There are many different types of fundraising streams. It’s important to be focus on what streams you want to pursue – the more income streams you are working on, the more audiences you have to manage and the more resources you will need. Different streams will bring in either restricted or unrestricted funding, have different lead-in times, and different returns on investment (ROI). If you want to get more data about fundraising ROI, LarkOwl have produced a brilliant benchmarking report for the last few years: https://larkowl.uk/fundraising-benchmarking/
I would recommend you focus on just two or three areas if you are a small organisation without much, or any, dedicated fundraising resource. I’ve concentrated below on fundraising from trusts and foundations, since many charities start here.
Fundraising from trusts and foundations
There is a whole conversation to be had about the inefficiencies of the grant funding system and how this often upholds structural injustice (https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/charity-sector-spends-900m-a-year-applying-for-grant-funding-report-finds.html) but fundraising from trusts remains an important income stream for many smaller and more local charities.
A couple of points before we look at the research and application process:
Before you start – make sure you have a fundraising plan in place with the entire project costed out before you start fundraising – with more prospects than you need. Check how much you need secured before you start the project – this will depend on your organisation, your annual turnover and how much you have in reserves.
Be mission-led – It’s easy to ‘follow the funding’, but it’s important that fundraising should not be leading the prioritisation of what your organisation delivers. Of course it plays a part – but the development of new projects needs to be led by your charity’s plans and the need for your work.
There are more than 12,400 trusts and foundations in the UK, and that’s not including other grant-makers such as National Lottery, Landfill Communities Fund and local authorities. Researching prospects takes time and good record-keeping is crucial – if you already have a record of previous successful and unsuccessful applications, start there – it costs far less time and resource to get support from an existing or past supporter than a new one so do prioritise these.
Keep a grant pipeline spreadsheet or database, and use this to record the grant maker’s interests and anything useful about them. For example, when are their next deadlines coming up? How much do they give? What is their application process?
Some good places to find funders are:
- Funder databases – Directory of Social Change (https://www.dsc.org.uk/funding-websites/) , IDOX Grantfinder (https://www.grantfinder.co.uk/). You need to pay for these services.
- Charity Commission – look at the accounts of other charities working in your cause area or location. They will often list their funders so you’ll get an idea of who is funding in your area. You can also look at the accounts of the funders themselves as most grant-makers are also registered charities – this will give you a good idea of who they have funded and the average size of their grants. https://register-of-charities.charitycommission.gov.uk/
- Funders’ own website and guidance – for example, the National Lottery have lots of detailed guidance and information about various funding programmes on their website
- Local CVS alerts and local authority mailing lists
- Map your networks – for example, do your trustees/staff/volunteers/any supporters you’re close to know any trusts that might be interested in funding you?
P = People
- Identify who makes the decisions – is it a member of staff, an internal committee, a board of trustees? Whoever they are, they are real people – so have them in mind when you write your application. You are communicating your amazing work to someone who needs to understand it quickly and easily, and feel excited about it. Don’t write as if to a faceless organisation.
- Try to communicate with them before applying – a phone call or email will do! This is a great way to check if your project idea would be welcome, and get your charity on their radar.
L = Language
- Make it easy to read! The funder will be reading lots of applications; they don’t need to know every single detail of your organisational history but they will need to quickly understand what you’re asking them to fund
- Use lists and bullets to make it easier to read
- Drop the jargon. Be aware of where you are using internal language that might mean something to you but not to a layperson – if in doubt, ask someone outside of your organisation to sense check
- Use sites like Hemingway (https://hemingwayapp.com/) and aim for 12-13 year old readability
A = Ambition