Researching possible donors and funders

The second step after making a plan, is putting that plan into action. Sadly, sustainable fundraising isn’t a ‘build it and they will come’ situation, it is a challenging and ever-present process that requires time and toil. But we do have some hints to make it easier and more effective.

How to find funding?

Finding funding or potential donors starts by identifying the revenue streams available to you. The likelihood of a perfect investor just landing in your lap is slim, and even if they did it’s important to identify a diverse range of funding sources, so not to leave yourself exposed should the unexpected occur.

Consider a mix of the following:

Statutory sources – local authority or national government grants and contracts

Grant making bodies – including trusts and foundations; lottery funding and community funds

Corporates – including sponsorship, mentoring or pro-bono work and payroll giving

Community and individuals – including regular giving, volunteering, running fundraising events for you, legacies, membership and crowdfunding

Earned income – including e-bay stores and charity shops, running cafes, selling merchandise or hiring premises

Events – including sporting challenges, digital events, galas, coffee mornings and concerts.

Watch our webinar with sector experts, The Directory of Social Change, for more guidance on funding sources.

Where to look – fundraising websites

Charities Excellence frameworkContains several online heath-check questionnaires for your charity to review fundraising, governance and impact. You must register on the site for access.Free
Funds OnlineContains four lists of funding sources including grant making charities, statutory sources and contributions from companies. Run by the Directory of Social Change, who provide further resources and training on their website.Subscription
GrantNavGeneral directory for charitable funding.Free
Grants OnlineContains regional funding information, as well as funds organised by cause.Free
Local community foundations46 local community foundations across the UK provide support to local grassroots charities and groups. Check the UK Community Foundation website to see local support in your area.Free
Lottery good causesProvides information on the various lottery fund programmes available.Free
The Heritage Funding DirectoryFunding for the heritage sector.Free

Some of these websites charge subscription fees, so consider if you are part of any umbrella organisations that already has access, so you do not need to pay. It is also worth researching the annual accounts and reports of other charities doing similar work to you, to see which funders have supported them. Annual reports are in the public domain and are available via the Charity Commission website.

What to look for – researching charity grants and funding

NameName of potential funder or donor
TypeThe type of potential funder that you want to approach. These include trusts, foundations, corporate funders, statutory bodies and philanthropic individuals who may be able to support your activities.
Area of interestThe potential funder’s areas of interest, the fit with your organisation and the projects/activities which need funding. For example, the funder may be interested in the protection of the environment and natural heritage; promoting the arts or helping marginalised sectors of society.
Past givingOther charities, projects or organisations that a funder has supported in the past, and what kind of grants they have awarded. The funder may have a particular track record in supporting grass root community groups or the restoration of museums and heritage buildings. Understanding what a funder likes, or has a tendency to support, will help you to work out if they are a good match for your organisation. Knowing about relevant past grants or gifts, including the amount, will also help you gain a sense of what level of gift to request.
Key peopleTry to find a list of trustees, key executives or administrative staff (such as a grants manager) of a given trust, foundation or funder. These should be listed in their annual reports or provided on the given funder’s Charities Commission website listing. Try to map a route to any of these through your networks to effect an introduction or letter of endorsement.
ProcedureAny key elements in the funder’s application process including deadlines and any financial information or supporting materials that they require. Some may wish you to complete a paper application form (rather than online) while others have an online quiz to assess your suitability for their grants. Some funders have several deadlines per year so think about which deadline ties in best with your charity’s governance process.
Important to noteAny special considerations relating to your approach to this funder or donor for a grant or gift. For example, some funders exclude capital projects or ongoing costs.
Target amountThe target amount that you will be seeking from this donor, taking their areas of interest and track record into consideration.

Top tip: It can be helpful to colour code each of the possible funders/donors to show their potential to give a gift or grant to your charity. This can be according to their likelihood to give or the possible size of their financial contribution. Colour coding can help you to prioritise your approaches and applications. For example: GREEN – most likely to give to your charity; AMBER – may give to your charity; RED – unlikely to give to your charity.

We have provided a downloadable empty template for you to capture this information during your research.

Done your research?

You’ve found your potential prospects, now you need to ask for funding.

Move to step 3
Successful grant applications and building a strong case for support

Step 3

Move to Step 3
Successful grant applications and building a strong case for support

Step 3