How to Figure Out What Type of Funds You Should Chase…

I recently sent out a Fundraising Needs survey to find out what non-profits were expecting to be the biggest challenges facing their fundraising in the next 12 months.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, figuring out what type of fundraising to channel limited resources into was a recurrent theme.  So how do you figure out whether you should spend time developing your sponsorship proposition or whether you’d be best focusing entirely on trusts?


1. What Do You Need?

Start off by figuring out what it is that you need to fund.  What type of projects do you have and how much do you require?  Often, by figuring this out first, the type of funding you should be seeking becomes clear.  And if not immediately obvious, by establishing whether you need £/$xx for core costs or £/$ for a capital campaign, once you start researching prospects, you’ll often get a feel for the type of donors who will support your particular project.  For example, if most of your fundraising needs are for unrestricted income, you might be looking to raise funds from individuals or corporate donations to support your core work – rather than Lottery (if you’re in the UK) or certain foundations which are often more willing to support specific project or capital needs over ongoing revenue requirements.

2. What Resources Do You Have?

Do you have a number of staff and/or committed board members who will be driving, managing and implementing the fundraising – or is it just you?  If you don’t have many resources in terms of staff or time, seeking vast amounts of money through, for example, sponsorship might be a challenge – after all, sponsorship is a business transaction and for all that lovely money, your sponsor(s) will expect lots of benefits (and lots of your time) in return.  You will need to factor in the time needed to deliver those benefits into your overall fundraising.  Of course, some benefits may fit nicely with your core work anyway – such as sponsor employee volunteering – so you will need to assess this on an individual project basis.

3. Who Do You Know?

You may have access to excellent networks through your board and staff who can help to introduce your organisation to the key people, companies or foundations who are likely to fund your work (in which case, what are you reading this for – get out there and start developing relationships with them!).  Look at your networks and you will start to get an idea of who you already know who can support your non-profit.

4. What’s Your Profile?

Are you well-respected and well-regarded in your local or national community?  Do you have a client base or work in a field that the public understand and have a level of sympathy towards?  Or do you work in a narrow field that doesn’t appeal to the public (and let’s face it, there are charities working in some of the most challenging fields in our society).  If you work in a niche area, there may be very specific trusts, companies or individuals that are relatively obvious to approach after some initial digging.  Or if you work in a field that the public are generally supportive of either nationally or within your own local community, there may be opportunities for you to raise funds through public fundraising or events.

5. What’s Your Demographic?

Who do you work with – and who is your broader audience?  Are there companies or individuals who would like a profile within those communities – and not just in terms of your perception but through some initial research, have you discovered potential donors who would want to engage with the audiences you already reach?  If there are, they may be interested in supporting your organisation.

The general rule is, of course, that there are no hard and fast rules with regard to what type of funding you should go for.  In general terms, non-profits with few resources often find that grant/foundation funding is the easiest for them to go for.  Not that it’s easy but this type of funding can be structured – less jumping at new opportunities as they arise and more taking a methodical approach to research and the applications process (and stewardship – don’t forget stewardship).  That said, I’ve worked with clients who are TINY and have had no fundraiser but, thanks to the kind of work that they deliver, have been hugely successful in raising and delivering corporate sponsorship.

So start by asking yourself some of the questions above and slowly, your potential donor base will start to come into focus.

What do you do to figure out where to look for funds?  Have you thought you were going to raise most of your money from one particular funding ‘type’ only to discover you had more success elsewhere?  Let us know in the comments below.

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