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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about all the ideas and information presented at the 2019 IoF Trusts Conference (#IoFTrusts) on the 4th and 5th of February, 2019.  Echoing what I’m seeing in my own work with clients and in the sector, some recurrent themes and trends surfaced within all the presentations and discussions:

Diversity: It’s no longer just a buzzword. The Association of Charitable Foundations’ survey of trustee boards found they are 98% white, 65% male, and 60% over 65. Countering this, the IoF Change Collective (https://www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/library/manifesto-for-change/)is urging fundraising to become more diverse at all levels and many of our funders are now looking for evidence that we are addressing diversity in all its forms – gender, ethnicity, sexuality, colour, religion, (dis)ability, and language.

Reputation: The reputational cloud charities have been under the last handful of years is still there and the spotlight is still on us. It’s up to us to ensure we are submitting proposals and reports that stand up to exceptional scrutiny. We must advocate within our charities to provide the safeguarding, good business practices, services and reporting needed to satisfy this scrutiny.

Accountability: As the reporters of our organisation’s activities, we are in a pivotal position to encourage and facilitate our accountability. Not just to our donors for the funding they have provided to us, but to our beneficiaries for the services we provide.  We often work with our clients to identify what and how to measure in order to highlight their activities and impact.  Monitoring, evaluating and reporting can be difficult, but it’s something as trust fundraiser we can take a lead on.

Relationships: Whether established before or after a grant, we need to develop, maintain and sometimes pass on to colleagues, our relationships:  be they with donors, staff, management, beneficiaries or external groups (including the media). These relationships underpin the sustainability of our organisations, activities, and funding.

Agents of Change: Trusts and foundations are increasingly looking to be agents of change themselves, not just funding us to be that, particularly the larger organisations who have the capacity and position to influence. We need to be open to collaborations that could help our organisations, goals and beneficiaries.

Communication:Internally and externally communication is key to success and cannot be underestimated. We know from our own experience and from working with clients that miscommunication or lack of communication can significantly impact the financial and objective success of our projects.

Competition:Fundraising from trusts remains very competitive. This will only increase as global and domestic economies feel the pressure of current global socio-political upheaval and Brexit. Alongside producing very good quality and compelling applications highlighting strong, deliverable and worthwhile projects, taking the time to research our funders remains a priority. Targeting the right funder at the right time with the right project is the cornerstone of success and is something we underline in all our work with clients.

Working together:The consistent message and tone from the funders in attendance was that they want to support us to deliver the good work of our organisations and improve the situations and quality of life for our beneficiaries.

I was pleased as well to be able to present some of the key findings of the Trusts Project from the Commission on the Donor Experience at the Conference as they related to our hands-on trust fundraising. One of the key points that came through all the Commission work, and something I truly believe, is that trusts and trust fundraising are not ‘one-size fits all’.

DW