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Common reasons why projects are not funded

The information below outlines some common reasons why projects are not funded and provides further information on how to strengthen future applications to those who may have been unsuccessful in their application to us. These fall into five categories:

If you are planning to apply and would like to talk to someone, you are also welcome to contact us.

Minimum standards for grantmaking

These are the Minimum Standards for Grantmaking an organisation must meet to be eligible for funding from BBC Children in Need. We use our minimum standards to assess whether organisations are eligible. If you do not meet these or demonstrate clearly how you meet these, we will be unable to progress your application.


Projects have a responsibility to keep children safe. We need to know that organisations are taking active steps to protect children and we always look for the inclusion of clear child protection and health and safety policies and practices.

Children and young people are at the centre of BBC Children in Need’s work and we believe that all children have the right to protection from harm. We recognise our responsibility to safeguard the welfare of all the children and young people we work with, by committing to practices that protect them. Good child protection and safeguarding is achieved through establishing a positive organisational culture and implementing a number of complementary procedures and checks. BBC Children in Need is not and cannot be expert in child protection but we work alongside the NSPCC and other leading organisations to promote best practice in safeguarding children and young people. We recommend that you refer to the NSPCC website for the latest advice on safeguarding children in the voluntary and community sector.

If you have any questions or require further guidance, you can contact the NSPCC, which offers a Consultancy Service for organisations across the UK.

Children and young people

Evidence of difference made to children – It is essential applicant organisations can tell us not only what the project will do, but also the differences they will make which will improve children’s lives.

We want to understand what the ‘after picture’ will look like for the children and young people who have attended your project. How will life be different for them? Making these differences will be the reason your project exists. This is the aspect of your application that interests us most.

It is important to make a distinction between the differences (outcomes) that a project aims to make in the lives of children and young people and the activities and services it provides.

For example:

A project is set up for young people who are having difficulties at school, due to a range of factors.

The people who set up the project want to increase these young people’s self-esteem and show them that there are opportunities in training and further education open to them.

To do this they set up a project to provide training for 12 volunteer mentors to work with the young people.

The difference or outcome in this example is not the training for the volunteer mentors, but the changes that will happen in the lives of the young people as a result of the mentoring i.e. increased self-esteem.

Each difference you choose should be a single, significant change. We understand that differences are often interlinked, and it can be tempting to talk about lots of them together. However, we want to understand each single change, something that you can show will happen as a result of your activities.

Tip: remember, if your project is already up and running, whether funded by us previously or by another provider, then you should be able to tell us what difference it has made to the lives of the children and young people already using the project.

Disadvantage – Applications will not succeed where there is insufficient evidence that a significant majority of the children and young people who benefit from the activity or service fall within one or more of our categories of disadvantage.

We define disadvantage as:

  • Illness, distress, abuse or neglect.
  • Any kind of disability.
  • Behavioural or psychological difficulties.
  • Living in poverty or situations of deprivation.

We expect projects to demonstrate that they understand the way in which the disadvantage children and young people face affects their lives. We also want to ensure that projects actively seek to target those who could most benefit from their provision, including those who are hardest to reach.

Focused on children – Applicant organisations must be able to show that their project is sufficiently focused on the needs of children and young people aged 18 or under. For example, the project must not be of more benefit to adults than to children.

Inclusiveness and accessibility – Applicants need to demonstrate that their project is fully accessible to the children it aims to reach and that they will take active steps to engage children and young people who are hard to reach or have additional needs. This may be in relation to geography, facilities on offer, timing of the service and how the service is publicised.

You need to ensure that the children and young people who need the project the most are able to access it. It might help you to think about the following questions:

  • How will you advertise or promote your project to reach your target group: where can you best place information about your project so that it gets to them? Will you use other organisations or agencies such as schools or health visitors to distribute information about your project?
  • Will you look for referrals from other voluntary organisations, such as schools, community groups or youth clubs?
  • Are you planning to use a venue that your target group can easily get to?
  • Are you planning to run the project at the best and most suitable time for the children and young people you want to reach?
  • If you are charging fees, are they affordable?
  • Have you done all that’s possible to ensure that disabled children can access your project?
  • How will you ensure that the children and young people who could benefit from your project have the opportunity to attend?

Consultation and participation – We want to fund projects that take children and young people’s views seriously and have consulted and involved children and young people as meaningfully as possible in helping to shape and develop their projects.

We accept that new projects cannot always meet this standard precisely as they may not yet know the individual children who will attend. What we are looking for from new projects is a good understanding of the children and young people the project is aimed at and how they are going to get these children involved.

If you are an existing organisation, you may know which need/s are the most important to address from experience. You can also research which need to address by doing things like:

  • Consulting children and young people, parents or carers, the local community and partner organisations.
  • Running a pilot project.
  • Using research from your own or other organisations.

We fund projects that demonstrate:

  • That they consult with children and young people to shape projects and activities.
  • The involvement of children and young people in planning projects and activities: asking them what they need, what kind of services they want, when they would like them to run, which kinds of equipment would be most used and valued.
  • The involvement of children and young people in the running, development and management of projects.
  • In this way your project will be one that children and young people will want and regularly attend and be more likely to feel ownership of. This will increase its effectiveness.

Organisation and Finances

Capacity to make project successful – Applications need to demonstrate that the organisation has the management skills and experience to take on the project – this may be particularly true in situations where the grant request is large in comparison to the current activities of the organisation.

We want to be sure that your organisation has the necessary skills and resources to carry out the project in areas such as:

  • Staffing (voluntary or paid): what skills will staff need to deliver the activities? How many people does the project need? Who is needed to manage or supervise the project as well as to deliver it?.
  • Equipment.
  • Premises.
  • Support costs e.g. management and administration: we will only fund support costs when they relate directly to the delivery of the project.

If this is a new service or activity, you might need to do some background research and draw on the experience of others when considering what resources you will need. You may have existing resources that you can use, or be able to source ‘in kind’ help from other organisations or your local authority.

We understand that value for money does not always come at a low price. We want to fund projects to succeed and are looking for realistic budgets that have been properly costed.

Financial viability and good financial management – The applicant organisation should demonstrate that the organisation is financially viable and that it has the appropriate financial management systems and practices in place.

We want to ensure that organisations are in a sound financial position to provide activities and services for children and young people. We want to see evidence that organisations have the right systems and processes in place to manage, spend and account for funds appropriately.

Additional funding not secured – Applications are not likely to succeed where there are concerns that any additional funding required to complete the project may not be secured in time to allow our grant to be spent within the required timescale.

We want to fund projects to succeed and are looking for evidence that our funding will allow a project to go ahead. Our funding must be spent within twelve months of its award.

Project Planning

Strong project planning – Applicant organisations must be able to demonstrate that projects have been well planned – this must include a strong rationale for the project based on the differences you intend to make which will improve children’s lives; evidence that plans are well considered; strong targeting and participation strategies, a well thought out budget and appropriate links to deliver the project.

Our experience is that good planning is one of the most effective factors in being able to make a strong and convincing application – and to deliver a successful project.

Think about the specific activities, services or facilities that you can provide for the children and young people that will lead to the differences you identified. These could be things like: running a drop-in youth cafe or an outdoor activities course; providing a trained counsellor; building a new playground and so on.

You should be able to relate each activity or service back to the differences you want to make.

You need to be as sure as you can be that your project is the best way to address the need that you’ve identified and make the differences that you want to achieve.

If you don’t already know what’s on offer in your area, carry out research to confirm whether your project fills a gap that is not currently being addressed and complements existing services rather than duplicating them.

Consider how much time will be needed to prepare and run the activity or service that you are going to provide and think about the issues below:

  • It is unusual to be able to launch straight into a project – there will usually need to be some preparation time.
  • As well as running the project and working directly with children and young people, you will probably need to build in enough time for things like administration, monitoring and evaluating how well your project is doing.
  • How often an activity should run and how long each session might last depends on what you are trying to achieve. Some projects will only need to meet for an hour each. fortnight, others might want to provide their service much more frequently or for longer periods of time. Some projects will run for weeks, others for months or years.

One of the last stages of planning is to work out your budget. It is only once you have decided on all the resources you need and for how long, that you’ll be able to cost an accurate budget. We’ve provided some tips below:

  • Be as accurate as you can with your costings.
  • If you need equipment, research the costs and shop around for the best deals.
  • When salary budgeting, remember to include related costs such as National Insurance.

Tip: Involve your treasurer or finance officer in the financial planning stage. They can also be present for the BBC Children in Need assessment call to help you answer budget and finance questions.

Think about what signs (sometimes called ‘indicators’) will show that you are achieving your aims: what changes in the children and young people’s behaviour, attitude, relationships or environment will you look for to show you are making progress towards or are achieving the differences that you aimed for?

  • Remember always to keep your focus on the children and young people – think about the differences you want to make which will improve their lives.
  • Identify how you will do this: what activities and services will you provide to best achieve these differences?
  • Involve children and young people in the planning of your project – they are the best people to tell you what they need.
  • Think about how your project fits with and complements any pre-existing services in your area that might be addressing the same need.
  • Think about the resources you will need – such as staff time, equipment and materials.
  • Plan the timing of the project – how much time will it take to plan, prepare for and carry out?
  • Think about who will be responsible for the running of the project and the individual activities within it. This is the basis of your plan.
  • Think about how you will monitor whether your project is making the difference you set out to achieve.
  • Carefully cost your budget.

Statutory responsibility – BBC Children in Need will not fund projects that should be paid for by statutory bodies. For example, if you are applying as a pre-school, your request will only be eligible if it clearly falls outside the free entitlement for three and four year olds. If you are applying as a school, it needs to be for work outside statutory requirements, so, for example, applications for school buildings, playgrounds and equipment would not be successful.


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