Fundraising need not be the intimidating prospect it might seem to be. If you develop a simple fundraising strategy, as we show below, you can start close to home and be raising funds very quickly.
We’ve partnered with local funder, the Freshwater Foundation who are keen to attract applications from small community group start-ups, and if you can show that you are the sort of group that’s made a well-organised start to their efforts, then you will most certainly be eligible for their small grants scheme. Even if you’ve not got to that stage, but want to, then they can support you through the early stages of getting organised. Freshwater Foundation will always help suitable groups with their applications.
A Simple Fundraising Strategy
Here you start with the easiest and most certain sources of funds and move up to the more difficult and less certain. What we have here is a ‘ladder’ of funding:
- Group Members – easiest and most certain to donate.
- Friends & Family
- Your Social Network
- Crowdfunding site
- Group Events
- Local Council
- Local Businesses
- Independent Funders – hardest and least certain to donate.
If difficult and uncertain, why move up at all? Because it is at the upper end of the ladder that the large sums are to be found – at the lower end, sums are likely to be only modest.
It is best not to approach the funders at the upper stages until you have been through the lower stages. Not only are these easier, but if you have got pledges from the lower stages made to you on a crowdfunding site, then you have visible evidence of community-backing and that others are willing to support you financially. The people at the top of the ladder are going to be impressed by this. If they can see that others have supported you and that you have local people behind you, then they will be far readier to get involved (in the jargon, they will be looking for evidence of match funding).
We now go through each of the ‘rungs’ of the ladder:
- Members, Friends & Family, Your Social Network
This is where you are the expert, so no advice given. However, if possible, make sure that they donate through the crowdfunding site. You want their donations to be visible.
- Crowdfunding Site
Once you’ve got pledges coming in and a group bank account, you can set yourself up on a crowdfunding site, such as Spacehive. One key point to remember. If applying to independent funders, ensure that your crowdfunding deadline allows plenty of time for you to make your application and for it to be processed through to completion.
- Group Events
Organising an event to drum up funds for your project is always a good way to attract funds and also publicise what you’re all about at the same time. The key point to remember about events is that it is essential that all the correct planning is completed thoroughly. The good news is that once you’ve organised one event, then future ones will be much easier. Events are very much part of the core way in which community groups keep in touch their localities, so this will be very useful expertise.
- Local Councils
Local councils often have funds allocated to support local community efforts and also run match funding campaigns for specific types of projects where they pledge to match any funds that you raise yourself (generally on a 50/50 basis). It is at this point that you’ll need to start thinking about presenting your requests for donations in a more formal way.
- Local Businesses
Here also you’ll need to make a good well-presented case; you’re dealing with business people who want to make sure that their money is going to good use. But you’ll also need to keep things brief – in business, time is money, and your audience will not want to spend the same amount of time of considering your project as a dedicated funder would. The best idea is to make your full case, and also a more concise version of your project – one or two sentences each for the project description, why it will benefit the community, why you are well placed to provide it and the core financial details. If they want more, then of course you can point them in the direction of the more detailed outlines you’ve already produced. Also, back up what you’re saying with any telling visuals and let them know what’s in it for them (publicity at an event, a mention in a local newspaper article etc.). Of course, also point out the pledges you’ve already got, especially if they’re from other businesses. Some of the businesses you will be approaching will be highly visible such as shops, but don’t ignore the less visible businesses to be found in local industrial parks or online business directories (e.g. https://www.makeitealing.co.uk/directory). Also, housing associations and local estate agents can be a good source of funds.
- Independent Funders
This is where the heavy-duty applications start and the risks of failure increase – but the rewards are greater. When applying for independent funding pots, always make absolutely sure that you meet the funder’s eligibility criteria; writing applications is a time-consuming process – do not waste time by applying for funds for which you are not eligible. Also, apply in plenty of time; funders often organise their activities into grant-rounds with specific timescales and the process of assessing applications and deciding who to fund can take up to a few months. Make sure you know what these timescales are.
Dealing with Funders
This is where the people you’re trying to impress will want to know a lot about you and your project. They will be exacting in their standards and you’ll be up against a lot of competition.
The good news is that, as we’ve said, if you’ve prepared well up until this point, a lot of the hard work is behind you, and more importantly, you are already impressive. It is now just a question of showing this, not of having to generate a glossy new image for the sake of a new audience. You’ll also find that once you completed one application, future ones will be a lot easier.
Funder’s applications procedures can differ widely, and no two application forms are the same, but you can prepare yourself for the process by producing a few paragraphs (no more) on the following topics, drawing on materials you’ve already produced. In essence, these summaries will cover most of the information the great majority of funders are after, and as you approach each new application, you’ll just have to modify it slightly or perhaps add some new material to suit.
Although you’ll be drawing on material previously produced in plans, in your applications you can express it more dramatically and personally than you did in the originals. Emphasise the passion and energy of the people involved and include testimonies that highlight how vital the need is.
Sometimes funders will just ask you to submit a letter; make sure you include all of the following in it.
- Project Description
A brief summary of what the project is. This can be adapted from the project plan’s description.
What benefits to the community will the project bring? This is where you’ll draw on the Impact section of your project plan.
- Why is the Project Needed?
This is where statistics and data evidence come into their own. You should include testimonies from locals and any other relevant research you have discovered.
- Why are you well-placed to meet the need?
Highlight your Unique Selling Points (USPs), the features of your group that make you different and more relevant to the provision of the need than other potential providers.
- Measuring the benefit
This is where you’ll talk about the feedback mechanisms you’ve decided on.
- How are you involving the community?
Many funders will want to see evidence of community involvement. Your crowdfunding pledges will help here, but you will need more. Explain how you canvassed local opinion during start-up and the project planning phases and how locals are involved with your activities. Emphasising the voluntary nature of all work done will help.
This can simply be the project budget – show all the detail and make sure the sums add up! Showing that you have sought multiple quotes will be reassuring to funders. State whether they will be the sole funder of your project or whether you will be requiring funds from elsewhere as well as your current progress in acquiring them.
A summary of your risk assessment, including controls. Here you should aim to show that you understand what the potential problems with your project are and that you are prepared to look them squarely in the face. Funders are always on the lookout of naïve optimism and wishful thinking and they don’t like it. Specify any relevant policies that you have in place to deal with common risks, for example; health and safety and safeguarding).
- The Group
Brief summaries of your group’s aims, beneficiaries and activities. Also have to hand the financial details of the group, both summary accounts and bank statements for the last year, a copy of the constitution, minutes of a significant meeting, relevant policies and any publicity material as they may all well be called for.
- When writing the summaries and throughout the whole application procedure, bear in mind the following tips:
- Read any guidelines before starting and contact the funder if there’s anything you don’t understand.
- Keep your summaries simple, as short as possible without sacrificing essential information – and to the point. Funders do not like long-windedness and anything off-topic. In too many applications, information relevant to one question ends up as part of the answer to another and the repetition and irrelevance produced create an impression of very confused thinking (and such applications are very frustrating and difficult to read).
- Make best efforts with the presentation and the standard of English. In the minds of funders, sloppy presentation equals a sloppy group. Once written, get somebody with the right skills to sharpen it all up.
- Answer all the questions. If you don’t the funder may think you have something to hide.
- Be as accurate and detailed as possible with all financial information. Make sure that Income and Expenditure figures given on the application form correspond to totals in accounts and statements. Never delay or deny a funder’s request for any financial information about the group – doing this is the way best guaranteed to set alarm bells ringing and ruining your chances.
- As a new group, funders are often reluctant to give you money because you don’t have a track record. They will often be explicit about this, but sometimes they won’t. At all events, if this is your first project as a new group, compensate for your lack of a track record with good planning and emphasise any relevant skills held by members of the group. It may also be best to propose running a pilot. As an aside, unlike a lot of funders, being a new group is a positive advantage for us at The Freshwater Foundation.
- You can often contact the funder with queries. Do not hesitate to take advantage of this if you have any doubts about what’s required. Applicants are often strangely reluctant to do so.
- Once You’ve Applied
- It may be quite a while until you hear the results of your application – check with the funder.
- If successful, you will probably have to sign a set of conditions.
- Make sure you keep all invoices and receipts, details of any feedback and you may well have to submit a report and meet other monitoring requirements.
- If unsuccessful, ask for feedback – it is often available.