7 Ways to Show Funders the Crying Need for your Advocacy Service (Part 1)

How to Get a Grant for Your Advocacy Project

“Please will you fund my advocacy project?”

“Pick me, my project is desperately needed!” is the cry of every good funding bid.

In fact it’s the minimum that it needs to say to stand any chance of success. If it’s not saying it then you’re better off starting again or going home. If your bid’s not crying its heart out then your funder-to-hopefully-be won’t be persuaded to help you.

Now I don’t mean it’s got to be indignant or have a hissy fit. No one likes a drama queen. Your bid needs to be cool, clear and convincing in its desperation. It’s got to wail with the genuine pain and anguish of the people you’re trying to help.

That way your funders will hear their cries too.

To cry louder, stronger and more convincingly you need to create a web of reasons for why your project is needed. A web that covers both the problem and the background issues that are stopping it from being solved.

I’ve identified seven strands that make this web more powerful. On their own each strand can cry pretty loudly, but weave them together and they become unstoppable in their clamour for financial backing.

1. Get Your Evidence Clear Before Your Project Idea

It’s easy to have good ideas for advocacy projects that you think will help people. Many of us became advocates because we’re good at thinking out of the box. But before you run with your idea take a step back, check out the full range of evidence and study it independently. Test out your theories against the evidence and get other people’s opinions.

Don’t go a step further until you’ve done this.

Many organisations, maybe most, don’t create proposals this way. Instead they go down the road (at least in their heads) of defining their approach and then returning to ‘backfill’ the evidence of need to match it. However, doing this weakens your bid. This is because the evidence never fits quite as well as when your idea has organically grown out of a full assessment of all the evidence.

The rest of this two part post will take you through the different types of evidence you can use and show you how to present them in ways that amplify the need.

2. Be Professional by Using Precise Facts and Figures

Without quality facts and figures you look out of touch with your services and unaware of the wider context of need.

Without precision in your facts and figures you look like you’re either a) guessing or b) can’t be bothered to look them up. Being precise shows you’re professional, authentic, good at recording and that you genuinely care.

Read these two descriptions and notice the difference in detail:

“Last year we had approximately 100 referrals, of which over half were for people over the age of 65. We helped them with a wide range of issues including tribunals, housing issues and care plans.”

“Between January – December 2011 we had 96 referrals of which 57% were for people over the age of 65. Our oldest client was 103! We helped them deal with 34 different kinds of issue, the most common of which were tribunals (65 people), housing issues (48) and involvement in care planning (43)”.

How did you react to each one?

Although the second sentence is 49% longer its factual precision increases its value by much more than. This level of conscientiousness and precision increases funder trust.

3. Validate Your Facts with Direct Quotes

Quotes validate your facts and figures. They are the social proof of your bid.

Like tweets or text messages they can convey a lot of information and feeling in one short space.

The right quote in the right place can animate the need for your service more than anything else you say. To be able to have the right quote to hand you need a good stockpile. So keep an eye out for them in reports, articles and evaluations and copy each one into your own quotes document. Capturing them in this way will save you a huge amount of time later on.

Another way to save time is to make sure that your staff capture quotes from your clients, especially when they’ve just started working with them. Don’t ask clients for a quote, just record what they say. Then, later on when you’ve helped them out you can ask for their permission to use their words.  A quote of this kind communicates a deep and personal message from your clients directly to your funders.

A note of caution. Don’t tweak people’s quotes, especially ones they’ve told you directly. It’s a short step from a quote feeling authentic to feeling staged. And a staged-sounding quote drags your bid down.

In Part 2

OK, so we’ve talked about how to get your evidence clear so that your approach becomes stronger, how to use facts and figures to build funder trust and how to use quotes to prove and give life to your facts.

In Part 2 we’ll be talking about:

  • How to create compelling case studies that say more than just words
  • The importance of distinguishing between problems and issues
  • Showing funders what will happen if the need isn’t met
  • How to talk convincingly about what you know but can’t prove

Look forward to seeing you there! Read it now by clicking here.



  1. I have never met an advocate who is not bold – it is what we have to do – but there are different ways of being bold.
    Having information on how to attract and acquire additional funding is always useful and much needed for advocacy organisations who are often too small to be able to employ a full time funder raising worker.

    • Hey Julie – good to see you speaking your mind!

      Most advocacy organisations I know are too small to be able to employ even a part time fundraiser. That’s why I set up this site – to help the Chief Execs, Directors, Managers and Advocates who end up doing the fundraising for their advocacy orgs. I’m guessing that you are one of these people!

      I hope you keep on finding Advocacy Funding useful and that it helps improve Taking Part’s income. If you have any questions on how to do it I’ll be happy to answer them here or by email.