5 Ways to Make Your Trust Applications More Successful

fundraising ideasThere are around 10,000 trusts and foundations in the UK giving out around £3.6 billion each year and, as such, are a huge source of income for charities but time and time again clients come to me to say that they struggle to put together a trust application or that, despite having met the criteria, they still weren’t successful.  There’s huge competition out there for that £3.6 billion pot of funding so what can you do to make sure your application stands out from the crowd?

1. Read the Criteria – although it seems obvious, organisations need to make sure that their application will actually fit within the criteria of the trust they are applying to.  And while it’s tempting to try to bend your application to fit, trustees will see right through your attempts so it’s not worth it.  When you’re researching trusts, come up with a list that really ‘fits’ with what you are looking to fund and the type of organisation that you are.  It might be a much shorter list than you hoped for but, by being focused, your chances of success are much higher.

2. Avoid ‘Scatter Gun’ Fundraising – This follows on from the above point really.  I’ve worked with many clients who look at the type of organisation a trust funds – say arts – and don’t bother to establish whether or not they meet any of the more detailed criteria.  This approach will give you a longer application list but it lacks focus.  Now, before I go on, I know that there are many organisations that will be able to point to generic applications for small amounts that they sent to 20 or 30 trusts (or more) and that raised a few thousand pounds – but this post is about making your applications really work for you.  This approach isn’t the best use of your fundraiser’s time (especially when the number one issue for the majority of my clients is lack of time to fundraise) and it also makes it less likely that these unfocused applications will be the start of a relationship with a trust – so they’re often one off gifts too.   By being more focused (see point 1) your chances of success are higher and the potential amount you can raise goes up too – so by spending the same amount of time on a smaller number of applications, organisations can raise more money in the long run.

3. Think Like a Funder – sit down and write your application and start by including everything that you think is relevant and that a trust will need to know (making sure you include specific information that different trusts ask for too).  Then go away, have a cuppa and come back to edit it but this time try to read it by putting yourself in the shoes of a trustee.  There is a point to having that cuppa and that’s to take some time away from your application so you can come back and look at it objectively with fresh eyes.  Does it make sense?  Can you understand what the main elements and outcomes of the project will be?  Are the benefits of your work obvious?  Better still, ask someone else who perhaps doesn’t know so much about your organisation or project to read it and then ask them to sum it up for you.  If they can’t, you need to rewrite it from a fresh perspective taking into account the sections that they found confusing or unnecessary.

4. Say What You Need Upfront – get the most important point about your project out in the first sentence, if possible.  ‘We aim to help 50 young teenagers into work each year through our training programme in East Fife’.  Our new community centre will provide adult learning, parenting classes, community drama, and health outreach programmes in a deprived inner city area in Aberdeen’.  What is it that you are trying to do?  Get that out first and then go on to explain the hows and the whys: how you will achieve this aim; why you’re the best organisation to provide this work; what you’ve done to engage your users/potential users in your planning.  By getting the most important point out up front, you’ll encourage the reader to find out more.  Many people make the mistake of trying to bury what it is that they are trying to do because it’s what they are rather than what they do that fits with the trusts criteria or that they’re concerned their project might not quite fit the criteria- but if it doesn’t fit, they won’t fund it anyway, so shout about it in your opening gambit.

5. Follow-Up – I was about to write down that saying thank you to those that do fund you is obvious – but I’m constantly surprised by the people who don’t.  So, while a thank you is an absolute must, so too is a follow-up to let a trust know how your project is doing/has done EVEN IF THEY DON’T ASK FOR A FOLLOW UP REPORT.  And that’s probably the most important point because even if a trust doesn’t ask for a report by providing them with one, you will already stand out from the crowd.  So tell them whether you achieved what you set out to; and what your successes have been/what you’ve learned along the way.  Getting the money is only the start of the engagement process so keep in touch with those who fund you, build upon that goodwill and increase your chances of raising money from them in the future.

In an increasingly competitive funding environment organisations need to make their fundraising work smarter not harder.  Putting these 5 points into action will put you in a better, stronger position against the competition.

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