Charities like every other sector have been enormously affected by COVID-19. Services have at worst been closed or in most cases adapted to remote working. Senior managers and fundraisers are being asked to re-strategise at a rapid pace in order to fill fundraising holes or raise income for emergency services.

Having worked with a number of small to medium sized charities throughout this pandemic, below are a few tips to help you with your trust fundraising during these very uncertain times.

1. Communicate with all your current trust funders

You are far more likely to gain additional funding from trusts who have or who are currently supporting your work. Therefore, it is really important you contact all your current funders and let them know how your charity is coping/adapting. How has the pandemic affected your beneficiaries? How have you adapted your services to best support them? How has your organisational structure changed? With many fundraising channels being affected negatively, what strategies are you putting in place to address any funding shortfall?

Make sure you keep it concise – an update ideally should probably be no more than a side of A4.

Updating trusts about service delivery changes is so important and in some cases a formal requirement (check the terms of your grant). Once contacted and your situation explained, trusts will be far more willing to:

  • Become more flexible around reporting and payment schedules.
  • Some may also convert restricted funding to unrestricted funding or they might allow you to request advance payments to help ease cash flow.
  • They may also give you an additional grant to support your organisation during these difficult times or invite you to submit an additional application for emergency funding.

Often when I speak to clients they feel nervous about contacting funders – they really shouldn’t. The vast majority of the trusts I have worked with over the years want to be contacted. They are grateful for the updates, are mindful that we are all operating in unprecedented times and want to support you as much as they can

I cannot stress enough – you are far more likely to gain additional funding from trusts who are currently supporting your work.

2. Creating a compelling emergency COVID-19 application

Below are some basic do’s and don’ts to help you write a case for support.

  • Work collaboratively across your whole organisation. Before putting pen to paper, try and talk to a variety of frontline staff. Ask them how the pandemic has impacted on their service users. What has been the general feedback? What are their biggest concerns/problems regarding COVID-19?
    The application will need to show how your services have been adapted and how effective that transition has been. Have service users embraced the new way of working? How many people are you currently supporting? It is important to be clear about numbers and not over sell. At some point you will have to report back.
  • Be compelling. The most effective way to show a funder the importance of your work is through stories. A beneficiary case study about why they needed help, the support you gave and the difference it made, is by far the most compelling way to show impact. Your beneficiaries will always be able to explain the need for your organisation far better than you.
  • Don’t use jargon and don’t waffle. It’s so easy to get bogged down in your own jargon. Try to keep the wording simple. Use short sentences and avoid using the same words over and over. Editing down once a proposal has been written is a critical part of the process. It’s often helpful to get someone from outside your organisation to read your application. Make sure it’s someone who is capable of giving honest feedback – not everyone is. Ask them what parts stood out for them. If you can – move that part to the beginning or make it more prominent. So many times I have realised what I have written at the end of a proposal, needed to be at the start.
  • Provide evidence but don’t bore the reader. As fundraisers we all know everything needs to be evidence based, but please do not saturate your proposal with statistical data. It’s boring. Choose 2 or 3 statistics that really highlight the need and make sure they are current. Data that is 10 years old, no matter how relevant is not going to strengthen your case.
  • Be clear on outputs and outcomes. Outputs are the activities/services you provide and outcomes are the impact it has on your beneficiary. Never confuse the two. Also (and this is a personal bugbear) you need to ensure your organisation has the correct monitoring processes in place to evidence that your outcomes have been achieved. If you have not got this in place, how will your report back effectively and gain repeat funding? Try and make sure the data you capture has both qualitative and quantitative elements to it.
  • Finally – be passionate. You need to really care and believe in the work you do. I know this is obvious but when that comes across in an application, it truly elevates it. It is that X factor of passion and belief that will make your application stand out and be remembered.

Finally to help you with your fundraising, I have put together a number of websites that list COVID-related funders:

Good luck and if you need advice or support about trust fundraising during this crisis, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a free chat.