Prospect Research.

For some people it is a most enjoyable exercise whilst for others it can be torturous. Either way, it is integral to a successful trust fundraising programme. Not every trust will be appropriate for your organisation to approach and identifying a pipeline of suitable potential trusts and foundations can help you to build this into a strong, sustainable income stream for your charity.

Knowing for what and where to look is the crux of the problem I find. On a regular basis I hear colleagues asking if they know of a funder who supports a very specific item. Whilst knowing for what you need the funding and how much it’s going to cost is essential to effective prospect research, so is knowing who your beneficiaries are (generally and specific to the service or project in question), where they are located, for when you need the item/funding in place, why you need it, and how many people (animals, plants, etc.) will be impacted. As you are going through the lists of potential funders, this will help you shortlist those who fit your situation and organisation the best. Without having this in mind, you can quite easily fall into the proverbial ‘rabbit hole’!

For any given funder you may find a lot, or a little, information.  You can use this knowledge to target your approach more closely, connecting the dots between their staff, trustees and purposes and yours. Cast your net wide – don’t rely only on research databases, look at their accounts, their website, the charity regulator where they are registered, and find news about them on the internet. All of this can give you a really rounded picture of what they like to support and if they are right for your organisation. Regardless, as you go along write down the essentials somewhere to refer back to when you are setting your approach strategies and work plans.

To get you started, below is a list of some useful resources* across a range of charitable sectors. You should be able to access them for free, or at most a minimal charge. Some of these sites are listings of funders and some are portals with links to subject-specific websites and databases.

Trusts and Foundations

Statutory funders

There are also plenty of subscription research databases available. Many will offer a free trial or similar to see if they are right for you (not just their cost – which may be more than just ££). If you decide to go with a subscription, know what you need or want it to help you with, know your budget, shop around, ask colleagues what they like to use, and check social media groups as this is a topic which comes up regularly.

* External links updated and correct on 19 January 2023.

If you want to know more about prospect research for trust fundraising or want to know how Money Tree Fundraising can help you with your trust pipeline

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