owl in flight

Starting out in trust fundraising, three tools to help you fly

Starting out in trust fundraising 16 years ago, I’m not sure I really knew what it was and whether I’d be any good at it.

My mum was a trust fundraiser (one of the first to achieve the Institute of Fundraising’s Certificate in Fundraising Management) and had always suggested that the combination of creative writing and working with people would be something I’d enjoy.

Fast forward to now and I have to remind myself regularly how grateful I am that she suggested the idea to me as it suits me so well and in the years since, I’ve rarely had a day where I’ve not been excited to go to work (maybe I’ve just been blessed with REALLY good jobs but this is the honest truth).

Those first few weeks in my new trust fundraising job felt like uncovering a treasure trove.  As I dived into researching potential sources of income for my charity.  Who knew there were 8,000 charities out there dedicated purely to supporting others with grants (though I’m not sure there were that many back in the day)?


I felt a fire and an excitement fuelling me to do big things for my charity.


Before beginning (or refreshing) your programme, there are three key tools I recommend having in place when you’re starting out in trust fundraising:


  1. A well-researched, qualified list of prospects

I can appreciate how daunting the idea of this is to someone who is completely new to trust fundraising but has been thrown in at the deep end!  You just need to know where to look to gather a long list of names.

Always start with those already on your database.  It is SO much easier (and cheaper) to renew an existing relationship than to forge a new one.

Other places to look for new names include these paid resources:

And these free resources:

Once you have names, you can use the search function on the charity commission website to see if they’re a good fit for your organisation.


  1. A simple 12-month strategy

Once you have your list of prospects, it’s time to organise them into a workplan.

Consider first how much time you have to spend on trust fundraising.  Not every charity can afford a fundraiser, let alone a trusts specialist.  In many organisations, its normal for the CEO or the trustees to dedicate a bit of their otherwise stretched time to this work.

It’s so important that you don’t just begin with a long list which you work your way through as and when you have the time.  You need to make the most of the precious time you have available (full time trust fundraisers take note too!).

Assume that most funding applications will take a day or so (longer if they’re for a specific project requiring specialist information, shorter if they’re to small trust willing to fund core costs).  Complex, multi year 6-7 figures bids will take several days.

Once you know how much time you have available for trust fundraising, pick out of your long list:

  • Trusts with whom you closely meet the criteria
  • Trusts who are geographically nearby
  • Trusts who have the greatest giving capacity (and who fulfil one or both of the criteria above)

Then arrange your prospects month by month.


  1. A template proposal

There are questions typically asked by most trusts and foundations as part of the application process.   These are worth answering in advance so that:

  1. You can iron out any internal uncertainties about the delivery of your projects / services
  2. You can quickly prepare proposals and application forms without a long hiatus between identifying a potential funder and actually applying to them

Questions usually include:

  • Tell us about your organisation, who do you help and how?
  • What is the problem you’re trying to solve?
  • How much money do you need and over what period of time?
  • Your long-term plans for funding a larger / better / more complex service (this is becoming increasingly more important as funders don’t want to be responsible for sustaining charities with the same project year after year)


Create a master template application which you add to over time.

Keep it up to date and refresh the copy, incorporating feedback from funders and colleagues alike.

These three tools are everything you need before you start contacting trusts and asking them for their help.  With these things in place, you can approach the best prospects for your cause with the confidence that you’re using your time to best effect.

Thanks for reading,



We delve into these three tools in much greater depth in our online training for people new to trust fundraising.

Click here to find out more and to be the first to hear when the programme launches next.

Posted in Fundraising, Trust fundraising.