Liz Griffiths

Core trust fundraising principles (pandemic proof best practice for charities of all sizes)

This is a guest blog from Liz Griffiths, Head of Trust Fundraising at homelessness charity, SPEAR

We all know the recent pandemic has had a massive impact on fundraising. Now more than ever, fundraisers are under pressure to keep essential services afloat. But while the world around us has changed, Trust Fundraising has not. Wherever and whenever you work, you need to apply the same principles to your work.

Take my last two jobs as examples:

Just over three years ago, I left a role managing a Trust Fundraising team at a large homelessness charity. I would spend hours poring over analysis of response rates to understand how many bids we’d need to submit to hit target.

Each fundraiser had their own portfolio of funders, a range of different projects to fundraise for and different value bids to submit.  Analysis over several years showed individual fundraiser’s response rates improved as their experience grew.  But, overall, response rates were the same: ranging from 1:20 (small value bids to cold prospects) to 1:2 (multi-year grants from warm funders giving £20k+).

Fast forward to today and I’m working in a medium-sized, regional, homelessness charity.

It’s just me writing Trust bids, working 3 days a week.  I’m involved in marketing, event planning, project development and project management of the services we fund.

My response rates are high – 4:3 on the majority of bids. I (mostly) only submit bids I know have an excellent chance of succeeding, based on research, knowledge of the funder and my own professional experience. To add diversity to the portfolio, I spend two weeks a year targeting 20 – 30 smaller family trusts, from which I might see two or three new grants a year (so maybe 1:10 RR).

Despite VERY different strategies and different response rates, I have achieved the same results in both jobs, albeit on different scales: tripling Trust income, increasing the portfolio of active funders and securing sustainable restricted income.


I’ve followed the same basic principles in both roles:

  • Know yourself and your team (if you’re lucky enough to have one) so you can confidently assess what can be achieved, in the time you have, with everything you know about your charity.
  • Get to know your operational colleagues. Understand their vision and their skills. They are the people the funders want to invest in. They are responsible for the hard-hitting stories and the life changing work presented in your bid.
  • Get to know your cause and the best practice your organisation can be proud of. What are the biggest issues and how best can you address them? Use this information to develop effective projects that funders will get excited about.
  • Get to know your beneficiaries and put them at the heart of your work. Use their stories to evidence the need for projects. Make sure they are meaningfully involved in shaping the services they receive.
  • Get to know your funders, their goals, how much they’ll fund and what they expect from you in return.

Life as we know it might have changed, but our work has not.

Keep doing what you know works well and hopefully we can all keep the charity world spinning.




Posted in Trust fundraising.