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5 tips for setting up a successful trusts and foundations income stream

For charities that do not already have a structured trusts and foundations income stream as part of their fundraising mix, trusts and foundations can provide an incredibly stable and predictable addition to the fundraising basket. Not only that but, if managed well, it is surely a star fundraising performer in present times as Brexit causes major donors and corporate organisations to take a more cautious approach with their charitable giving. So how might you get started?

Is it right for you?

A trusts and foundations income stream will perform best if there a single person within your charity who can be dedicated full or part time to trusts fundraising. In many ways, the key principles to trusts fundraising are no different to fundraising from any other donor type; do your research, build a relationship, make the ask, thank, report back and steward. However, there is typically more desk-based than face-to-face work, and good writing skills are essential. Trusts can be great sources of income for your core projects, but will also readily fund capital work, capacity building and core costs. Many will support well-planned pilots and experimental projects too.

How to get started

A consistent, steady approach will reap reliable results, so set yourself up to dedicate regular time to this income stream:

  1. Be clear what it is that you are asking trusts to support. Are there specific projects that your charity needs to raise funds for, or are you making a more general ask? Both are possible, but if you can package work up into a project it is generally easier to write a punchier case in your application.
  2. Gather all the facts. You will need to be able to present what the need or issue is that your project will address, what your project will do to address this and the change or impact you expect to generate as a result. You will also need an overview of what your charity does in its broadest sense – to provide context, project budget and how much you need to raise to support the project.
  3. Identify which trusts might support you. Your next step is to find trusts which will want to hear from you. All trusts have charitable objectives themselves which they want to meet and so if your charity’s project can help them achieve this, then they will be keen to receive an application from you. You can use the Charity Commission website for free to search for trusts using simple search terms e.g. ‘education’, ‘health’, ‘young people’. Other funding websites have more refined search functions and you can usually apply for a free trial of these before subscribing. Community Foundations can also be a great place to get started.
  4. Approach your shortlist. Unless they specify otherwise, work through your shortlist of trusts, calling each, to discuss your project and, if there is a good match, now is the time to prepare an application. Some trusts have an application form; most ask you simply to write, outlining your case for support. Make sure you provide all the information they ask for, and in the format that they ask for it – your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes!
  5. Track your work. If your charity doesn’t have access to a fundraising CRM system, then a well-organised spreadsheet will do this for you. You’ll want to record, at a minimum; contact details, information on each trust’s interests, when you applied, what and how much you applied for and when you expect a decision.

Moving forward

If your application was successful, be absolutely sure to thank the trust and keep them updated in any way which they request; it is courteous to send a report on what their grant has helped you to achieve and this will help pave the way for your next application, in around 12 months’ time. If your application was unsuccessful, this is your opportunity to learn and increase your chances next time; give the trust a phone call and ask for specific feedback. Not all trusts are able to support this, but many are.

Where next?

There are a range of courses on offer from professional fundraising bodies and training providers which will help you to develop skills and strategies to move your trusts and foundations income stream forward and these are worth investigating. Ultimately, consistency and a structured approach to trusts and foundations fundraising will pay dividends and including this income stream in your fundraising mix will accelerate your charity’s ability to deliver its mission and widen its reach. Good luck!

Isabel Berry, Head of Trusts and Foundations, The Outward Bound Trust

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