Equality, diversity, and inclusion in your grant applications

24 Jan 2024 Jocelyn Horton    Last updated: 30 Jan 2024

This resource outlines some of reasons funders want organisations to address EDI in applications, broaching the topic in writing, getting started on your journey and where you can find further information on this topic.

Over the last few years, you may have noticed a shift in funder requirements when applying for funds. It’s not uncommon for funders to state a preference in awarding grants to organisations who are living wage employers, address climate change, and ensure Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion are applied to their practices. 

But why?

Grantmaking Trusts and Foundations allocate their resources across a broad-spectrum of socio-economic and environmental issues to benefit individuals, causes and communities. They are often ideally placed to respond to changing and emergent needs and for some, they go beyond giving out financial awards to the causes they champion, preferring instead to be a catalyst for fundamental change through strategic investments, greater research and learning, and leading by example.  

The latter, perhaps fuelled by greater public scrutiny in recent years, led many funders to review their existing behaviours. For example, in 2022 we reported that the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust had closed their Autumn round in part due to efforts to confront their colonial history which raised important questions about their work as a Trust. For these funders, responsible philanthropy means changing their existing investments, operations, and grantmaking to embody their own values and basically, put their money where their mouth is.

This means they want to ensure their grantmaking meets their own intentions and you have to address these areas in your application.

Actions not just words

When applying for funding, it may not suffice to simply attach a relevant policy, but instead describe how you enact your policy in your day-to-day work.  

Often EDI is a short-hand term for all work carried out by an organisation to promote equal opportunities and challenge discrimination, both in employment and in carrying out its work and delivering services.

But, in the workplace, EDI doesn’t just refer to the legal obligations an organisation must adhere to in order to be compliant with legislation, but also the culture you strive achieve.  

So, when discussing your approach to EDI in funding applications, think about describing it under these two overarching categories:

1. Working and learning environments

Consider the environment in which your staff, volunteers, Trustees, and beneficiaries operate in. Imagine what the space feels like for its users, not just what it looks like and if it meets legal obligations.

Inclusive environments embrace people from different identities and backgrounds. Describing the changes you've made such as adding signage is helpful but follow this up with the regular practices you do to enforce an inclusive culture.

For example, you have a disabled toilet, what do you do to make sure the disabled toilet is regularly cleaned and fully stocked. Imagine how a disabled visitor would feel having to ask for a key, being met with rubbish on the floor, and no soap to wash their hands.

You support staff with different needs, but do your internal communications let all staff know if another colleague is fasting or do you communicate that you provide flexible working hours for childcare responsibilities?

2. Practices and actions

Often organisations share information about specific actions that they take such as providing training to raise awareness, knowledge, and understanding. Consider the actions you take to ensure that it’s embedded in your organisation and how to measure your success and progression.

Your policy should be living and breathing to make a difference, not filed in your staff handbook. This means taking time to reflect on or audit your behaviours and practices as an organisation, a team, and as individuals.

For example, following EDI training, what do you now do to actively support the inclusion of people who are underrepresented in your organisation or field? Do you promote services and sessions to these communities? Is the material you provide inclusive and accessible for those with disabilities or speakers of other languages?

When was the last time you discussed supporting EDI with your colleagues, volunteers, trainees, even beneficiaries? Does your organisation have a policy on only accepting invites to speak at events that represent our diverse communities and follow up invites with an email seeking reassurances that efforts have been made to secure gender and racial diversity of speakers, for example.

Perhaps your organisation requires employees to clearly state pronouns in your email signature; for example adding she/her to my emails would let everyone know I’m female because Jocelyn is a unisex name.

Where to begin

If you are starting on this journey, my biggest tip is start where you are at and take an asset driven approach rather than a deficit approach. That is, look at what you already do  – you probably do a lot to support the wellbeing and inclusion of others already. Then decide how to embed this further in your behaviours and practices through suitable interventions before tackling new areas.

The above resource has been created from research and incorporating information from the resources listed below.  

Further Reading

A Complete Guide to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace - Fitzgerald Human Resources


How to incorporate equity, diversity, and inclusion in your grant applications — University Affairs

Equality, diversity and inclusion in research | Cancer Research UK

jocelyn.horton@nicva.org's picture
by Jocelyn Horton

Fundraising Advice Officer

[email protected]

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