How to apply


How to make an application (Ashley Wood - former Chief Executive of The Gaddum Centre)

Once the appropriate charities have been identified, the next stage is the application itself. People often find making applications difficult and those who might benefit sometimes fail to do so because of the quality of the application submitted.

This article gives guidelines both to individuals applying directly and to welfare agencies applying on behalf of individuals on how to make good, clear and relevant applications.

The application form
The first stage in submitting an application is the question of application forms.

Applications on agency letter headings or personal letters direct from the applicant, no matter how well presented, are fairly pointless if the charity being approached has a specific application form which must be completed. This obvious point is often overlooked. It is frustrating when the application is returned with a blank form requesting substantially the same information as has already been submitted. The resulting delay mean missing a committee meeting where the application would have been considered and a considerable wait until the next one.

Trust entries usually indicate when a particular application form is needed, but if there is any doubt the applicant should make a preliminary telephone call to the trust.

Who submits the application?
Again, it is important that an appropriate person sends the application. The entries usually indicate whether an individual in need can apply on his/her own behalf, or whether a third party (professional or otherwise) must apply for them.

In recognition of empowerment of service users, advisory bodies sometimes simply advise families of funds they can approach themselves. However, most charities require applications and forms where appropriate to be completed by, for example, a professional person who is sponsoring the application. Therefore, the individual in need may need to press the agency to make an application on his/her behalf.

The questions
When application forms are used, the questions asked sometimes cause problems, often because they dont appear relevant. Applications sometimes fail to realise all charities are governed by criteria laid down in their trust deeds and usually specific questions are designed to ensure these criteria are met.

For example, questions concerning date and place of birth are often answered very vaguely. Date of birth is sometimes answered with late 50s or, even worse, elderly. Such a reply reflects the appearance of the person in question and not their age! If the charity can only consider applications for those below a pensionable age, and the request was on behalf of a woman, then the above answers would be too imprecise.

Equally Place of birth is sometimes answered with Great Britain which is not precise enough for funds whose area of benefit is regional or local. It is always better to state the place of birth as well as town and county, even if they are different from the current home address.

Where application forms are not requested, it is essential to prepare clear, concise applications that provide:

1. A description of the person or family and the need which exists

Although applications should be concise, they must provide sufficient detail, such as:

(a) the applicants name, address, place and date of birth

(b) the applicants family circumstances (i.e. married/partners, separated/divorced/single parent, widow/widower, the number and ages of dependent children)

(c) the applicants financial position (i.e. breakdown of weekly income and expenditure and, where appropriate, DWP/housing benefit awarded/refused, savings, credit debts, rent/gas/electricity arrears, etc.)

(d) other relevant information, such as how the need arose (e.g. illness, loss of job, marital separation, etc.) and why other sources (especially DWP/housing departments) have not helped. If applying to a disability charity, applicants should include details of the nature and effects of the disability (although see Medical information below); if applying to a local charity, how long have they lived in the locality.

The application, which says this is a poor family who need their gas reconnecting, is unlikely to receive proper consideration. It is also worth mentioning that applications are dealt with in the strictest of confidence, so applicants should aim to provide as much information as is relevant. The form printed after this article may serve as a useful checklist to ensure that all relevant information is included for the particular application.

2. How much money is requested and what it will be used for

This second point appears to cause the most difficulty. Applications are often received without any indication of the amount required or without sufficient explanation as to the desired use of the money.

For example, an applicant may have multiple debts totalling over £1,000. A grant of £100 would clear one of the debts and free much-needed weekly income. So the applicant approaches a suitable charity for a grant of £100. If the applicant explains the situation clearly, trustees can see that a £100 grant in this instance would be an effective use of their charities resources. However, if it is not made clear, trustees can only guess at the possible benefits of the grant. Because they are unwilling to take undue risks with charitable money, trustees may either turn down an incomplete application or refer it for more information, which inevitably means delays.

Charity and the State
Charities are not supposed to give grants for items that are covered by statutory sources. However, The Big Lottery and other changes have made it much more difficult to say where statutory provision ends and charitable provision begins.

Similarly, means testing under some state provision such as Disabled Facilities Grants regulations can create shortfalls between the amount that statutory sources can and will pay, and the full costs of equipment and adaptations to properties. Sometimes, because of what can and cannot be taken into account, assessments of what families can pay appears unrealistic.

Changes arising from tightening of eligibility criteria and Community Care legislation are creating new areas of unmet need. If individuals are applying to charity because statutory provision is clearly no longer adequate, they should make it clear in the application that they have exhausted all possible statutory sources of funding but they are still left with a shortfall. A supporting reference from a knowledgeable agency may be helpful

Where the identified need is not met, following the assessment process, any application for alternative or complementary finance should make the reasons clear.

It helps to be realistic. Sometimes families have contributed to their own situation. The applicant who admits this and seems not to expect miracles but rather seeks to plan afresh - even if with fingers crossed - will often be considered more sympathetically than the applicant who philosophises about the deprivation of the family and the imperfections of the political regime of the day.

Likewise, the application which tries to make the trustees feel guilty and responsible for the impending doom which is predicted for the most vulnerable members of the family is unlikely to impress experienced trustees, however sympathetic.

In general, be clear and factual, not moralising and emotional. In effect, a good application attempts to identify the need and promote possible resolutions.

Applications to more than one charity
Where large amounts are being sought, it can take months to send applications one at a time and wait for the outcome of each before applying to another. However, if a number of applications are being sent out together, a paragraph explaining that other charities are being approached should be included together with a commitment to return any surplus money raised.

The same application should not be sent off indiscriminately. For example, if somebody is applying to a trade charity on behalf of a child whose deceased father had lengthy service in that particular trade, then a detailed description of the deceased fathers service would be highly relevant. If an application for the same child was being made to a local charity, it would not.

Sometimes people who are trustees of more than one charity receive three or four identical letters, none tailored to that particular trust and none indicating that other trusts have been approached. The omission of such details and the neglect of explanations raise questions in the minds of trustees, which in the end can result in delays or even refusal.

When applying to charities, remember the time factor, particularly in cases of urgent need. Committees often sit monthly, or even quarterly. Without knowledge but with luck, an application can be received the day before the meeting - but if Murphys Law operates it will always arrive the day after. For the lack of a little homework, applications may not be considered in time.

From experience, few organisations object to a telephone call being made to clarify criteria, dates of meetings or requests for application forms. So often it seems that applications leave the whole process to chance, which leads to disillusionment, frustration and wasted time for all concerned.

When awarding a grant, most trustees take the applicants savings into account. Some applicants may think this unnecessarily intrusive, but openness and honesty make for a better-presented application and save time. However, sometimes savings may not need to affect trustees calculations.

For example, if a woman has a motor accident in which she was not at fault but which leaves her permanently disabled, she will receive compensation (often a one-off lump sum) through the guilty partys insurance company based on medical prognoses at the time. If her condition deteriorates faster and further than anticipated, requiring her to obtain an expensive item of equipment, it could well be argued that this should not be paid for out of the compensation awarded. The compensation was paid to cover factors such as loss of earnings potential, a reduced quality of life, reduced ability to easily fulfil basic household tasks and a general loss of future security, not to pay for unexpected and expensive pieces of equipment.

In such circumstances, the applicant should include a paragraph in the application to explain why his/her savings are not relevant to grant calculations.

In conclusion
Two final points should be borne in mind.

1. Be clear
Firstly, social workers in particular often resort to the use of jargon when plain English would be more effective. There appears to be two extremes; one to present a report on the basis that the trustees are not very intelligent lay people who need to be educated, or alternatively that they are all psychotherapists who need to be impressed. Usually, this only causes confusion.

2. Medical information
Secondly, medical information should not be presented without an accurate medical diagnosis to support it. Applicants or social workers presumptions on medical matters are not relevant. Often what is necessary is to explain why a financial need arises from a particular condition. This may be because of the rarity of the condition or the fluctuating nature of it.

The medical information should be presented by a professional in that field. The task of the applicant or the sponsor is to explain the implications of the condition.
Using the model application form for financial assistance

Using the model application form advice
This general-purpose application form has been compiled with the help of Gaddum Centre. It can be downloaded and used whenever convenient and should enable applicants (and welfare agencies applying on behalf of individuals) to state clearly the basic information required by most trusts.

Alternatively, applicants can use it as a checklist of points to include in the letter. Applicants using this form should note the following things in particular:

1. It is worth sending a short letter setting out the request in brief, even when using this application form.

2. Because this form is designed to be useful to a wide range of people in need, not all the information asked for in the form will be relevant to every application. For example, not all applicants are in receipt of state benefits, nor do all applicants have HP commitments. In such cases, applicants should write N/A (not applicable) in the box or on the line in question.

3. Filling out the weekly income and expenditure parts of the form can be worrying or even distressing. Expenditure when itemised in this way is usually far higher than people expect. It is probably worth filling out this form with the help of a trained welfare rights worker.

4. You should always keep a copy of the completed form in case the trust has a specific query.

5. This form should not be used where the trust has its own form, which must be completed.

View model application form (Welfare)


How to make an application
In general, applicants should:

1. Exhaust other sources of funds
All sources of statutory funding should have been applied for and/or received before applying to a charity. Applications, therefore, should include details of these sources and any refusals. Where statutory funding has been received, but is inadequate, an explanation that this is the case should be made. A supporting reference from a relevant agency may also be helpful.
Educational establishments should also have been approached to see if they have any funds or can give a reduction in fees.

2. Give details of any unforeseen circumstances
Where relevant, try and show how the circumstances you are now in could not have been foreseen (for example, illness, family difficulties, loss of job and so on). In general, charities are reluctant to help people who start a course knowing that they have not got the money to complete it.

3. Ask for a suitable amount
Ask for an amount which the trust is able to give. Most trust grants are under £300, and local charities often give much less. If a trust only makes small grants, try asking for help with books, travel, childcare expenses and such like, and apply for fees elsewhere.

4. Give clear, honest details about any savings, capital or compensation
Most trustees will consider the applicants savings when they are awarding a grant, although sometimes this does not need to affect trustees calculations. In circumstances where you are certain that your savings are not relevant to grant calculations, you should explain this in the application.

5. Tailor the application to suit the particular charity
For example, if someone is applying to a trade charity on behalf of a child whose father had lengthy service in that particular trade, then a detailed description (and, where possible, supporting documentation) of the fathers service would be highly relevant. If an application for the same child was being made to a local charity on another occasion, it would not.

6. Remember each charity has different deadlines for applications
Some charities can consider applications throughout the year, others may meet monthly, quarterly or just once a year. Very urgent applications can sometimes be considered between the main meetings. Where the trust has provided us with information about their deadlines, we have included it in the entry.

7. Mention applications to other charities
Explain that other charities are being approached, when this is the case, and state that any surplus money raised will be returned.

8. Make sure the appropriate person submits the application
Some trusts specify that they wish the application to be made directly by the individual and others request that the application is submitted via a third party, for example, a professional such as a teacher or educational welfare officer, or a parent/guardian.

9. Offer to supply references
For example, from a teacher, college tutor and/or another independent person. If the individual is disabled or has medical needs then a report from a doctor would be neccessary.

10. Complete the trusts application form if there is one
Entries should state if there is an application form available and how to obtain it.
Included here is a general purpose application form. It can be photocopied and used whenever convenient and should enable applicants to state clearly the basic information required by most trusts. Alternatively, it can be used as a check-list of points to include in a letter.

11. Be honest and realistic, not moralising and emotional
Too many applications try to morally bribe trustees into supporting the application, or launch tirades against the current political regime. It is best to confine your application to clear and simple statements of fact.

12. Be as concise as possible and provide sufficient detail.
Give as much relevant information as possible, in the most precise way. For example, place of birth is sometimes answered with Great Britain, but if the trust only gives grants in Liverpool, to answer Great Britain is not detailed enough and the application will be delayed pending further information. Applications are dealt with in the strictest confidence.

13. Write neatly and clearly; do not use jargon
Do not make it difficult for trustees to understand your application, they often have a lot of applications to read.

View model application (Education)

Notes: model application form
1. Because this form is designed to be useful to the wide range of people who apply for education grants, not all the information asked for will be relevant to every application. If, for example, an applicant is not in receipt of state benefits, or does not have credit debts, he/she should write N/A (not applicable) in the box or line in question.

2. If, similarly, you do not have answers for all the questions at the time of applying, for example, if you have applied to other trusts and are still waiting for a reply, you should write Pending under the question “Have you written to any other trusts? What was the outcome of the application?”.

3. The first page is relevant to all applications; the second page is only relevant to people applying for school or college fees. If you are applying for clothing or books for a schoolchild then it may be worth filling out only the first page of the form and submit a covering letter outlining the reasons for the application.

4. Filling out the weekly income and expenditure parts of the form can be worrying or even distressing. Expenditure when itemised in this way is usually far higher than people expect. It is probably worth filling out this form with the help of a trained welfare rights worker.

5. You should always keep a copy of the completed form in case the trust has a specific query.

6. This form should not be used where the trust has its own form which must be completed.