Fundraising from Trusts and Foundations is easy – right?

Wrong !!

Too many charity staff and volunteers up and down the country assume that because trusts and foundations exist to give grants, all they need to do is to send a generic letter round to as many different trusts as possible. A sort of mass “give-us-your-cash” mail out, in other words.

The CEO of a charity Minerva once worked with adopted this approach before he engaged our services. He used to mail around 2,500 trusts each year, all with exactly the same letter. His research into their giving policies was minimal. Unsurprisingly, his hit rate was around 1 in 30, if that. Those who declined to make a grant to his charity – ie. a fair number – he dismissed as “timewasters”. Actually, he was the timewaster!

So how best to persuade trusts and foundations to support your charity?

First, research, research and research. Effective research is time-consuming and can be boring – but it is worth the effort. Start with the Directory of Grant Making Trusts (DGMT). This is an excellent publication which is regularly updated – but it is only the start. Once armed with a tranche of likely funders from DGMT, check these against their entries on the Charity Commission website, looking in particular for any contradictions. Many trusts now have their own websites, which give even better guidance than is available on the Commission’s website. Finally, making a ‘phone call to each trust is critical: not only will you have the chance to resolve any anomalies in your research so far, but contact with a member of a trust’s executive team is the start of building a long-term relationship – or of identifying that, for whatever reason, the trust is not going to make a grant to your charity, however brilliant your planned funding application may be.

Next, the application. Whilst many trusts still prefer a 2-page letter or similar, more and more have opted for on-line applications. The key difference between the two is that in a letter, you tell the trust what you think they should know – but in an application form, it is the trust which is laying down the information it requires. So having the key arguments and facts readily to hand makes on-line applications easier and quicker to complete. This sounds a blinding glimpse of the obvious – but is often forgotten!

Successful applications not only produce grants – they are also an opportunity to lay the foundations for long-term relationships with trusts and foundations. These relationships lead to greater sustainability for your charity and the opportunity to find more funders and create more relationships.

It isn’t easy – but it works.