Funding from trusts and charities can only ever be a top-up to the core funding you already have, not a replacement for it. You will always be expected to have explored all other means of financial support before applying. In general, you need to have exceptional circumstances for charitable funding to be a realistic option. For example, help may occasionally be available for final year students in severe financial hardship and for whom a small payment would enable them to complete their course. Some trusts and charities only provide help with specific costs, and many trusts do not help with tuition fees at all.
You need to carefully research the criteria of trusts and charities and their closing dates (see below). Many trustees meet only once or twice a year to assess applications, so it is essential that you apply before the relevant deadlines.
If you are an international student, it is particularly difficult to get funding from UK trusts and charities, but there are a few organisations that do offer help to international students.
Turn2us, a charitable service, has a database of trusts and charities which may provide financial assistance to students. Although there is an online search facility, it is better to ring their helpline on 0808 802 2000 and speak to an adviser. This is because the adviser you speak to can advise you about organisations which would not appear using an online search and which could potentially help you based on your individual circumstances. For more information see: http://www.turn2us.org.uk/grants_search.aspx
You might also try asking whether your academic school is aware of any trusts or charities which have specifically supported students studying your subject.
The eligibility criteria for trusts and charities are usually very specific. Check this carefully, and do not waste your time (or the trust's time) by applying to trusts where you do not meet their eligibility criteria.
You may need to complete an application form, which the trust can send you or which you can download from their website. If there is no application form, you need to write a letter to the trustees who will decide your application. We suggest you also write a letter even if you have completed an application form: a letter enables you to explain your situation more fully, which maximises your chances of success. You will need to write a slightly different letter (see below) to each trust or charity, as they will have different eligibility criteria, and you will need to clearly explain how you meet this in each case.
Once you have written your letter , you can contact a Welfare Adviser if you would like your letter checked. The Welfare Adviser may also be able to write a letter to go with yours, if that would be helpful.
In your letter, explain the following clearly:
How you meet the eligibility criteria
If the trust only helps people in a certain age group, or who live in a particular area, state clearly at the beginning of your letter your age, or the area where you live. If it is not clear to the trustees that you are eligible to apply, they might reject your application.
About your studies
Explain what course you are studying and where, which academic year you are in and when you expect to complete the course.
Trusts and charities usually have very limited funds, and they want to be sure that any money they give you will enable you to complete your course. For this reason many trusts are more likely to help final year students, so if this is the case, emphasise this strongly. If you are not in your final year, try to explain how you plan to fund any future years of your course, so that the trustees can see that you will still be able to complete your course.
It can also be helpful to explain why you are studying this course, for example, what career you hope to do after graduation. This helps to demonstrate how serious you are about the course and how important it is for you to complete it, which can make your application more compelling.
Why you are in financial need
The trustees need to understand your financial situation and why you are asking for financial support. If you have a main source of funding but it is not quite enough to cover all of your costs, explain this. If your main source of funding has been temporarily disrupted or it has ended, explain this. If you have exceptional circumstances, such as long term illness or disability, or childcare responsibilities, explain this. Make it clear whether your financial difficulties are a one-off problem, affecting you only in the current academic year, or if they will continue throughout your course.
How much money you need
You need to present a clear budget listing all of your income and essential expenditure, so that the trustees can see your shortfall (how much money you need). If you are applying part way through an academic year, you will just need to show how much money you need to complete the academic year. You can use the budget planner spreadsheet which you can download from the budgeting pages of the website and the Advice and Counselling Service Advice Guide.
Where else you are applying
Explain how many other trusts and charities you are applying to, so that the trustees understand that you are not expecting them to give you enough money to cover your entire shortfall. If you have already been granted money from another trust or charity, or from the University, make this clear, and if possible include evidence, such as the award letter.