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  • Writer's pictureLynne McConway

3 tips on fundraising for registered charities

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

Fundraising from Trusts and Foundations is hard. Even at a large organisation like the Royal Shakespeare Company, where I’m Trusts and Foundations Manager, a lot of time is spent researching and reviewing potential funders only to find we aren’t eligible to apply.

For a small charity with limited employees and capacity, it can feel overwhelming when searching for fundraising ideas. There are many funding databases out there but all too often they are prohibitively expensive for small charities. In today’s newsletter, we’ll cover free databases that I use, tips on ensuring eligibility and a vital component of successful funding from Trusts and Foundations.

#1 Where to look for potential funders

First things first, the databases. These resources are really helpful as they save a lot of time scouring the internet yourself. There are a few which are either free or inexpensive, one of which is the Charity Excellence Framework site. You need to set up an account but will be able to access hundreds of grants and can also sign up for a newsletter with details of new grants and funders.

The Grants Resources Information News site offers a daily newsletter which details 2-3 grants per day. The annual subscription is just £15 for an individual and £25 for an organisation. They also offer a free 2-week trial of the newsletter.

Another way to find potential Trusts and Foundations is to review the websites of similar organisations. If you are a medium-sized charitable theatre company, for example, look at the sites of your peer companies. They’ll be in a similar funding criteria ballpark - if you’re small or medium-sized, it’s not as useful to look at a large, established company first as they will potentially be attracting different funders.

#2 You’ve found a potential funder, should you apply?

Once you’ve found a potential funder, there are a few steps you must take before deciding if you should move forward with an application.

Understanding, and complying with, their eligibility criteria is critical to a successful approach. Many funders will list criteria on their site and, if they do, make sure you absolutely understand the criteria and that your charity is eligible to apply. Many applicants will be rejected at this stage as they just haven’t done this work.

Trusts and Foundations won’t look kindly on an applicant who clearly shouldn’t have applied. They won’t let you sneak through, no matter how wonderful you think your project is. It’s therefore a waste of your own precious time and energy.

If no eligibility criteria are listed on a funder’s site, head to the Charity Commission website and find their annual accounts. Below is a link to The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust’s entry as an example -

Head to the ‘Accounts and annual returns’ tab on the left-hand menu and you’ll find a list of that charity’s accounts. Read them closely as many funders will detail in this document how often they meet, when they meet and what their submission process is.

Many accounts will list, towards the end of the document, who they have funded and what amount. This information will give you an idea of whether they’d be keen to hear from your own company and how much they’re likely to what to fund you for.

The Trustees of your own charity can be a great resource for fundraising ideas. Engaged and knowledgeable board members who are willing to open up their own address book as well as make new connections on your charity’s behalf are brilliant assets.

If you intend approaching a funder, review their list of Trustees, again available on the Charity Commission site, and ask your own Trustees if they have any connection with them. It’s often a small world in charities and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many people do know each other.

#3 Don’t forget to evidence your impact!

You’ve written your application. You’ve spell-checked and made sure the budget is detailed and balanced. You’ve included high-quality photos of those you work with but have you included evidence of your impact?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to include data, where possible, evidencing the actual impact of your work and what tangible difference you make in your area.

Every charity believes that the work they do is vital and unique. Through evaluation, you can evidence this and stand out to a funder. This evidence is in many ways the most important part of an application for funders. It’s where they look to see that this incredible work you do actually makes a difference and has an impact. It’s how they can feel confident that their funding is going to make the difference they want to see.

Make sure that you are recording exactly who is benefiting from your project. Record numbers engaged, their age, gender, postcode and whether they have any protected characteristics. Give participants the chance to provide feedback, also useful for reports, and seek constructive discussions about what went well and what could have been better.

With this section of your application, your aim is to show a funder that their money is safe with your project and that it will have a real impact on those you work with, leading to good outcomes for your charity, the funder and, most importantly, your participants.

If you need a fundraiser to work on an application, feel free to email me at I can write an application, provide advice or review your draft application before submission. If you are applying to the Arts Council and require access support, including because you are dyslexic, then bear in mind that the Arts Council will cover the costs of working with me on an application.

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