Fundraising from Trusts and Foundations: Spreading your Bets

By Amanda Rigali on

Amanda-150Through my training work for the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programme, and with our graduate Arts Fundraising Fellows, I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently talking with people in the arts about the best ways to fundraise through Trusts & Foundations.  I’ve summarized a few key points below, which I hope will help others and/or stimulate debate.

According to the Association of Charitable Foundations, there are over 8,800 Trusts & Foundations in the UK, giving around £2.7 billion each year.  We know that they are an essential source of contributed income across the arts and cultural sectors.  Arts Council England figures show that in 2012/13, National Portfolio Organisations collectively received almost £56 million from Trusts & Foundations, an average of 4% of their total combined income.

We can see from the total amount of income available through Trusts & Foundations that there is room for growth across the arts and cultural sector. However, there are also challenges.  As statutory funding declines, there will be more competition for Trusts & Foundations funding, and as interest rates remain low, organisations reliant on interest from endowments will have less money available to distribute.  So how can we help to increase our success rates with applications to Trusts & Foundations?

Firstly, be clear about your legal position.  Over 90% of Trusts & Foundations will only accept applications from registered charities.  Whilst arts-friendly organisations such as Paul Hamlyn and Esmée Fairbairn will accept applications from non-charities, they are very much in the minority.  They can however distort the picture for the arts & cultural sector, which can focus a bit too heavily on these major organisations and fail to cast their nets widely enough across the Trusts & Foundations sea.

This brings me to my second point: spread your bets.  Don’t spend months crafting a ‘perfect’ application to one Trust, submit it, then wait for the outcome before trying somewhere else.  Re-configure your submission to fit at least five different Trusts & Foundations, and submit them all at the same time – spread your bets.  In order to do this, you’ll need to undertake wide prospect research for Trusts & Foundations.  Below are some cost-free tips.

  • If you can’t afford to pay to subscribe to a Trust Funding research site, there is a good free web resource here: .
  • The Charity Commission website is a great source of information.  Most Trusts & Foundations are themselves charities, and so submit Audited Accounts which show the numbers, levels and beneficiaries for their grants.  This gives you invaluable insight into their grant-giving.
  • Voluntary Service Councils or local authorities sometimes give information on funding opportunities for voluntary organisations in their area.  Birmingham’s Voluntary Service Council is a great example:
  • Do some good old sleuthing.  Go back into the Audited Accounts for your competitors, or organisations similar to yours, and discover which Trusts & Foundations they received funding from – not necessarily last year, but perhaps five years ago, or when they were at a similar stage of development to your own organisation.

And finally, good luck to you all!  Applications to Trusts & Foundations will always be a lottery, but if you spread your bets you will unquestionably raise your likelihood of success.

What do you think?  Do you have any great tips on Trusts & Foundations to share?

Posted by Amanda Rigali

Amanda is Director of Strategic Development at Cause4, and Head of the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programme. As well as running the Programme, Amanda runs fundraising training sessions for cultural professionals across England and offers intensive strategy support to a range of charities.

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