Developing fresh ideas for trust fundraising

Developing fresh ideas for trust fundraising

Institute of Fundraising | 11 February 2016

Is innovation a word to use in relation to fundraising from trusts and foundations? Or is it sometimes better to stick to what we know?

There are around 10,000 trusts and foundations in the UK, according to Association of Charitable Foundations, all operating to distribute funds to charitable causes amounting to about £2 billion annually. While many trusts and foundations obtain income from investing and donating the interest gained, there are some exceptions, such as Comic Relief who raise money through public donations.

So how do trusts and foundations decide who to give money to?

In many fundraisers’ experience, trusts will often welcome applications which are well revised and developed, and are often interested in projects that trial new methods, support innovative thinking, and help organisations to grow and develop strategically.

On that basis, trusts and foundations might well be regarded as innovative, seeking out the organisations which can bring impact slightly differently to the causes they represent. But do trust fundraisers need to be innovative? Some people would say that the focus of a trust fundraisers’ role is therefore to put pen to paper and produce long documents, in a closed environment.

Anna Vaughn, Development Director at Youth Music Theatre UK, thinks differently: “In addition to high quality written applications and detailed knowledge about their organisations, successful trust fundraisers also use relationship building techniques such as networking, face to face and over the telephone contact and events to ensure trusts feel as engaged and as appreciated as corporate and individual donors.”

While innovation may work for some applications, it's always good to remember some important points such as what to do before you have started the application process. Neela Jane Stansfield, Private Funding Lead at UNICEF UK explains: “Something to bear in mind is that each trust is so unique, and it’s important to do quality research into each prospect.”

“Do you have a real, strong case for support and do you know what your real needs are and do you have evidence of those needs to really sell them. Do you have the detailed breakdowns of activities that you are doing and how they match the need. It’s important to know if what you are doing is really addressing that need and core problem.

“It’s good to get that information from the programmes team, and do you know how you will monitor and evaluate your project in advance? Is it sustainable? Fundraisers must know how their charity is best placed to fulfil the need and solve the problem.”  


Some key points when fundraising from trusts and foundations:

  • Research is vital – certain trusts will support specific projects and causes, or work with organisations in their local area… only apply where you meet criteria


  • Know your case for support – evidence your organisation’s needs, through activities and how you are addressing the core problem


  • Develop relationships – building your network where you have a connection but don’t blanket send applications to trusts – apply to each, one by one!


  • Time – most trusts will request a full set of annual accounts, description of your project, the outcomes you hope to see and your credibility in running your project. Along with this, an overview of the required amount, budget breakdown and details of any other funding you may be receiving


  • Be prepared – prepare for questions in advance and do exactly as the trust asks, whether that is filling out the application form or sending the X number of sides of A4 to support your submission



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