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Planning your project

Strong applications start with good planning! Follow our 10-step guide to planning your project.

This section represents a basic guide to what we expect in terms of project planning. We have written it because our experience is that good planning is one of the most effective factors in being able to make a strong and convincing application.

However, our experience also tells us that a common weakness in applications is caused by people writing their applications before fully planning their project, so we included this overview in order to outline what thinking we expect to have happened before an application is made.

We recognise that these pages will not be relevant to everyone as many of you will have done this work already or already use your own planning tools.

Others of you might want to explore these issues more fully and we have included some links to organisations that can help you do this at the end of the section.

1. Identify the need you want to address.

Who are the young people you will be working with and in what ways are they disadvantaged? How does this disadvantage affect their lives? A good understanding of the young people and their needs will help you decide what differences you want to achieve for them.

Tip: We know that new projects cannot always be precise 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.

You may know what the need is from experience if you are an existing organisation already working in the area. You can also research the need you want to address by doing things like:

  • Having consultations with children and young people, the local community, partner organisations.
  • Running a pilot project.
  • Using research from your own or other organisations.

2. Identify the differences (“outcomes”) you want to achieve.

What do you want the ‘after picture’ to look like for the children and young people who have attended your project. This will help you pin down the differences you want to achieve in their lives. Think about how these differences contribute to improving their lives. Making these differences will be the reason you are running your project. This is the aspect of your application that interests us most.

Tip: many funders talk about “outcomes” – this is another way of saying the differences that will happen as a result of your work.

It is important to make a distinction between the differences (outcomes) that a project is aiming to make for children and young people and the activities and services it is providing.

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 the young people’s self esteem and show them that there are opportunities in training and further education which could be 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 volunteer mentors, but the changes that will happen in the lives of the young people as a result of the mentoring eg. increased self esteem.

You will need to tell us the three most important differences you think your project will make that will improve children’s lives. If you are awarded a grant you will be asked to report back on these in detail.

  • For each of your differences, be succinct and talk about a single, significant change only. Do not provide a list of differences or changes.
  • The difference will occur in the time you are in contact with the children you support. It can be a small change or a lasting change.
  • Use the language of change in your descriptions, e.g., improving life skills, increasing self-esteem, reducing distress.

For more advice on how to choose your differences please see our guide to Reporting on your Grant.

3. Decide what your project will do.

Once you are clear what differences you are trying to make, then you will be able to plan what your project actually needs to do to achieve them.

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. In the example above, the organisation decided that in order to increase the young people’s self esteem and expectations, they would set up a mentoring service.

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

4. Ask difficult questions! Is this the right project?

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 around your area, do the research so that you know that your project fills a gap that is not currently being addressed and complements existing services rather than duplicating them.

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 of statutory requirements, so applications for school buildings, playgrounds, equipments, or staff etc. would not be suitable.

5. Target your project

You need to ensure that those children and young people who need the project the most are attending 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 so that it gets to them? Will you use other organisations or agencies such as schools or health visitors to distribute information?
  • Will you look for referrals from other voluntary organisations, such as schools, community groups or youth clubs?
  • Are you planning to use a venue which 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?
Young girl dressed as a princess hugging and laughing with a female volunteer

6. Involvement of children and young people.

Have you consulted with the children and young people themselves?

It is a very good idea to get them involved in the planning – ask them what they need, what kind of services they want to see, when they would like them to run, which kinds of equipment would be most used and valued.

Wherever possible, you should also involve children in the running, development and management of projects. In this way you will be able to plan a project that children and young people want and will be likely to feel ownership of. This will increase its effectiveness.

7. Plan what skills and resources you need

You also need to be sure that your organisation has the necessary skills and resources to carry out the project.

Tip: Applicants have told us that one of the most common reasons that projects fail is poorly planned resources. Don’t let that happen to your project.

Once you have planned the activities and services that you want to provide, you need to work out what resources you are going to need to be able to make them happen. These are things like:

  • Staffing (voluntary or paid)
  • Equipment
  • Premises
  • Support costs e.g. management and administration

Think about the staff you need to manage or supervise the project as well as deliver it. If you’re a small organisation this may be the same person.

You may already be providing similar services, in which case you can use your experience to work out what you will need.

If this is a new service or activity, you might need to do some background research and draw on the experience of others about 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, your local authority.

Tip: Remember BBC Children in Need wants to fund your project to succeed and so is looking for a realistic budget that has been properly costed. We understand that something that is value for money is not always the same thing as the cheapest.

BBC Children in Need will fund support costs when they relate directly to the delivery of the project. Call our Helpdesk on 0345 609 0015 if you have any queries.

8. Think about timing

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 first.
  • 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.

9. Write your project budget

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

  • Be as accurate as you can with your costings.
  • If you’re going to need equipment, research the costs and look around for the best deals.
  • For salary costs, remember to include related costs such as National Insurance. For more information about applying to BBC Children in Need for staffing costs, see our A-Z Guidance.

Tip: Involve your treasurer or finance officer in the financial planning. They can also be present at the BBC Children in Need assessment call to help you answer budget and finance questions, if you think that would be helpful.

10. Don’t forget about monitoring your project

Think about what signs (sometimes called ‘indicators’) will show that you are making those differences. 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 set out to?

Think about what tools or methods you will use to collect information to show whether the difference is being made. You don’t have to design a new set of tools, learn new methods or purchase a sophisticated measurement system. Often, you may simply need to add some focused questions about these differences to tools you are already planning to use, such as staff observation sheets or one-to-one interviews with children.

It’s important to start measuring the difference you are making as soon as your project begins, and take time to reflect regularly on the information you collect. This will help you understand how far along, and what changes may be needed as you go along to improve the difference you make.

For more advice on how to measure the difference you make please see our guide to Reporting on your Grant.

Tip: Remember, if your project is already running, whether funded by us previously or by another funder, then you should have been able to measure its success so far and be able to tell us what difference it has made to the children and young people using the project. We have a question on our form which gives you the chance to provide this information.

FINALLY: Start applying for funding!

Once you have fully thought through and planned your project, start your application with us.

When making funding applications it’s always a good idea to read the guidelines that each funder produces. Before you start writing your application to us, we strongly recommend you read our A-Z Guidance and refer to our FAQs.

Planning Checklist

Remember always to keep your focus on children and young people – think about the differences you want to make that will improve their lives.

Identify how you will do this: what activities and services will you provide to best help you achieve these differences?

  • Involve children and young people in the planning – they are the best people to tell you what they need.
  • Think about how your project fits with and complements any services that are already running 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 what you need to do?
  • 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.
  • Read funders’ guidelines before applying for funding.

Further help and advice is available from your Local Council of Voluntary Service:


Northern Ireland



Also – see our A-Z Guidance.

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