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I love the Institute of Fundraising National Convention. I absorb its full-on menu of learning for days and weeks afterwards. Here are my top ‘trusty’ takeaways from Day 3’s Trust Fundraising sessions:

  • How green is the grass?

A great reminder of the competition for grants and how comprehensive yet concise we need to make our applications came via The Sutton Trust. Trust fundraisers had the chance to not second guess the grant managers and trustees but be them! We became very exacting with the shoe on the other foot to award two grants amongst five shortlisted charities. The applicants’ track records, accounts, and word choice were considered and alongside demonstrated impact (qualitative AND quantitative), the clarity of purpose, value and use of any award was pivotal. Shorter, clearer applications were better received.

  • Creativity doesn’t need to be OTT

One innovative application stood out. Without a specified application format, the applicants used a question and answer format – a conversation between the Trust Fundraiser and a fictional grant manager, clearly explaining why they chose this structure. Simple, clear and creative, it provided ‘just the facts’  with appropriate case studies and included additional information in the cover letter.

  • Tailor the packaging, not the product

Efficiency and efficacy in our practice is paramount and can be achieved by tailoring the packaging of our projects/services to meet funders’ interests rather than creating new, or redesigning current, projects. The BFI (British Film Institute) successfully shone their spotlight on different aspects of their campaign to restore the black and white silent film Shiraz (1928). For government funders, the Indian/German/British production was a flagship cross-cultural project as part of UK/India Year of Culture; for those interested in film heritage/preservation, it was the first major Indian film of its kind and an introduction to silent films for new audiences; and for those interested in music, it was an opportunity for a well-known composer to develop new skills scoring films.

  • Award winning applications

If you get the basics right, regardless how boring or repetitive, you’ll be in a much better position to create better applications, win more funding, and respond to ‘out of the blue’ opportunities! An award winning application is:

  1. Clear and concise; use jargon only when you KNOW you’re talking to a specialist
  2. Short and succinct (both applications and sentences)
  3. Adherent to guidelines and reference funders’ objectives and interests
  4. Realistic regarding the support request
  5. Emotive and tells a story. In the words of Vicki Kelsall, BFI’s Head of Trusts and Foundations, “be the Richard Curtis (or Nora Ephron) of application writing”.
  • Resilience, resolve, drive, and dreams

Dame Kelly Holmes, Olympic medal winner and charity founder, brought a message of resilience and confidence to the Closing plenary. Citing highs and lows as she chased her Olympic (and now charitable) dreams and the resilience and resolve she developed to achieve them, she encouraged us to ‘be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when we need help, and brave enough to ask for it’.

  • The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

When everyone contributes to a streamlined process delivering across individual roles and responsibilities, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts and we, as charities, can consistently achieve truly remarkable things for our beneficiaries. CLIC Sargent’s ‘One team, One goal’ brought about a strategic re-design of their organisational processes and culture to focus their fundraising and delivery goals around six clear and compelling stories.  With buy-in achieved throughout the organisation, it dovetails across departments, focuses on a consistent message, and has facilitated increased success and efficiency in their fundraising and stewardship.

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion – the only way forward

Building on the Manifesto for Change, IoF has a new strategy to move us closer to ensuring individuals from all backgrounds are not only recruited into the sector, but are retained, progress, and feel confident to be themselves. Download the strategy here: https://www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/news/iof-launch-new-strategy-to-improve-fundraising-profession/

  • Sponsors and Exhibitors

Even as a trust fundraiser, it’s really worthwhile wandering through the exhibits to see new/new-to-me products and services and re-connect with suppliers I already know and use. This time I spoke with a prominent CRM provider I’ve not previously used. It was good to hear what they do, how they separate things, and how they can fit into organisations of all sizes. (It’s also the perfect opportunity to snag some stationery samples and the occasional cupcake!)

  • Networking

The National Convention is an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and colleagues, renewing connections and catching up on news. Whilst the UK fundraising world may seem small, the distance between Surrey and Scotland is still considerable! It’s also a chance to meet new friends, colleagues and contacts, get new perspectives, and properly discuss some of the big issues in our sector in a safe space.

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