After starting up my own fundraising consultancy in Cornwall, I’ve had to reacquaint myself with many areas of work. I now don’t have an amazing team of talented people to prop me up – it’s all on me. One of the areas where I had a particular good member of staff in my old job was charitable trust fundraising. She was and still is an absolute natural. She’s an extrovert, a real people person and has no problem picking up the phone and exudes passion whenever she speaks to a funder. Conversely, I’m an introvert who until a few months ago would rather go to the dentist than phone a funder – no pressure then.
Charitable Trust fundraising is one of those strange things – because you know you need to concentrate, it's difficult to prioritise making time to work on applications, but once you do put some time aside, you get into it and could work on it for days at a time – if you have that luxury. For those like me, who are juggling trust fundraising with all other areas of our busy fundraising lives, every moment is precious.
It’s easy to put of (often subconsciously) this area of fundraising, often choosing to do almost anything first. I’d find myself saying to my boss, “I can’t possibly fit in charitable trust applications today, I’ve absolutely got to do a health and safety audit”.
So what are we scared of?
For some it’s the thought of where do I start – I’ve been told I’ve got to raise £150k this year but what am I fundraising for? For others the fear of rejection – what if they don’t like my application, what does that say about me and my ability? And for most it’s the fact that to do a good application, you need time, space, peace and quiet – all of which are a bonus in the life of a fundraiser who is often juggling 8-10 other areas of work.
Over the past few months I’ve had no choice but to be organised and almost forensic with my use of time – after all my clients are paying me, I can’t let them down. To do charitable trust fundraising properly this is the way I now go about things:
A list of fundraising priorities
If your charity hasn’t identified funding priorities, trust fundraising can be even more frustrating. Speak to your boss or the SMT and ask them to provide you with the top 3-5 fundraising priorities for the coming year. If you already have a long list of fundraising asks, make sure you get them prioritised by the SMT in your charity to help you focus your work. It makes life a whole lot easier if senior managers are engaged with what you’re fundraising for.
A list of potential funders
If you don’t already subscribe to a charitable trust funder database, I’d strongly consider doing so. The cheapest way to efficiently identify funders is to subscribe to GRIN – they do a daily bulletin for £15 a year or if you pay £100 a year you get a comprehensive excel spreadsheet full of funders broken down by region and sector plus you also get the daily bullets. If your budget is a bigger, look at subscriptions such as Funds Online or Grant Finder. There are also many other newsletters that you can subscribe to.
Matching a funder to a funding priority
The biggest mistake charities make when trust fundraising is not looking properly at the funder’s guidelines and criteria. Don’t delude yourself that you cause is so good that you are sure they will overlook that you only cover 3 out of 4 of their criteria, it won’t work!
Make contact with a funder BEFORE you start working on your application
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is to contact the funder before starting to work on your application, never mind submitting it. This is how you build relationships with funders. Most funder will be happy to receive a phone call or an email asking if your project would be considered (after you have checked their criteria of course). I once contacted a funder to check they would fund a project for an arts charity. I had done my research and knew we matched their criteria. They said they would be interested but the amount I was looking for was a little high. So, I reduced the amount and we got the funding.
Not everyone will be helpful
I’ve had some very snotty conversations with funders. The thing to remember is they are likely to receive tens of phone calls a day from charities asking questions – some from charities who simply haven’t read the guidelines first. Don’t take it personally if you don’t get the response you’re looking for. If you still feel you meet their criteria, submit your application and move on.
I’m sorry but your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion
I once submitted an application after having many phone calls and emails with the a funder’s grant officer. I was sure I’d get the funding for the charity I was working for. Needless to say I was absolutely gutted when we were rejected. My confidence took a real hit; what did I do wrong, what could I have changed in the application, am I crap at my job…
When this happens, go back to the funder and ask if you can have some feedback. In this instance they told me my application had been worthy of funding but it was just the sheer amount of applications that meant we were unsuccessful. As a result of me contacting them for feedback, they encouraged me to resubmit the application to another one of their funds.
If you are unsuccessful - and let’s face it you will get rejections as on average only 1 in 7 applications are successful - give yourself the rest of the day to be gutted, eat chocolate, go for a walk, brush yourself down and then crack on with your next application. Allow yourself to learn and develop from your failures. I firmly believe that from failure comes success.
When success comes...
Whenever you have a successful application make sure you shout it from the roof tops and congratulate yourself, not for too long though, there are more applications to get out.