Postgraduate Funding from Charities
Written by Ben Taylor
Charities come in all shapes and sizes, and can be a great source of funding for prospective postgraduates. Whether you’re looking to ‘top up’ your existing finances with a small charity grant or seeking more significant funding, there are plenty of postgraduate funding charities out there – sometimes in the most unlikely of places!
This page will give you an idea of the breadth of postgraduate funding available from charities, pointing you in the direction of useful resources and suggesting some tips for making a successful application.
Postgraduate charity funding resources
It’s not always particularly easy to find Masters funding from charities if you don’t know where to look. Many sources of support often come from small organisations with a minimal online presence – if at all.
Luckily, there are several places to begin your search. We’ve listed a few useful resources below:
- Turn2us – Turn2us is a national charity that runs a database of charitable grants across the country. They make it easy for you to search this database and to find out what funding you might be eligible for.
The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding – Co-written by two former PhD students with experience of self-funding, this guide offers a look at less well-trodden ways of funding your studies. Many universities subscribe to the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding, which provides practical advice and application tips, as well as a searchable database of over 1,000 grants.
You can find out more from one of the co-authors in his guide to alternative Masters funding, written for FindAMasters.
- The Grants Register – Published annually, the Grants Register is a directory of information on over 3,500 awarding bodies. Unfortunately, it’s only available in the form of a book, and isn’t online. However, universities and local libraries will often have a copy of the publication.
When you first think of charities, you might think of small-scale, cash-strapped organisations. And, while this may be the case for some of the associations you come across, it’s certainly not true for several major sources of charity funding for postgraduate students: trusts and foundations.
- The Wellcome Trust – The Wellcome Trust is a global organisation with an endowment of over £20 billion. It focuses on biomedical research but also offers funding opportunities for humanities and social sciences projects that are related to health.
- The Leverhulme Trust – Established in 1925, the Leverhulme Trust is another research-centric trust with a broad remit covering the Arts, Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. Most of its funding is aimed at relatively established researchers, but it’s always worth checking to see if there’s a scheme positioned for prospective Masters students.
- The Nuffield Foundation – The Nuffield Foundation aims to fund research that will improve social policy in the areas of education, justice and welfare. The majority of its funding is set aside for research projects rather than Masters student grants, but it’s worth checking to see if you’re eligible for any support.
It’s important not to overlook the thousands of small charities that operate across the UK. Even though their educational grants might not be as substantial as those provided by larger bodies, they can be a valuable source of funding for postgrads hoping to top up their finances.
If you try really hard, you might even be able to fund your entire degree using small grants from charities (just ask Luke from the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding).
Although it would be impossible to list all of them (after all, that’s the job of the Grants Register and Turn2us), we thought it would be useful to show you how diverse these organisations are. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover that you’re eligible for a Masters grant from a charity you didn’t know existed!
- Leverhulme Trade Charities Trust – This charity offers postgraduate bursaries to students who are the child, spouse, widow or widower of a travelling sales representative, pharmacist or grocer (or employed as one themselves). Please note that this is a separate organisation to the Leverhulme Trust mentioned above (although both were established by the Will of the same man, William Hesketh Lever).
- Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence – If you can prove that you’re descended from one of the signers of the American declaration of independence, you could receive a scholarship from this organisation.
- The Vegetarian Charity – The Vegetarian Charity offers small grants to young vegetarians and vegans.
- The Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust – The Stapley Trust provides grants of between £400 and £1,000 for postgraduate programmes in any subject.
- The Leathersellers’ Company – You don’t have to be a leatherseller to receive a scholarship from the Leathersellers’ Company! Their educational awards are open to all UK students on full-time degrees (apart from postgraduate conversion courses).
- Clan Forsyth Society – If you play your cards right (and happen to have Forsyth as a surname), you could apply for a small grant from the Clan Forsyth Society.
Alternative Masters funding
Want to find out more about alternative postgraduate funding? Take a look at Luke’s alternative funding guide, which has plenty of tips from his personal experience.
Applications for postgraduate charity funding
No two applications for charity funding will be the same. However, there are some general rules and tips that you should bear in mind when applying for a charitable grant for a postgraduate course.
Most charities will ask that you submit a short personal statement detailing your circumstances and describing a little about yourself. You should make sure to read their specifications very carefully for what they want this statement to cover, but these tips are a good place to start:
- Avoid jargon – Assume that you’re writing for a well-educated audience without a background in your discipline. Try not to use too many technical terms.
- Financial situation – Explain why you’re in need of support from a charity and what your funding deficit is.
- Other support – If you’ve already received an award from a charity, be sure to mention this – it’ll show that you’re committed to financing your studies. Charities often prefer to be part of a support network rather than the sole source of funding for a student.
- Tone of voice – Be humble but positive about your prospects.
- Societal benefits – If your programme will benefit the wider community, mention this in your statement.
- Career path – Explain what you want to do after you’ve finished your Masters, and how a postgraduate qualification will help you achieve this. Make sure that the charity knows that you’re not simply studying a Masters for the sake of it, but with a tangible destination in mind.
When applying for postgraduate funding from a smaller charity – perhaps one without an established online presence – it would be wise to contact them in advance, double-checking that you’re eligible and that they’re currently accepting applications.
If you’re rejected, (politely!) ask the charity for the reasons behind your rejection and incorporate any feedback into your next application.
It’s a good idea to think of charity funding as a ‘portfolio’, combining lots of small pots of money to make a substantial source of financial support for your Masters. Portfolio funding, as this is known, requires plenty of organisation and dedication, but can be a viable option for resourceful postgraduates.
Persistence is key: try not to be disheartened by a lack of success and bear in mind that you may end up sending a lot of applications. It’s a good idea to cast your net far and wide, knowing that perseverance is usually rewarded.