Friday, 21 June 2024
UK Charity Week 2024 - Sponsored by Sinclair Method UK
Friday, 21 June 2024

Navigating the fundraising landscape: Ten proven approaches for charities

For many charities, identifying sources of funding can be a constant struggle. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to describe the challenge as identifying appropriate sources of funding.

A quick internet search shows that there are many thousands of funding opportunities out there, but relatively few are open and unrestricted. Funders often want to support particular causes or to target their efforts in particular geographic areas. Funders may not support the day-to-day running costs of charities or they may have ‘funding windows’ that are not open at the specific time that charities need the money. Some funders are now offering support-in-kind over cash. With so much variation and restriction, how can charity leaders and fundraisers find the funding that is right for them?

Throughout my time working and volunteering for multiple charities and not-for-profit organisations, there are ten fundraising approaches that keep recurring. Here is a quick rundown to help you consider which of them might be right for your charity.

1. Internet Search

This may sound like an obvious starting point, but it is an approach that some charity leaders dismiss as being a waste of time. It is true that searching generically for things like ‘charity funding’ or ‘non-profit grants’ is too broad and likely to result in little that is useful. However, a well-structured set of targeted searches can yield excellent results. Searches that specify why the funding is needed, who the beneficiaries are and the geographic area are more likely to be successful, particularly if using advanced search features.

2. AI-Powered Tools

Everybody seems to have heard about how AI is changing our world and finding funding is no exception. Funding identification services such as On Radar and the Charity Excellence Framework are increasingly making use of AI to improve and tailor their support for charities. Some charities have used ‘Alexa adverts’ with AI technology allowing listeners to donate immediately via their device.

3. Public Donations

Whether it be collection tins in shops or volunteers asking for money in railway stations, the age-old method of collecting small amounts of money from a large number of people is still being used. More mature approaches are centred on securing a regular donation rather than a one-off, which can create more sustainable revenue streams lasting many years. Similarly, in an increasingly cashless society, the use of card readers over collection tins is becoming the norm.

4. Private Donations

Targeting your fundraising efforts to individuals who have a personal interest in your charity is a tactic used by many organisations. Seeing these relationships as strategic partnerships where solutions are coproduced can be highly effective. Some charities nurture these relationships for mutual benefit leading to major gifts and legacies. Others secure influence and insights that are invaluable to realising their charitable objects. One of the key things to remember though is that the number one reason why individuals give to charity is because they were asked.

5. Crowdfunding.

Whilst originally conceived as an alternative way for businesses to access start-up funding, crowdfunding has become a popular fundraising tool across third-sector organisations. Platforms like JustGiving or GoFundMe allow large numbers of people to contribute to your charitable cause. The money raised can be considered as a grant rather than a loan or an investment, since it doesn’t need to be repaid, nor does it entitle those donating any ongoing say in how money is spent. However, some crowdfunding platforms have fees or commissions, which charities should be mindful of.

6. Trusts and Foundations.

A staple of the seasoned fundraiser is the world of Trusts and Foundations. However, if you are going to ask for funding it is important you choose the right funder and that you give them the right information at the right time. It sounds simple, but some funders will have very specific requirements, so it is important to do your homework. For those wanting to explore this further, the Chartered Institute of Fundraising offers some excellent insights.

7. Corporate Partnerships.

In the not-too-distant past, large for-profit organisations would often have CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programmes, which provided money for charities and other good causes. Some still have CSR programmes, but it has become increasingly common to see corporates focused on ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) priorities. Charities looking to secure funding through corporate partnerships may find that the most effective relationships are those where the charitable objects are closely aligned to the corporate’s ESG priorities.

8. Government Funding.

In the UK, local government often offers financial support for charities and other initiatives that support local priorities or the local community. Such support could be further leveraged through match-funding from a private donor or a Trust. Similarly, fundraisers should consider monitoring government grants as a way of securing public money with public sector support to realise their charitable objectives. If your charity has successfully delivered charitable benefits using public funding, then this can be a good evidence base to help access funding from governments outside of the UK.

9. Social Enterprise Projects.

Some charities run social enterprise projects as a way of engaging with their stakeholders whilst simultaneously creating a revenue stream. For example, such a project could be a café that is staffed by the beneficiaries of a charity or a shop selling donations that is staffed by volunteers. Implemented well, social enterprises work as both standalone projects and as a scalable commercial model.

10. Commercial Activity.

Charity leaders should not fall into the trap of viewing commercials as the enemy of charity. Indeed, it could be argued that charities need to operate commercially to deliver maximum charitable benefit. Some charities choose to offer paid-for services such as training, publications or products, with profits being donated to the charity. This is a useful way for charities to reduce their sustainability risks by diversifying their revenue streams.

Ultimately, each charity will need to adopt an approach to fundraising that fits with its values, capability and capacity. It is hoped that this rundown of ten fundraising opportunities allows charity leaders to make a more informed choice about what is right for them.

Prof Adam Boddison OBE
CEO – Association for Project Management
Managing Director – On Radar


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