Covid-19 Charity Funding: Applying for grants and utilising ambassadors (Video)
With the world on pause, many charities are having to rethink their strategies for grant applications. Right now, there is emergency Covid-19 charity funding available. But what are the best ways to obtain funding? How can small charities also receive funding? Where can charities find grants? We talked to Rita Chadha, CEO of the Small Charities Coalition and Deanne Wolf, Senior Consultant for Trust Fundraising from Money Tree Fundraising about these issues. Find below some actionable insights and the video of our webinar Charities: Applying for grants and utilising ambassadors in the crisis.
- Trusts are interested in how beneficiaries are being impacted and not charities, who are the translators and facilitators.
- Trust fundraising is a long game, it’s about developing relationships over time, not immediately. It involves preparation and expectations have to be maintained, as results may appear only after a while.
- Applications should also take into account a clear vision of your projects and the right resources they require.
- Manage your expectations. Trust funding is about preparation. You’ll do an awful load of work at the beginning and you may not see anything for a while.
- Think about the challenges you are facing now because of the crisis and how your organisation will be different in the following six months.
- Research is a time and money investment that will pay off.
- Avoid falling into research ‘rabbit holes’. Don’t waste time applying for grants that your charity does not qualify for.
- Your beneficiaries are the best ambassadors but you need to handle their stories mindfully and with respect.
- Focus on what message your charity would like to deliver and decide how you tell your story based on content, purpose and medium.
Can you give us an overview of funding at the moment, and especially Covid-19 charity funding?
Deanna Wolf: There’s no one way to do trust funding. There are a couple of ways to do it, it depends on the culture of your organisation, but there are ways no to do it right.
My take right now is that it changes from moment to moment. 500 charities and trusts are giving funding towards Covid-19 projects so a lot of the funding is very specific to that. For example, a lot of funding is dedicated to frontline services and people who are impacted immediately and directly by the crisis. Funding is not necessarily at the moment dealing with charities that are impacted because they have to furlough people or close down or by loss of income. All the efforts are going towards providing relief during the crisis so try to tie in your resources and your approach with dealing with people who are impacted by the crisis.
It’s a matter of being patient and doing some planning and taking a step back and take a really deep breath and think of what can you put on hold realistically. I know a lot of charities that are already doing that. And not panic! This isn’t a situation where we need to panic. We haven’t lost physical infrastructure.
There is money coming in and there is emergency money coming out, but you have to be prepared and understand that there’s a limited number of people who are being able to process everything. They might be getting thousands of applications, so it will take six months potentially for some of that funding to come through. Some are being fast-tracked and I know some charities are getting funding already.
Trust fundraising is a long game anyway and you have to understand that there are a limited amount of people who are able to process things at the moment since so many people are on furlough.
There have been a lot of announcements about Covid-19 charity funding available. How do you start writing applications? And how do you find the right fit?
Deanna Wolf: I think there are two sides to it, you can’t separate being prepared to write applications from doing the research for it. First of all, the trust wants to find out how your beneficiaries are being impacted. You, as a charity, are the translator and the facilitator. As an organisation, if you are not there, what would the impact be on your beneficiaries? Keep in mind that it’s about them, not about us.
Trust fundraising is a long game, it’s about developing relationships over time, not about developing them immediately. It does have some crosses over with some major donors, but still, it’s about relationships and sometimes these relationships are about making sure you meet deadlines and you respond when they ask you a question. It is a detailed activity and it is about reporting requirement so don’t apply for something you’re not going to have the capacity to deliver on because you might have to give the money back and that might have a greater impact on you than not having the money in the first place.
The other thing is don’t do trust fundraising if you don’t think you can’t justify that your project is a fundable project and it’s interesting to funders. If you’re not sure, talk to people about it, see if they are interested in what you’re doing, or is it that you’re just being very passionate about it? You need to be responding to needs right now, not to wants. If you want funds to build a new building, what is the need for that building? Prioritise needs over wants.
If you’re a registered charity you’re going to have a lot more chances of winning funding at the moment. CICs, social enterprises, nonregistered charities can get money from trusts, but they’re not particularly attractive to trusts. If that’s the area of your activity, you might need to look for different income strings.
You also need to be looking for funding that is for current identifiable and future projects and costs. This is not the time to develop new projects, unless it fits with your strategy really closely, where it helps you right now in this pandemic to deliver your services. If you need to build an online system at the moment because that is the only way to deliver your service then that fits as a new project.
From a research point of view, I would say trust fundraising to some extent needs to be kept the same way we’re doing it. This is the time where you can do things that normally you wouldn’t have time for. Research is one of those. If you have the funders then you know what you can write on the application. Knowing why you need the funding is really important and that only comes through research. What you’re looking for is somebody who can give you the size of the donation you need. But keep in mind there’s a very small percentage of the roughly 4000 or more trusts that give grants of more than £10,000 in the UK. A lot of the very big ones are concentrating right now on COVID 19 and the projects that they are currently funding. Check the guidelines of those ones. So, for example, Garfield West, or the Sainsbury Trust. The Association of the Charitable Foundations list has 300 places where you can go look for funding. Find the list here.
Trust funding is about preparation. You’ll do an awful load of work at the beginning and you may not see anything for a while. Manage your expectations with that, with the research you need to know what you’re looking for and what kinds of things do you want funding for. And about how much money, where you can look for. There are databases out there, there are paid subscription databases, but there also some free ones that you can access. Additionally to that, you can get in touch with the charity itself because a lot of the times they’ll have a website. The website will have current information on whether they suspended grants for the moment.
Type in the name of the charity in whatever search engine you use, you may find some really interesting gems. Your local TSI. Your local authority will have funding in it, they have community grants on newsletters and often on the business development are their business pages where you may find ‘information for funding sources for businesses’. Sometimes, they’re classing charities there, so it’s worth having a look on that. Sign up for a newsletter and they’ll tell you what are the charities having a deadline coming up or some Government pots of money they have to spend before the end of the year. But for that, you need to know what you’re doing so talk to your team, see what their current projects are.
Think also of your colleagues are they trustees of any organisations such as the Rotary or the Masons program? There are local groups that have local activities and funding. The other organisations’ annual reviews and reports, who sometimes list who they got funding from. The other ones are libraries and directories, journals, local media and blogs. It’s worth finding out where these resources are, so spend half a morning on that, it’s time well spent.
Take a look at your previous funders and what your relationship with them are, including the ones that may have lapsed. Get back in touch with them. Keep in mind that you might be needing money now, but you’ll also need it in 6 months, so a lot of the things that you’ll be doing now will be coming back to you in 6 months. And if you don’t start now, it will be 7 months or 8 months or 9 months. So that’s why I am saying, keep going with things and start now.
There are subscription databases. Depending on your funding needs they may be a good investment. There’s Factary or GRIN.
You need to know how much money you need before you start researching. If you need £100,000 and you don’t have anyone giving you the entire sum, find out what is the smallest amount you can look at. Don’t discount the smaller amounts you can obtain. If you can only get £5000 or £500 that is also good. Keep in mind that those funders might decide to keep that funding up for the next couple of years and all of a sudden decide to give you £10,000. Every little bit counts. It’s all about building those relationships. If you have 90% of your larger amount available or already funded, than going to the smaller ones is fine because that little bit extra will help you reach your goal. If you are thinking of going for the smaller grants first, you might also need to realise that you need a larger sum to begin with since a small sum won’t actually make a difference.
Know exactly what you need the money for because that could get you on a shortlist. You need to overlap their funding or have ties to their trustees already and you can only do that by meeting their guidelines. It’s about quality rather than quantity, so it’s better to have your name on fewer lists that are amazing rather than have your name on a lot of ok lists.
Keep in mind that eliminating a potential funder can be just as valuable as qualifying one. Having them not on your list means you don’t have to worry about them anymore, especially if it’s someone everyone is saying ‘oh, you should go to them’. It might be the case that you don’t actually match the guidelines of the very popular ones.
This is a list of top three tips for when you are doing research:
- Research is a time and money investment that will pay off. Right now that is imperative. Guidelines are changing day by day. People are suspending their grant activity, there are some trusts that will close. Unfortunately, that is a reality and you might need to look at this rather coldly and move on from there.
- There are research ‘rabbit holes’ that you should be avoiding. If there’s no strategic match, don’t waste time applying unless you’ve been invited to do so. If it’s a general match and you already have a grant cover letter or a short proposal or it’s a short application it’s worth giving it a go. If you don’t ask you don’t get, equally it is none of the above things and it is too general, leave it for the end after you have the other ones covered.
- Keep your funding priorities clear. If you find potential funders for other projects note them and park them until later when you are dealing with the other project, unless the deadline is tomorrow. If they allow, contact the funder and clarify any deadline related issues. It could be the beginning of the relationship. Keep in mind for now that some of the funders are managed from legal firms or accountancy firms so they may not have anyone on board that can answer the question for you. Do your best with what you have.
Find more tips here.
There are some wonderful stories about amazing ambassadors like Captain Tom who raised millions for the NHS. With a story like this in mind, what is an ideal ambassador and how do you find them?
Rita Chadha: It’s difficult to get into a celebrity network, so I think that social media is absolutely fantastic for that and especially Twitter. So if you want to court someone, start by introducing yourself kindly on social media. It’s also important to look at your trustees as well and look back historically and see who they are connected to. A useful exercise we have done is we have asked our trustees to declare their professional and personal close alliances, partly so there is no conflict of interests but also to strategically help us find external ambassadors.
I would also say that the best ambassadors for any organisation are people that are your members or your beneficiaries. It’s those voices that are actually the most powerful, that appeal with funders because it’s that emotion of a story, that emotion of an experience that actually connects with people.
Deanna Wolf: Absolutely. Having a case study in your application, if there’s room for it, can make all the difference. You are then talking about someone that is real, not something that is just ephemeral.
Rita Chadha: There are some things you have to be wary of when you have your beneficiaries as ambassadors such as GDPR. You have to be mindful of how you’re going to present a beneficiary’s story. The other key important issue is to make you debrief people after they have shared their story, especially if it has been in a public forum. It can be quite traumatic to share that you have been a survivor of domestic abuse or that you have had to face some trauma. Having that compassion both when you were supporting the individual and when you are asking the person to help you is critically important. The debriefing helps keep that goodwill.
How do you tell the story in the right way? How do you reach that balance between being mindful of the beneficiary’s story and reaching the funders?
Rita Chadha: I think you have to be very focused on deciding what your message is. Good storytelling is about the impact, about what your story is trying to achieve. What makes a story resonate within your organisation? What is it that you want to communicate and why do you want to communicate that. Is it that you want money, is it that you want to influence, is it that you want to change strategic thinking, is it that you want a public culture change? Be clear on why you want to tell the story. When you’re telling a story think about what the medium you are going to use. Is it something that needs a visual element, a drama element, is it something that needs a comical element? Is it going to be in the press, on television?
Deanna Wolf: Within trust fund applications, I would say know what your story is. Full stop. Answer the 5 Ws and the H. You should be answering the who (who are you?), when, what (what are you doing/are you achieving?), where (where are you /is the activity taking place?), why (why do you need this support?) and how (how are you doing this?). It’s about looking at you and the beneficiaries. Get all of that in, as well as your budget and the contact details of all the people involved, especially nowadays when people are working from home. In these days I would also want to know how are you going to do things differently now and in six months?
Once this is over you would need to know what you are going to go back to and what you are going to deliver. Once isolation is over it will be different, tomorrow will be different so you need to start planning today. Have you found out that actually your beneficiaries are preferring to do things online because it helps them better than coming into your resource or your service area because they don’t have the bus fare to get there?
I would say that the single most important thing you need right now is to get that case to support ready because it means that you can take advantage of opportunities.
How do you apply for the government fund? What are the logistics of that?
Rita Chadha: The fund is not in the public domain at the moment, it will come via The National Lottery. There are two parts to the fund.
There are the lotteries, the standard pot of funding, and that is focused on providing COVID-19 relief at the moment. If you were in Stage 2 of your funding application pre-COVID-19, you should contact the funding officer of the National Lottery and talk to them. If you don’t have that but still had an application handed in pre-COVID-19, then you should think about how you can make that COVID-19 responsive.
The second part of the funding will come from individual government departments but that is also based on how the larger national charities relate to this area of funding. For example, St. John’s Ambulance will go directly to the Department of Health for its funding.
There are charities whose work does not directly relate to the crisis, so Covid-19 charity funding isn’t directly for them. How can they survive the year ahead?
Rita Chadha: The answer here is how do you raise unrestricted funding? You can have a look at KindLink’s online crowdfunding platform or other kinds of platforms that you can quickly mobilise. The 2.6 challenge is organised by the people behind the London Marathon and the 26th of April there will be a fundraising challenge. You don’t have to be a COVID-19 response agency to take part in that challenge.
Deanna Wolf: Also go and see what your council is doing, since the councils will receive government funding. Keep up to date with all the relevant Facebook pages that are dedicated to charity funding. But also remember it is all about your beneficiaries. Argue your case to obtain funds, since there is a lot of competition out there. If you have received information and instructions from your funders on how to use the money then follow them to a T. Keep in mind that funders are going through thousands of applications each day so think about how you present your application, about the fonts that you use.
What are some of the things charities should keep in mind and do for when things restart?
Rita Chadha: The world will look very different. We have hit pause but there will be an impact on both our macro and micro organisations. Thinking very logically what are going to be the needs of your beneficiaries post this? What are going to be the needs of your organisation? Has working from home turned out to be a better experience than you’ve needed? Do you really need that office 5 days a week? Could you actually share with somebody else and cut down your overall costs? Is there a different way you’d look at digital services online as well?