How to press funders buttons to get your charity ‘loads of cash’

A few highlights from Alan Eagle’s presentation at The FSI Sharing the Best Forum. Alan is the Foundation Manager for Santander UK Foundation

Bags of good stuff for you from The FSI

Alan single-handily processes 10,000 funding applications a year, reading 50 – 100 a day. He had also consulted with other funders (yes, they talk) and make no mistake, trusts and foundations want to give you money. They are like cash machines, Alun says, “Push our buttons in the right way and we spew out loads of cash”.

What funders want

Those buttons are fairly easy to push actually, just show that you,

1. Clearly meet the criteria

2. Clearly define the impact the funding will have

3. Give evidence of the need for the funding

Oh yes and “Don’t put things in we don’t ask for!”

Easy, right? Well you’d think but the message from Alan was – get the basics right.

Get the basic rights, PLEASE!

At least several times a year someone sends the Santander foundation a grant application with the wrong amount of postage on it. Only one of those has ever been funded, and they had the £1 Royal Mail fee deducted from there £10,000 grant.

In that sense a grant application is a bit like a piece of direct mail, it needs to make a good impression from the moment it hits the doormat. So putting the right postage on it is a good place to start. The FSI audience winced a few times at the mistakes some grant applications make:

– Submitting the grant then vanishing off on holiday, with non one in the office who can answer the questions

– Ringing up to ask questions then saying, ‘hold on I’ll just get my pen’

– Not signing the application (it’s a legal commitment so that is essential)

– Exposing the trust to regulatory issues by saying stuff like ‘we bank with Santander’. The trust is a charity like any other and as such cannot get any business benefit from funding a grant. So do not tell them you are a customer, it won’t help.

Funders want feedback

Ignore them at your peril.

One of the reasons for failing to win a grant was that an applicant failed to provide the evaluation on a previous grant. Funders are more focussed on this than in the past and, as Alun said, ‘I have a database and I will use it”

That means if you fail to evaluate a grant you received from Santander, not only will they never fund your organisation again, they will never fund you again – no matter where you work. Donors demand feedback!

Dos and don’ts

“You can see I’m an idiot, you have to tell me everything”.

Alan didn’t come across as an idiot, but he needs to be able to make decisions about charities and for that he needs information. Good information. But he really does want to give that cash away because “without you, I’m not a charity”.

Here’s a summary of some of Alan’s dos and don’ts:

DO ask for the money!

DO Explain EXACLTY what it will buy

Do explain the long term difference the funding will make (Described as a ‘deal breaker’)

DON’T put ‘see attached’ as your sole answer to any question

DONT make assumptions or use jargon

And remember, passion sells. Emotional blackmail doesn’t.

Top tips

80% of applications are received within one day of deadline. So be early, it will help make you look trustworthy, organised and reliable. It will also give you time to supply anything else you missed

Get someone to read it who does not know your charity well, it will help you keep the right level of clarity and detail.

And a final tip from me in summary – always be marketing. Every single point of contact you have with a funder is an opportunity to be marketing your charity and secure that vital pile of cash you need to help your client group. So do your prep, nail the basics, always have a pen to hand when you call, sign the application and put the right postage on it PLEASE.

Do these things and, someday soon, a chap like Alan could be sending your charity loads of cash!