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Trusts Top Tips For Smalls 

Trusts Top Tips for Smalls 


Whether you’re approaching trusts for the first time, or picking up a past portfolio to re-engage and rebuild relationships, here are Nova Fundraising’s Top Tips for Trusts for Small Charities.

It’s a Long-game: First and foremost, there are no quick wins in Trust Fundraising. This really is about committing to at least a mid-term income generating strategy. Some opportunities will take you a few weeks, but more will take up to 9 months to develop and others could be several years! 

Being Grant-Ready: before you get cracking making applications to trusts – especially if it’s your first time – we do recommend that you take a look at our toolkit for trust fundraising readiness. Sign up for it here. This includes topics like having your case for support ready, as well as your organisation’s business and financial plan. 

Relationships All The Way: Trust and grant fundraising – in our view – is a relationship activity. It’s not a “churn” or a mailing activity. This approach will leave you disappointed (and most likely exhausted!). Forgive the cheesy expression, but it still stands that people give to people! Each and every grant funding organisation has a unique identity and requires individual approaches. With small charities in particular, who may not have a fundraising staff member, Nova really does recommend that a Chief Executive, project manager or even trustee – takes a significant role in directly liaising with the particular trust you’re targeting. If you can, call or email them first to talk your application through to see if it’s a good fit for you both. They won’t bite. And if they do – then that’s on them, not you! The more authentic, and tangible your approach – the better. 

Applications versus Bids: At Nova we aren’t keen to refer to trust fundraising as ‘bid-writing’. It may well simply be semantics of course, but in our view, ‘bid-writing’ is focused on securing income from tenders and contracts, and selling charity services and “competing” – as opposed to building long-term sustainable relationships with philanthropic grant-makers who are interested in societal change and impact. The sooner you think of trust fundraising as a people-facing activity – rather than a “business to business sales opportunity” the better.

Storytelling to explain your “so what”: It’s always tough to find a final priority point in a short newsletter (especially for Emma Low, who we all know has never mastered the art of writing succinctly!) but we have settled on - remembering to tell stories in your trust fundraising – because it’s clear to us that small charities have some fabulous stories to tell about the way they are changing the world! We encourage you profusely to base your applications around these stories – focusing on how your brilliant solutions to complex social, health, welfare and environmental issues are making a difference. Please don’t forget that most trust funders are impact investors. Invariably they are less interested in you and your organisational entities than they are in the results you achieve. We see a lot of applications that are intensely focused on methodology, processes and complex systems and “innovations”, but we really do encourage you to think about your “so what?” and paint pictures about impact – ideally with the voices from the people you are helping. 

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