Managing a trust fundraiser

Trust fundraising targets, KPI’s and expectations

It can be argued that fundraisers are the easiest people to performance manage because the metrics  (or metric) you use to measure them are black and white.


How much money have they raised?


Having been a fundraiser for many years, I would argue that using this metric alone can be misleading and was keen to express the danger of citing the ‘money raised’ stat in isolation when we published our benchmarking report on return on investment in fundraising back in May.

So for those of you who are either managing trust fundraisers or who have found yourself thrown into the deep end and are doing the trust fundraising (because there’s no-one else…), what measures can you use to track progress?

Here are a few which I’d find useful:

  1. How many qualified prospects are you working with overall?

A qualified prospect is a charitable trust whom you have already researched and deem to be a good fit for your organisation or project.

If you have very few prospects, then you may wish to dedicate some time to research (this is another helpful metric).  If you have too many prospects then you may wish to research them with a view to identifying the warmest, most relevant to focus on.

I once arrived at a job to find I had been allocated over 200 trusts to look after (and trust fundraising wasn’t even my full-time occupation!).

Fifty trusts are a good baseline number for a full-time trust fundraiser, breaking down roughly as follows (and depending on your project, other sources of income and funding need):

  • 20 currently giving
  • 20 warm prospects
  • 10 cold prospects (research is an ongoing practice, needed to keep your pipeline full)

Ask yourself or your fundraiser about the tools they’re using to research and how they’ve qualified the hottest prospects.  Do they have individual cultivation plans and a clear direction for the top ten most exciting prospects?


Focus on quality over quantity.


It is better to have fewer warmer, bigger prospects than it is to have hundreds of unqualified possibilities.  Encourage your fundraiser not to be afraid to discard trusts for whom your organisation is only a vague fit (because unlike fish in the sea nowadays, there are still plenty more trusts out there waiting to be discovered.  Little vegan campaigner shout out there….)

  1. How many proposals / applications have you sent out


This is your most important KPI for managing a trust fundraiser / programme of trust fundraising.


Sending out applications is your most important task as a fundraiser.

An excellent colleague of mine said to me once that if you’re not getting plenty of rejections, you’re not sending out enough proposals.

That’s totally worth saying again:


“If you’re not getting plenty of rejections, you’re not sending out enough proposals.”


Be mindful to measure this as an average over several months.  A stage two application to the Lottery Community Fund’s Reaching Communities is likely to take you many more days to complete than a simple application to a local trust who knows you and has funded you before.

You may also find it helpful to monitor the total value of pending applications and the number of internal meetings you’ve had to discuss specific applications.

  1. How many phone calls have you made?

This is an essential part of research and relationship building.  It is therefore something which should be managed and monitored because of the difference it makes to your results.  You can read here my thoughts on calling trusts in advance.

Don’t be afraid to invest in training to help you / your team member develop their confidence in this area.


Calling funders can feel quite scary and is a task which many trust fundraisers will naturally put off in favour of writing or research.


Fifteen years into my fundraising career and I still like to prepare myself for phone calls to trusts to ensure I’m speaking confidently, have the right information to hand and am asking the right questions.

I was lucky enough to attend some training delivered by the brilliant Rob Woods which really helped me improve my confidence around making phone calls.  If you ever get the opportunity to learn with him – jump at it!

  1. How many face to face meetings have you had?

A face to face meeting with a representative from a charitable trust means it’s highly likely they’re considering a gift.  I’ve hosted many visits throughout my career and only once was turned down by a funder who had made the effort to come out and see us (it was, in hindsight a bit of a tragic visit which felt weird on many levels and I wasn’t surprised that we didn’t get the money).

If you or your fundraiser are getting in front of representatives from trusts and foundations, then you’re doing really well.  Again, look at your current programme and seek to set a KPI which reflects the opportunities out there (you should definitely try to secure a visit / meeting with all trusts who support you and who are local).

  1. How many reports have you written?

If you have trusts and foundations who support you, then you must measure the actions you’re taking to steward them, report back on how you’ve spent their gift and understand them more deeply to prepare for another gift in the future.


Recruiting new supporters is way more time consuming and costly than looking after those you’ve already got.


If you have trusts and foundations who support you, make this the first and most important KPI you measure (alongside the number of applications you’re sending out).  Check out this blog from the brilliant Nikki Bell about the importance of inventive and creative stewardship ideas.

Thanks for reading and have a brilliant week!


p.s. Trust the Process is our online training course.  It contains everything you need to know about how to do trust fundraising really well (plus several effective little tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years).

Click here to find out more and to sign up to hear all about our next launch.

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