Throughout the UK there are 2, 220 charities offering over £300 million in grants for individuals in need and their carers. The wide range of support available includes financial grants for welfare purposes (i.e. weekly allowances, travelling expenses) and the provision of items (i.e. clothing and household items, food, utilities, and education).

The Application Form

If there is any doubt, you should make a preliminary telephone call to the trust to find out these details. It is important that an appropriate person sends the application. Sometimes an individual in need can apply on his or her own behalf, and other times a third party (professional carer, family or otherwise) must apply for them.

Where application forms are not requested, it is essential to prepare clear, concise applications that provide a description of the person or family and the need which exists. Although applications should be concise, they must provide sufficient detail, such as:

  • Your name, address, place and date of birth;
  • Your family circumstances (i.e. married/partners, separated/divorced/single parents, widow/widower, the number and ages of dependent children);
  • Your 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.); and

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

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.

However, if trusts are not provided with these details they will request more information, which inevitably means delays.

Realism

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 positively then the applicant who philosophises about deprivation and the imperfections of the political regime of the day.

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. It is also worth saying if any other applications have been successful in contributing to the whole - nothing brings success like demonstrating previous success!

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 mind of trustees, which in the end can result in delays or even refusal.

Timing

When applying to charities, remember the time factor, particularly in cases of urgent need. Committees often sit monthly or even quarterly. A little homework will help you known when the best time to apply is.

Medical information

Medical information should not be presented without an accurate medial diagnosis to support it. 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 is to explain the implications of the condition.