How to achieve fundraising success in a small charity

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How to achieve fundraising success in a small charity


The FSI’s Conchita Garcia sets out the foundations of success for small charity fundraising

The Foundation for Social Improvement (the FSI) is the charity behind Small Charity Week. We work with thousands of amazing small charities (those with a turnover under £1.5m) across the UK, offering free fundraising and charity training.

Unsurprisingly, when we meet with small charities, fundraising is always the most important topic on the agenda, and charities want to know how they can be successful here. There is no magic bullet, but we can give charities pointers that will stand them in good stead as they move forward with their fundraising.

Before you can begin, you have to set the foundations on which this income stream will be built. In this article, we set out the core pillars that will form the bedrock of your fundraising, helping you achieve maximum success.


Know why

To get started, you will first need to ask yourself the most fundamental question of all: Why are you fundraising? Identify the problem you need to solve. Go back to the reason your charity was set up in the first place, and start building from there - always with the end goal in mind.

It’s your job to ensure there are sufficient funds to run the services agreed by the trustees - and for this, you will need a strategy. Usually this strategy will involve looking at a number of different funding sources, because over-reliance on a single source of fundraising could leave you vulnerable. So, you’ll need to thoroughly research all your potential sources of income. These can be loosely grouped as statutory (government funding), trading (retail and services) and voluntary (fundraising from trusts and foundations and individuals). They may not all be viable for your charity and cause, and some may be easier to achieve than others, but don’t just go for the easy option and ignore the others as this could end up backfiring on you in the longer term.

Once in place, your strategy will give you the confidence to achieve your targets. Remember that opportunities will come your way to do things that are not in your fundraising strategy, and it's important to be open to these. But having a sound strategy in place will enable you to assess each opportunity as it arises - and only take it forward if a) it is so good it cannot be missed or b) it contributes to developing your long-term income.


Build your plan

To be successful, you will also need to carefully plan your resources in advance. How much time, money and manpower will you allocate to each activity? Answer these questions before you set out, to avoid starting the financial year with nothing but a fundraising target and a big question mark as to how you might achieve it! Allow for some flexibility in your plans - the best fundraising strategies are reactive, as well as proactive.

Always break down your annual target into smaller targets, against a number of potential income streams and fundraising activities. This will help you make the most of the resources that are available to you, and provide you with milestones to help you measure your success along the way. You will better be able to see what’s working and what’s not, and if necessary adjust your strategy going forward. You will learn which areas of fundraising are getting the best results, and can re-focus your resources and activities accordingly, giving you a much better chance of reaching your overall target. You will also have early results that you can show your supporters, rather than not being able to demonstrate your impact to them until the end of the year.

With a fundraising strategy in place, you will also avoid ‘mission drift’ (i.e. chasing pots of money that are not linked to the delivery of your beneficiary activities) as you will have an improved focus on sourcing funds that are focused on helping you achieve your goals.


Be clear on your messaging

Whether you’re securing funding from trusts and foundations, the government, or from individuals you have to make every word count. This means being absolutely clear on your core messaging.

Funders, no matter who they are, have limited time and many demands for their attention. To give your charity the best chance of engaging a funder, you need to be aware of what their motivations are, and what information they will need from you in their decision-making. The language you use in a bid to a trust or foundation will be very different from the case you make to a business, or the stories and information you include in your individual donor communications. In each case, it’s never enough to ask people to give just because you’re a great charity doing amazing work.


Core case for support

Tailoring your messaging for your individual audiences doesn’t mean you have to create something from scratch each time. Developing a ‘core case for support’ for your charity will save you time, and ensure you’re maintaining consistency in the way you describe your charity, projects and programmes. As one of the fundraising foundations, your core case for support will form the basis all of your fundraising activities, communications and marketing. It is the document that will contain the answer to every question a donor may have about your organisation.

This document should include:

  • details on your organisation’s mission and background; 
  • your charity’s expertise in your field; 
  • who your staff and trustees are;
  • the need for your work and how you evidence this; 
  • how you will meet these needs via your different projects;
  • the impact of your projects to date (including stories or case studies to illustrate); 
  • details of your monitoring and evaluation system; and 
  • how your organisation and projects are different to others in the same field.

This document will be your go-to resource when making fundraising asks of your different audiences. It will enable you to draw on the relevant areas for your current fundraising asks. Furthermore, with your whole team working from the same document, you can make sure there is consistency in the way you talk about your charity and its activities.

The best thing about it is that once it has been created, the hard work has been done! That being said, you will need to make sure it is updated regularly to capture information on any changes taking place in your charity.


Free tools to support you

For small charities, resources are often limited. For this reason, it’s important to look at what external resources are available to help support you in your fundraising. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • The FSI offers free training for the small charity sector. This includes 15 separate training courses and two conferences a year. The training is high quality, practical and small charity specific, to ensure you make the most of the time you’re spending away from your small charity. 
  • Think about what external fundraising activities are taking place that your charity can make the most of - for example, Giving Tuesday, which takes place in December each year. Is Small Charity Week also in your calendar? It includes six days of free activities and support for small charities - including a fundraising day. You’ll be able to take advantage of fundraising opportunities, competitions, free guides and toolkits to support you in raising funds. This year’s event is taking place on 15-20 June, and includes the opportunity to win a free Virgin Money London Marathon place. Visit to find out more.
  • Look for tools that will help your charity fundraise as well as raising your profile. Have you made the most of your free Charity Choice profile? It gives you the chance to fundraise as well as giving you a monthly audience of over 120,000 people looking for charities to support.  
  • Sign up for a free Fundraising Central account, which provides you with free access to information about funders from trusts, foundations and statutory sources so you can build your own list of relevant funders to approach without spending a penny.


Conchita Garcia is head of projects and fund development at The FSI 

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