This article discusses some of the funding options and sources of advice available to charities and voluntary organisations.
This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
This article outlines how constituents can apply for a grant or loan either as individuals or for organisations.
The information below is relevant for most types of funding enquiries. The Library has produced a series of pages for funding in more specific areas. These are listed at the end of this page.
It is a good idea for the constituent to telephone a funding organisation for an initial discussion before making a grant application. Most trusts will have a good sense of what they want to do with their money and will be happy to provide guidance to potential applicants.
Most business start-ups will require a clear and solid business plan.
Before applying, it is useful for the constituent to develop a plan and think about the following:
How much funding is needed?
Grant-making organisations range from large national charities giving millions of pounds per annum to small local charities giving out a few hundred pounds. Some larger trusts have different strands of grants with different requirements for each type.
Is regional or local funding available?
Local and regional funding may be more appropriate, especially for small projects. An application to local funding bodies or local authorities may also be more likely to be successful as they will have specialist local knowledge of sources of support. Details can often be found on a local authority website.
What is the grant for?
Most grant-making organisations (the exceptions are usually very large organisations) target their funding towards specific objectives. Successful applications will need to show how they meet those objectives.
Most grant-making organisations have lists of exclusions and criteria, which can be long. The majority will require any grant they make to be used for a particular purpose, on which the recipient will be expected to report.
Grants for general running costs are rare, although not unknown.
Providing as much information as possible to the grant provider increases the chance of a successful application.
All funding is subject to criteria so the constituent should be warned that an application for finance will not necessarily succeed.
Funding for individuals
Many grant-making trusts and organisations do not accept applications from individuals. Grants for individuals are much harder to access than those for organisations.
The charity Turn2Us has a funding search engine for individual grants.
Some lottery funding programmes are open to individuals.
In some circumstances individuals may be able to use crowd funding to raise funds (see Alternatives to grants, below).
The Directory of Social Change has published ‘Guide to Grants for Individuals In Need’ by Ian Pembridge. This can be found on the Commons Library resources page, (parliamentary login required) and may be available to constituents in larger public libraries.
Disabled Facilities Grants
Mandatory Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) are available from local authorities in England and Wales and the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland. They are issued subject to a means test and are available for essential adaptations to give disabled people better freedom of movement into and around their homes, and to give access to essential facilities within the home.
Scotland operates a different system whereby grant assistance may be available for disabled adaptations, although it is not issued in the form of a DFG.
See below for details of the schemes in each country:
- England: Disabled Facilities Grants – GOV.UK
- Wales: Getting adaptations – Shelter Cymru
- Northern Ireland: Disabled Facilities Grants | nidirect
- Scotland: The scheme of assistance for house repairs and adaptations – Citizens Advice Scotland
Alternatives to grants
Aside from grants, there are other options for raising money.
- Raising money online. Crowdfunding websites like:
- However, they may charge a fee and there can be an ‘all or nothing requirement’ that is if you don’t get enough pledges to meet your target you don’t get money.
- Self-generating income via merchandising and catering.
- Match funding, where private sponsors or lottery funds are given to match those of a charity, local authority or other organisation. For more information, The Big Give explains match funding for groups and individuals.
- Commercial sponsorship.
House of Commons Library services for members and their staff
The House of Commons Library holds some books on funding sources including:
- The Directory of Grant Making Trusts 2022/23 [27th ed], Directory of Social Change, 2021
- The Guide to Major Trusts 2019/20 [16th ed], Ian Pembridge and Scott Mason, Directory of Social Change, 2018
- The Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need 2022/23 [18th ed], Jessica Threlfall, Directory of Social Change, 2022
Constituents may be able to find copies in larger public libraries.
GRANTfinder is an online service provided through a Commons Library subscription and gives access to a searchable and continuously updated database of UK funding sources, including grants, loans and advisory schemes. It also contains lots of useful advice about applying for grants.
GRANTfinder tends to work better for groups and enterprises, rather than individuals.
How to access GRANTfinder
GRANTfinder can be accessed via the Resources for casework (Parliamentary Login required). Full details of how to log on from the estate and remotely can be found there.
When running a funding search on GrantFinder try to get as much information as possible about the funding needed including location, amount needed, purpose of funding etc (see First steps above)
The Library can help with the use of Grantfinder, run searches for Members and their staff and give training on the effective use of the database. Visit our services page to find out more.
The Library can run specialised funding searches of all sorts for Members and their staff. They can search for funding in policy areas which have their own funding streams in place, for example education or energy. To get the best results from the search please provide as much information as possible about the funding needed (See First steps above). Visit our services page to find out more.
The Library has produced a series of pages and briefings on more specific areas of funding:
Housing and Disability
- What benefits might people claim?
- Universal credit: A checklist before claiming
- Universal Credit information sources
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.