You could then set up a fundraising group where you share knowledge and expertise. Someone might work with a local youth group or be a young person themselves, you might have somebody who is a writer who could complete the application form, or another person might work for a landscape or construction company and have access to technical knowledge or materials. You might get some of what you need for free.
Once you have a good idea of what your project is and roughly what it will cost, your first stop will be your local authority website. Most councils will signpost local funding opportunities through community newsletters and they may even have a dedicated officer to help community groups with their applications. You could also consider approaching a local community organisation (sometimes known as a CVS) for help.
The National Lottery Community Fund website is an invaluable source of information, guiding you through the steps you need to take when applying for funding, with relevant online resources.
What is really needed?
Consult the community in which you're planning to work to gather feedback about your idea and what change is needed locally. Think about how different groups could get involved, young people might be keen to do some gardening but want to learn new skills and older people may have lived in the area for a while and have good connections with lots of skills to share with others. Read through your local Community Plan (available through your council's website) to understand where your local authority is focusing its resources – the better you can match your application to this plan, the greater your chance of success.
It's always a good idea to work with others if you can – some funders actually require you to work in partnership, to share skills and resources to help improve the area.
Build in some project evaluation from the start; think about how you will measure the changes your project will create. This doesn't need to be complicated. You could take photos before, during and after a green-space makeover to show the changes you've created. A simple tick-box questionnaire could show how people feel about their neighbourhood (maybe they feel it's unsafe, un-cared for, has a lack of green spaces and no community spirit) before your project, and then show the changes that have taken place during and after.
Check you're sure about the difference you'd like to make with your project and that the activities you're planning will achieve your aims. Then put together a budget for everything you think you'll need. It's a good idea to get three quotes for all the equipment you'll purchase (e.g, tools). Guidance on budget planning is often available from funders (e.g. the Big Lottery Fund).
Outcomes and evaluation
Funders will often want you to report back honestly on the success of your project and any lessons you have learnt – you can use this information to create your next funding application. Many funders want you to share your successes with others to increase the impact of the project, so think about what you will communicate, how and to whom.
Not the resource you need after all? Explore the rest of our community gardening resources