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A guide on putting together your first trust application

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Every small international charity gets to a stage where it needs to start bringing in the money to cover not only the programmes but also pay for the meeting space hire, travel and, most importantly, time of the experienced people who are helping to grow and develop the organisation.

Trust fundraising can be daunting at first.

Personally, I heard many negative comments right before I even started, such as that not many trusts support international charities, and that those that do, receive so many applications that the success rate is now close to 1 awarded grant per 12 applications sent.

I still don’t know whether it’s a myth or reality!

This 5 step guide below will help you get started on your first trust application. Please note that the below guide is not exclusive and that it is always worth consulting an experienced trust fundraiser if you think you additional help.

If you are a small INGO, Fair Development provides affordable and appropriate support to organisations like yours.

1. Make sure your brand looks professional

By brand, I mean your visual representation.

Do you have a website?

Do you have social media?

Do you have a logo?

How consistent is your messaging through all your channels?

Do you have a vision? Mission? Strapline?

Do you have 200 words/100-word write-up that explains your work in a simple, easy to understand manner?

If not, start now! It’s all about representation and standing out from the crowd.

Work on your elevator pitch, think about your achievements or, if you are just starting out, the direct impact it will have on your beneficiaries.

Communicate that impact not only in numbers but in stories too. You need the presence of the factual figures but don’t forget that your beneficiaries are also people. Share their stories, tell the potential funder about the change you could make to someone’s life.

2. Understand your financial needs

You say you are ready to fundraise, but do you exactly how much money you need and what you will use it for? What’s the impact that this money will make on your organisation? Who will it benefit?

Assess your needs and play the role of being a trustee of a foundation: would you give money to your charity knowing what the money will be used for?

As much the belief (and most likely the reality) is that most trusts still support very well-rounded, specific grant requests, more and more grantmakers understand the complexities when it comes to international development and is becoming more open to supporting small start-up charity development, including core and fundraising costs.

3. Identify your prospects

Now that your brand is in good shape and you know exactly what you need, sit down and do some research.

Connect with your peers in the charity world and ask them if they know of any trusts and foundations that are interested in supporting your cause.

Trusts change their interests from time to time and charity professionals are likely to share the news with their colleagues in the sector when they hear about any changes or new grant application openings. Stay connected!

Small International Development Charities Network Group on Facebook has a great list of trusts available in their resources drive, Grants Online newsletters are useful to receive, for those after a bigger grant, BOND website has a funding opportunity section.

A great way to find the best prospects is to look at the annual accounts of charities that do similar work to that of yours.

Most accounts provide a list of trusts and foundations that supported them. It’s always good to then look them up on The Charity Commission website to learn more about their interests and criteria.

The above resources list is not exclusive. There are many free and paid resources out there, so do your research!

4. Tailor your proposal to the focus and interests of the trust

In the process of researching trusts, you will soon notice that most trusts have a focus on specific elements of the work, the way in which they want the work done, or the kind of organisations they are more likely to support.

If the trust you identified as a prospect is interested in grassroots organisations that are just starting out and they are all about sustainability, do not send them a proposal that is focused on one particular element of your work.

Tell them the whole story of who you are and what your ambition is. Be open and vulnerable, as they are more likely to become longer-term partners in your development, which means a more solid relationship and potential multi-year grants.

5. Don’t over-edit it

Bring all the different elements of your work together into a trust proposal.

Don’t forget to introduce your work, talk about your vision, share some examples of your work, and write in a personable and open manner.

Move the sections around and make the most important ones stand out more (put them in bold, increase the font size, or maybe change the colour of the text).

Play out these two scenarios with someone who does not know much about your organisation.

Firstly, give them the draft to look at and after about 45 seconds take it away from them. Ask them what they looked at first and what they can remember. This will help you understand whether the sections are being positioned in the most effective way.

Don’t forget that funders initially only skim through your application, so it’s important to catch their attention the second they look at your application.

Then, give that same draft to the person again and them to read it in full. Ask them to pretend to be a Board member of a foundation:

Would they give money to you?

Do they have any questions?

Is there anything missing? Is it easy to read?

Then, once the review is complete, send it out! Otherwise, you will end up tweaking it and asking for feedback until you realise another year has gone!

Good luck! If you need any advice, have any questions or comments, or wish to speak to us about how we could support your trust fundraising programme, get in touch with us anytime.


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