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The Association of Charitable Foundations suggest that there are some 10,000 charitable trusts and foundations in the UK distributing £2billion in grants annually. This equates to about 10% of all income into voluntary organisations annually.
Many charitable trusts and foundations derive their income from an endowment. However there are some exceptions to this:
As a general rule grant-making trusts and foundations follow their own direction rather than being led by the Government of the day. They have a view on what they want to achieve and how that will benefit local communities. They don’t deliver work on the ground. Instead they give grants to community groups and charities who do, reaching the people they want to reach, achieving the outcomes they are looking for. Applying to trusts and foundations is largely about demonstrating how your particular project can help them achieve their purpose.
Trusts and foundations come in all shapes and sizes and give grants for a wide variety of causes. Some are focused on particular geographical areas, others only give to certain types of organisation, some concentrate on a well-defined community, others are interested in funding for particular areas of work or general themes.
Trusts provide a variety of different types of funding:
Research is vital. A small number of well-researched and tailor-made applications is far more likely to succeed than a wide-ranging “begging letter”. Some trusts provide detailed guidelines on what they will and won’t fund.
Trusts and foundations have websites giving examples of previously funded organisations and their criteria for funding. A small number of trusts issue application forms, to ensure you provide precisely the information they are looking for. Some are happy to chat through your project idea on the phone – to see if it is worth your while applying. It is worth investing time in finding out as much as possible about the trust… after all you’re trying to find the perfect match between the outcomes of your project and what the trust wants to achieve.
When looking into what a trust is prepared to fund, ask the following questions:
Once you have looked into potential trusts to apply to, it’s worth drawing up a short list. You might want to start with a long list and then narrow it down. Because each application will be tailored for that particular trust it takes a bit of time to put an application together. So you can’t send out hundreds. Find those where there is the best fit between what you want to achieve and what a trust says its purpose is.
It is important to think about your application in terms of a project. There are a few trusts and foundations who will fund a community organisation’s core-costs. But in the main they are interested in funding one to three year projects. So it is important to talk about the new work you want to undertake in terms of a project – with aims, objectives and targets, action plan, audience, budget, and monitoring/evaluation.
See also the DSC guide to writing funding applications.
Grants databases and their usefulness depend on how often the data is updated and the flexibility of the search engine. They are great for generating a 'long list' of grant makers to research but they cannot substitute for collating your own information from trust websites and talking to staff from the organisation.
If all this looks a little daunting, the most important thing is to have a go! Practice makes perfect!
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