As we start a new academic year, it’s a good time to reflect on our priorities. As a Trust and Grant funding specialist, people are often surprised that I spend so much time doing research. Whilst a good funding application is important, the foundation for success lies in doing your research.
I recently attended an excellent Trust fundraising workshop with a panel of Trust funders. All of the panel members were happy to receive phone calls from prospective applicants, learn about their charities and projects and give advice on applying to their fund. But, this came with a word of warning – they expected fundraisers to have done their homework!
Here are my top tips for doing your homework:
1. Prepare – Identify key information about your organisation or the project you are seeking to fund that your potential funder would want to know. Think about your beneficiary groups, location, type of project (capital work, project funding, core costs) and the project budget. For each aspect of project, consider how this fits with the funder you are planning to approach. Can you evidence that you meet all of their criteria and show that your work will deliver the outcomes they are looking to achieve?
2. Do your ‘history homework’ – If the funder doesn’t have a lot of information on a website, the best way to learn more about their interests is to look at who they have funded before. Look back over their Accounts for the previous few years. Who have they funded? What levels of grant have they given? Have there been any changes in their strategy? Can you identify patterns in giving? For example, have organisations received grants over multiple years, or do they always give one-off grants?
3. Research on a ‘student budget’ - You can make great use of free resources to do your research. If the Trust has a website, this is always the best starting point. The Charity Commission Register lists all Trusts registered in England and Wales, where you can find the Trust’s Annual Accounts, details of where the Trust operates and a list of their Trustees. You can also look at the websites and Annual Accounts of other charities funded to see if these give further information on the grants they have received and what they were used for. If the Trust doesn’t publish the grants they give, a simple internet search can bring up results from charities thanking their supporters, either in their accounts or in press articles.
4. Focus on your best ‘subjects’ – You can’t do high level of research on every funder you might approach. Set your own criteria for your top prospects, based on the size and scale of your project. Your top prospects are those that have the potential to give the most significant grants towards your project. If a Trust has a clear website, plenty of information on their criteria and who they support and a clear application process, this should provide everything you need to make a good application. Where there is less information available, but there is potential for a significant grant, invest more time in researching these funders.
5. ‘Phone a friend’ – Information about some Trusts can be elusive. Many don’t publish information online and prefer to stay out of the spotlight. If you have found other organisations that have received grants from the funder you’re researching, pick up the phone and give them call. Most fundraisers are happy to share their experiences and point you in the right direction.
There are also some excellent networking groups. For example:
The Institute of Fundraising has a Special Interest Group for Trust fundraisers, including a very active email group.
If you’re Exeter based, there’s an Exeter Fundraiser’s group which meets regularly and shares information via a Facebook group.
Once you’ve done your homework, you can do the most important step of all and phone the funder. Prepare for the call in advance. Be clear about how you want to introduce your organisation or project in line with the Trust’s criteria. Think of one or two questions that aren’t answered on their website – and, most importantly, make sure you can show that you’ve done your homework! Once they have confirmed they are happy to receive an application from you, you can be confident that your application will sail through the first hurdle of ineligible applications, avoid the waste paper bin, and receive the consideration it deserves.
If you’d like more advice on researching potential funders, do get in touch. We have access to additional research resources and can help you to research potential funders.
Let’s all start the new academic year with a resolution to keep on top of our homework!