Trust fundraising to ease cash flow

In trust fundraising circles, I can see why many professionals would deem the idea of using trust fundraising to ease cash flow as misleading / unhelpful clickbait.  The truth is, there are no quick wins out there.  Low hanging fruit (a phrase I hate because it makes me think of testicles) is not a thing.


Successful fundraising (not just trust fundraising) never happens in the zone of panic or timescale-related desperation.




That said, there are times when charities and non-profits need money and fast.  One cancelled event, an unforeseen PR disaster or a could-never-have-be-predicted ultra-lean year for a usually healthy income stream (legacies for example) can spell short term cashflow issues.

These then require difficult decisions about people’s jobs and the levels of service you’re able to provide to people who are in need.   Heavy stuff.

There are a few things you can do with your trust fundraising if you really need to fill a gap.  Of course these should not be done in isolation but as part of a wider strategy to improve your financial position.


  1. Speak to those you know

We all know that fundraising works best when you start with those you know.

If you want to use trust fundraising to ease cash flow, you’ll need to look first at those already funding your work.  Who (if any) can you ask for a little extra towards core costs?

Taking this route needs the following in place in order that you are not seen as a poor steward of your own resources:

  • a strong relationship, knowledge of the people at the trust in question (and ideally knowledge of them as people, not 100% in a professional capacity alone), regular phone conversations, at least one face to face meeting
  • reassurance that their existing investment / programme funding is not at risk)
  • A clear strategy for making up the shortfall in funding which involves more than just asking them

For funders currently committed to a multi-year gift, your project should be close to the end, or at least past year 1 (so ideally, you’ve already sent a progress report and they’re feeling positive about you and your work).


  1. Timing is everything

Now look at all the lapsed / cold trusts on your database.  Top these up with some new prospects if possible, you want as wide a pool as possible of potential income sources.  Check out this post as a reminder on researching trusts and foundations.

Once you’ve established your prospects, look specifically for the date of their next meeting.  This information may be available on their website or in their annual report.  You should always phone to check if this information is correct.

Create a calendar of approaches for lapsed / cold trusts based on meeting dates.  Most trusts will want the paperwork at least a month before their trustees meeting is scheduled so take this into account with your planning.

It’s advisable to align your approaches to trust meetings dates anyway but if you find yourself in a sticky situation, then I’d advise paying a little more attention and applying greater priority to those meeting more imminently.


  1. Challenge yourself

Trust fundraising mustn’t be hurried.


In a competitive environment, a simple mistake could see you eliminated before the trustees even have sight of your pitch.


It’s basically like the final stages of bake-off (cupcake anyone?)



However, you’re a brilliant trust fundraiser right?  You care about the cause you’re working for and want to see it succeed.


I therefore challenge you to do what you do just a little bit better every day.


Take your plans for the week and quietly challenge yourself to increase your output by a small fraction.  For example:

  • Do you have one complex application, one application form and two smaller bids to write? Can you make it three smaller bids?
  • Were you planning to research twenty new trusts on Wednesday? Can you push yourself to do twenty-five?

And how to do this in an already busy day?  Can you set aside a ‘power hour’ each day?  A Power Hour is an idea I’ve read about in the books of the brilliant Gretchen Rubin.  They are for ‘jobs where you’re only accountable to yourself’.

So, in this instance, things which are over and above what you’ve promised your boss you’d do.  Basically, if you don’t do it, then you won’t get in trouble.

Examples of household power hours include things like sorting a cupboard / drawer, putting unwanted items on eBay / doing a car boot sale or doing yoga every morning when you wake up instead of messing around on your phone.  Gretchen’s definition can be read here.

For your Power Hour:

  • set yourself a time limit in which to start and finish the task (imagine it’s a job interview and you have 1 hour to write an application)
  • close down every app on your computer (especially email) and TURN OFF YOUR PHONE
  • go somewhere quiet and / or pop some headphones on
  • promise yourself a cuppa / biscuit / Twitter binge once the time limit is up

Rob Woods has some cool ideas for making small changes in order to achieve big results in this post.

Thanks for reading,


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 be the first to hear about our upcoming launch.


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