Why we turn grants down

This page gives an insight into some of the reasons why trustees may turn down an application for funding and what we are looking for in an application.

We regularly receive applications that we cannot fund. Here are a few of the reasons why.


The full impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities, society and the economy is only just emerging, as quarantine rules begin to be relaxed. With a lack of effective treatments or vaccine, there remains great uncertainty relating to the potential for further public health challenges arising in the future.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty and constant change, the last quarterly meeting of Trustees took place and reviewed applications relating to aspects of Covid-19 and its impact on the economy. For the most part, these applications have not progressed to the second stage as they were considered weak for reasons such as:

  • they were insufficiently focused in terms of their aims and the proposed methods
  • they did not address systemic change
  • It was unclear what impact the projects might have, despite being interesting observations on current times
  • they were correlating the symptoms of long-term structural problems with Covid-19

We suggest that future applications consider whether outputs from work undertaken against the current unclear backdrop are likely to be still relevant in a year or more’s time. Please articulate your views on this in your proposal and why now is the time to carry out the work you propose.

The project is for activity outside of the UK

We cannot fund activity that is not based in or likely to have a tangible economic impact on the UK.

The project doesn’t fit with the Developing a fair economy programme

Last year we turned down 20% of the initial outline applications we received because they did not fit with our programme. A number were for activity funded by our previous programme (financial inclusion or personal economic resilience); were focused on enterprise, business support or service delivery rather than broader economic resilience; or fell far outside of the scope of our programme. Some applications had a potential impact in terms of economic resilience, but this was either not explicit or not the main focus.

It isn’t clear what you want to do or how you’re going to do it

The Building Resilient Economies programme covers a broad range of areas. When writing your application assume we are well informed, but not expert in your policy area, and fully explain what you intend to do and how. The outline application is an opportunity to describe simply what you want to do, why and how it relates to a fair economy. Using the 5w’s (what, who, where, when, why) should help structure your thinking and express the logic behind your proposal.

It isn’t clear in how the solution you propose will deal with the problem you identified

Some applications make a clear case for why the problem they have identified needs to be addressed but don’t explain why the solution they propose is the right one. We need to understand the logic chain that takes you from the problem you identify to the solution you propose: what is your theory of change? We also recommend that you keep it to the point. Rhetoric won’t sell your project, facts and logical arguments will. Focus on the causes of problems, rather than their symptoms.

The application isn’t sufficiently charitable

We cannot support activity that is politically partisan, primarily delivers private benefit to you or your organisation or doesn’t fit with the accepted definition of charitable purposes. You don’t have to be a charity to apply, but your proposed activity must be charitable in its nature.

The project doesn’t add value or connect to pre-existing activity

We do not wish to support activity that doesn’t add value to or simply duplicates what is already in existence. We turn down a number of applications because they do not acknowledge or connect to others already operating in the field or make a case as to why additional or different activity is needed.

The potential impact of the project is limited

There is no real evidence of broader economic impact beyond the immediate area/group that it focuses on. Often these don’t add anything new to the field or any potential learning for broader dissemination.