Thoughts of an (almost) Retired Fundraiser

For thirty years I have raised money, given it out, told others how to do it and even lectured on it at Universities. However, as in most industries, I’m still learning.

Gary Bentham 18th February 2019

Thoughts of an (almost) Retired Fundraiser

There is no black art book of fundraising, but there are a few hard and fast rules that can be almost summed up in a mantra, Need-Project-Outcome. There are very few funders, and for that read none, who will give you money just because they sympathise with the fact that you are looking after three-legged gerbils! You have to demonstrate the need, show how your project will meet this need and that you have an idea of what outcomes this project will achieve.

I agree it can be frustrating when a funder, be that a Trust, the Lottery or an individual doesn’t get what you are trying to do and therefore doesn’t support you, but why should they? The odds are they’ve never heard of your organisation before, so it is up to you to get this down in an application in plain speech.

Equally, it can be frustrating for a grant-making panel when they can see an outline of a good project but with no substance in the application showing who asked for the project and what it is aiming to achieve. You may ask why the funder doesn’t come back to you for more information? Most funding bodies get thousands, even tens of thousands of applications a year. They cannot chase up applications for missing information, it would be time-consuming and costly. So no, it is up to you to get the information down in your application.

If you are new to fundraising I would advise you go to some fundraising advice sessions or training. In Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole Councils for Voluntary Services and Dorset Community Action deliver some good ones. Also, when researching a potential funder look out for those magic words, ‘this Trust welcomes preliminary discussions.’ So before getting down to 2 to 4 hours of application writing, email or ring them and briefly run your idea past them for advice. This has the added advantage that if you do submit an application, they will already have heard of you.

Many of the funders have been in your shoes and are ready and willing to give advice so you do not waste your time and theirs. Dorset Community Foundation is one of those, they have staff who are experienced and will willingly give you advice on what they need to see in your applications and if it doesn’t suit their current programmes, they can signpost you to where it might.

So, in conclusion, what I have learned over 30 years is that the key to eventual success in fundraising is research, read the guidelines, practice the mantra Need-Project-Outcome and if possible ask someone, but not me I’m retired, well almost.

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