Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Trusts and Foundations have feelings too: Lessons from Case

This week I had the chance to attend a Case Europe session on Trusts and Foundation fundraising.  I was running a short session on writing applications so will be penning a couple of follow up posts about my session in the coming weeks.

But for now I thought I'd share some of the key messages that I brought back to the office from my fellow speakers, which I'm going to put to use right away.

Trusts have feelings too

Ok, that wasn't quite the message, but a clear message was that each trust has its own personality and shouldn't be treated as a faceless and feeling-less organisation. It's history, trustees and work makes up the trust's personality. Don't think all trusts are the same - and try to treat them according to their own needs.

And how do you find out their needs you rightly ask. Well, that's a trickier question - but you can use their website and annual reports and go from there. Try and make a contact at the trust and find out how they like to be communicated with. If all else fails, trial and error is your only option- but for goodness sake, learn from your mistakes.

The ask

Turns out, some trusts don't want you to ask for a specific amount. Some do of course, so try and found out which camp your trust falls into before submitting. They may specify on their website or you can contact them directly.

In terms of how much to ask - a little research goes a long way. The trust's accounts should be published on the charity commission website, which will list previous grants. This is a fantastic resource, and better yet, it's free. What's the highest grant they've ever given, and what's the average gift? How much have they given to projects that look like yours? Could you get a bigger gift for a different kind of project - say a capital one?

If you're going for a shopping list ask- do one ask at the gift you're hoping for, one bigger dream gift and one that's lower. 

Personal contact is key

How often do you pick up the phone to a trust or foundation? In this era of email it's too easy to just bang out an email and think that counts as personal contact. Make a phone call to give information or check in - you can always follow it up later in writing. If its before an application it can be hugely helpful and create a warmer relationship, and after a grant is excellent stewardship.

So occasionally ditch outlook and give your trust a call.

Bring in the cold prospects

This one is obvious but hard to do in practice. For each project you're working on, make a concerted effort to approach new trusts and foundations. From my years in annual giving I know that if you don't keep bringing in new donors, eventually you'll be in trouble. But with trusts and foundations it's easy to keep going back to those old friends who reliably fund you each time you ask.

Of course, go to these old friends, but keep your eye on new trusts too. Growing your pool of trusts and foundations will decrease risk to your programme and ultimately make life easier in the future.

So put in the legwork with cold prospects. See previous point about picking up the phone.

Finally: Use the resources at your disposal.

When you're fundraising for a new project, it can be all too easy to take the limited project brief you have, open a new word document and start writing. Alas, this is not the path to success. In your organisation you (hopefully) have people who are truly passionate about the work you are raising money for. Go and speak to them. Now. Leave your pc and go and have a cuppa with them. Ask them why this work is important. Go and see a project in action.

Raising money for research - meet the professors. For a community group - go to one of their sessions. For students -ask them what the money will mean to them.

Get under the skin of the project- feel the passion of the participants. It will make your case far more compelling, and your job a darned sight more enjoyable. 


So time to get to work. Do you have a Trusts top tip? Do let us know in the comments or on twitter.


1 comment:

  1. Great tips Rachel! I know two Directors of Charitable Trusts. One is super keen on personal contact - loves meeting beneficiaries and seeing projects and wants to be involved in long term thinking. The other is much more "the guidelines are on the website, read them". However, both love personal stories. They want to know about the people behind the project, the impact of the gift and what it will mean. Direct language, great case studies and, yes, pictures. All make a big difference.