Funding need not be a daunting process and if approached with the right attitude the rewards can be immense. Rather than focus on the number of pages to be completed or the financial breakdown, focus on the outcome of receiving the funding. After all, your Early Years business deserves it, right? The answer has to be yes otherwise the funding would not be in place for you to apply. If you can focus your mind and your team on the benefits of receiving the funding – such as the children enjoying their new outdoor play area or the parents’ assurance that their children are interacting with new books, games and toys – applying for funding becomes a much smaller hurdle. As they say in sport ‘mental attitude is everything’. The same applies to securing funding.
THE 3 PS
Plan your funding cycles well so that they become part of your annual goal settings. Set out clearly what it is that you want to achieve during your year of business; select which goals will require additional funding and which you can fund yourself; then make a decision to apply for funding. Conducting this simple process will clarify your funding targets for the year.
Prepare your business early for the run up to applying for funding. This means making sure your policies are up to date, your financial records are fine tuned and your funding model is realistic. Assess whether funding is available to meet your needs and the timescales and criteria required to be successful. Your team should also be aware of any funding applied for as this gives them the opportunity to contribute to the application and also feel a part of the success.
Position yourself with key people within the funding organisation and begin to build relationships early. There is a gentle balance required here as running an Early Years business and networking can be challenging but the more you put in the more you will get out. Early engagement with funding officials and administrators can mean the world of difference if you are up to date on funding cycles, timescales, requirements and key people. Remember the early bird always catches the worm.
SEEK OUT A COACH
As Early Years professionals your job is to focus on the needs of the children so filling in funding applications may not be at the top of your list. You may not have seen a funding application let alone a completed one. In which case find yourself someone who has the experience and skills required to coach you in this area. Some people may offer to write your application but this strays from the empowering achievement of submitting your own application. Taking the time to learn from knowledgeable people in this area can be very rewarding and if your application is successful, the benefits can be realised within your business and your children. Good examples of ‘coaches’ may include Early Years local government officials, independent funding advisers or successful Early Years providers. A good beginning makes a good end.
GO FOR GOLD
It’s time to limber up and stretch your fingers as you prepare to package your application for approval. Running spell checks and grammar checks is as necessary as tying your shoelaces – you just don’t forget. Besides, who would want to go through all that hard work to only trip at the first hurdle? Your application could be amongst 10, 50, 100 applications so funding panels won’t be precious. Also, ensure your application is complete and any supporting documents are also submitted as its best to give panels a full picture of your business. And finally, have a contingency plan. Don’t leave all your eggs in one basket, seek out for other funding opportunities and stay in the loop. It’s your business to keep up with funders so stay in the game.