How to make every trust application count

We all know how difficult it can be to compete for precious funding, so how can your charity give itself the best possible chance of making a good impression, and make every application count?

Well, one way is to anticipate some of the questions funders may have about your organisation, project or finances, and address these directly in advance.

At the FSI I have the opportunity to meet with hundreds of amazing small charities in our free Trusts and Foundations course and the following tips have been taken from some of the questions I am asked most frequently:

New programme/organisation or untested activities

If you are a relatively new charity, or you’re starting to run a new project, it can be hard to provide evidence that you know your work will be a success if you don’t have the track record to prove it. This can be especially tricky if you’re a small charity that the funder may not have heard of.

While many trusts and foundations are willing to take a risk on funding new or innovative work; you’ll still need to be able to eliminate any questions they may have on your ability to deliver, make sure you answer all the questions asked.

Show them what you do

One of the easiest ways to do this is to use your business plan, or the model on which your programme is based, and explain why you believe it will work. You’ll also need to show why your charity is the right organisation to carry out these activities, and what experience your staff or volunteers have to support the delivery of the outcomes.

You’ve shown it, prove it!

In addition to your plan it will also be useful to let them see you have a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system in place before the programme is underway, which will be able to capture the impact of your work. This will allow you to assess the effectiveness of your programme and whether improvements are required, as well as providing you with a wealth of information for your funding reports it will provide evidence of your impact for future bids.

Large reserves or no reserves

Your accounts may be showing what look like large reserves, which may not be in line with your reserves policy. If this is the case you should explain why – before the question is raised – and why you are therefore not using the reserves to run the projects you are requesting funding for.

If you are unable to explain the level of reserves your charity has, then you will need to think about releasing these reserve funds to run your services, as many funders will refuse your requests if they feel you already have the funds needed.

On the other hand, if you have not met your reserves policy, i.e. you do not have the specific level required as set out within your accounts/policy, you will need to explain why this is the case, and show that this is something you are actively working towards. Otherwise it can raise questions on the governance of your charity and potential risks around insolvency or other financial difficulties.

Deficit

If your charity is in a deficit, this is another potential reason why a funder may question the financial security of the charity. Again, this is something that you should explain in advance – including the reason for the deficit and the plans you have in place to eliminate it.

Over-reliance on one source of funding

If you are over-reliant on one source of funding, then your sustainability may be brought into question. If this funding happened to be cut, your organisation would be vulnerable – and therefore you will need to show the funder that you are aware of this vulnerability, and that you have a plan in place to move away from the over-reliance.

This can be done by developing a mixed income economy, whereby you raise funds from a range of different sources, and/or take steps to secure funding from a mixture of raised voluntary income, statutory income and earned income.

Interested in finding out more? Come along to one of our free Corporate Fundraising courses. Full details can be seen here: http://www.thefsi.org/services/training/