We’ve all had an urgent request for quick turnaround funding from trusts to keep our organisations solvent or our projects running. It can put dread in the hearts of even experienced and successful trust fundraisers – especially when, except in rare circumstances, it can be avoided.
As we all know, trust fundraising is usually a ‘long-game’ activity within our sector. To be really successful and consistently productive, it relies on clear projects, objectives, and budgets alongside a diarised and strategic submission schedule. Last minute, stop-gap demands can sometimes be met, but if a regular occurrence, they can result in an unhealthy and inconsistent trust programme.
Making it happen anyway
Nonetheless, our job is to find that money. Here are 5 top tips to meet this challenge.
- Approach funders with which you have good and established relationships. They may be able to provide emergency one-off funding (this is really a once-in-a-lifetime card to play though). If you’re not strictly in an emergency situation, they may still entertain an application before your normal annual approach.
- Down and dirty research – scour your own database for funders you’ve not approached recently or yet this year and then look at your main research source (a database/service, OSCR, the Charity Commission, the Charity Commission of NI). Regardless of their award size, look for funders that give to your cause and geographic area, your type of beneficiaries, or ones that give to general causes and might be interested in your organisation. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket with applications to the often over-subscribed large gift funders.
- Write a short proposal with a really logical outline of your solution to your situation. Be positive and emotive. Don’t lie, but don’t paint your situation in the direst of colours, this may scare away some risk-averse trusts. Clear and realistic plans and budgets will always be looked on favourably.
- Prioritise applications to those trusts with the nearest deadline and distribution dates. Many smaller trusts will have multiple deadlines throughout the year which you can use to your advantage in this situation. Start submitting them as soon as possible!
- Keep your perspective: do your best, take breaks when you can, don’t go over your TOIL limits, clarify your target responsibility (both ongoing and urgent) and keep an eye on your well-being. The financial security of your organisation should not rest solely on your shoulders.
And next year? How to avoid the pitfalls of the annual ‘urgent’ funding target
Whilst we may not have a lot of input into the strategic and financial management of our organisations, we can set up trust programmes knowing they may need to mitigate the ups and downs of charity funding in our increasingly volatile economy.
- Alongside larger, project-based funding applications schedule a monthly and/or quarterly programme of small applications (sometimes known as a rolling programme). You can often approach these trusts annually thereby helping work load and cash flows. Look to have a mix of project-focused (restricted) and general organisational cause (unrestricted) proposals. This is NOT a bulk mailing appeal – each application should be tailored, even slightly. Trusts are major donors.
- Play the timetabling game – diarise funder deadlines, when they distribute awards, and when you need funding to come in. Keep in mind that some often-suggested funders, like Awards for All, can have published gaps of months between submission and award with no guarantee they’ll be quicker.
- Start looking for ‘replacement’ funding at least 6 months before a project’s current income streams are due to end. When competition is high, increase this to at least 12 months before funding ends.
- Regularly mentioned funders can often be over-subscribed. If you’re not already known to them, they may not want to take a risk on funding a charity experiencing financial difficulty. Whilst worth a chance, remember many have strict eligibility guidelines for applicants and projects. Some of these funders may not be considering new applicants at all!
- Have a clear strategy to meet your charity’s objectives and required budget needs. Don’t chase funding for new projects unless they are already on your radar or fit your strategy really closely. You may otherwise still be looking for funding for existing projects and overheads.
- Work with your fundraising, finance and services managers to clearly identify what needs funding vis-à-vis the realistically available funds from trusts you may be eligible to approach. Encourage them to look at other income streams (existing or new) to close budget gaps.
- Research and develop a pipeline of trusts which you and your organisation can develop good relationships with – even if it’s just basic stewardship.
- Have a crisis management plan in place identifying potential trusts and funders to be approached in a worst-case-scenario.
- Encourage the establishment of an unrestricted, undesignated reserves pot for situations such as this (your rainy day/eek fund).
If you want to know more about setting up a rolling programme or establishing the foundations for a strong trust fundraising strategy, get in touch with us at email@example.com.