Activate: Fundraising and your organisation

Many Local Community Organisations (LCO) wish to undertake fundraising to support the community activities that they organise, and it can be a great way to involve local businesses, build links in the community and to raise the profile of your association in your area. The organisation that you approach for funding will largely fall into one of two categories depending on how much money you are seeking.

1) local businesses and agencies

2) major/larger funding bodies and agencies

The most basic question to ask yourselves before embarking on a fundraising event is: “Why do we need to raise money?” Closely followed by “How much do we need to raise?” In asking yourself why, remember to take into account the views of the membership and not just one or two people.

The answers to these questions will help you decide on the most appropriate way to approach the issue of raising funds.

However, before you start trying to raise money for an event, undertake some basic research into very practical issues that may cause the whole idea to fail if not considered at the outset.

  • Do you need any permission/a licence for your event?
  • If so, contact the relevant body to gauge how likely you are to obtain the permission/licence.
  • Does your constitution allow you to undertake this type of event/project.

If you are looking to support a small local event then businesses (large and small) would be the most appropriate source. If, however, you are looking for longer-term or ongoing funding for events or projects, then you will need to consider larger funding bodies, such as the National Lottery. The latter will require a much more detailed analysis of your proposals, and you should be prepared to put in much more effort to obtain the required funding ⎼ of course, if you are successful then the rewards are that much greater.

This article will look at raising funds from both sources and give you a few ideas to ensure that your applications are successful.

When you are seeking to raise funds from outside agencies or businesses, there are a number of important steps to follow:

  • Plan what you need funding for.
  • Show how you will use the funding.
  • Choose appropriate funders.
  • Persuade them to fund your project.
  • Write a letter or complete an application form.
  • Know what to do if you are successful.
In this video Ricardo Wyngaard talks about the implications of the provisions relating to direct marketing in the Protection of Personal Information Act. Source: Ricardo Wyngaard Attorneys

Fundraising from local businesses

Local businesses and shops are more likely to give to people they know, so make use of all your local connections. If a member of your association is employed by a local business their recommendation will be valuable ⎼ do not be shy about using any connection you have!

Similarly, if you are approaching local shops go in person, especially if they know you, but do not forget to take a letter on your association’s headed paper to back up your request.

Often businesses like to support organisations in their local area, although some will concentrate on national charities and have established donation programmes, so have a look through your local businesses telephone directory and pick out businesses in your area.

When you apply:

  • Write on your association’s headed paper.
  • Keep the letter to one side of A4 if possible, but make sure you specify what you want the money for and who will benefit.
  • Ensure you credit the donors in any publicity you produce.
  • Always say thank you afterwards and provide some information on how the event went (include any local press cuttings or photos of the day).

Fundraising applications

Funders will usually have a set of established criteria against which they will judge your application for funds, so make sure you know what they are before you apply! For example, some might state that they will only fund applications for programmes concerned with improving employability. Many funders will not donate towards capital costs (i.e. building or equipment purchase).

They will expect you to be clear about why you need the money, how you will use it and how it matches their criteria.

If you are hoping to apply to an external funding body remember to plan ahead. There are often quite tight deadlines to be met and the funding application forms are often quite complex. You will need to have worked through your proposal carefully and be clear about your aims. You may need to start planning at least six to nine months before you require the grant.

You should consider:

  • What do we need the money for?

Funding bodies will normally only provide funds for specific projects rather than giving money for general running costs. Therefore you should look to produce a brief written outline of the project for potential funders. This is worth doing whatever the project and whatever type of fundraising the association pursues. The written outline should always flow from aims agreed with the member.

  • Why is your project important?

Funders are more likely to donate funds where there are clear aims and have a clear need that they wish to fulfil.

To show this you can make use of:

  • census data or other statistics to show the need exists
  • any surveys that have been carried out in the area
  • most of all explain how the project will affect the lives of those who use it/are expected to be benefit 
Fundraising – a step by step guide. While this video does make reference USA-specific issues, the video in general is universal. Source:

How will we use the money to achieve our aims?

You will need to demonstrate that you have the skills and ability in your association to make the project work. For example, have you done something like this before (or managed a project successfully), which will demonstrate that the money will achieve the project’s aims? Funders want to be associated with success, so the more you can assure them that yours will succeed, the more likely you are to get the money.

It may help if you formulate a plan to show:

  • How you will run the project (e.g. paid staff or volunteers, where will these be drawn from, who will manage them, who will attend, where from, advertising etc.).
  • Why have you chosen the methods supplied? Have they worked elsewhere?
  • Publicity ⎼ how will you advertise your project?
  • What do you need to buy before running the project? How much will you need and what will it cost?
  • Use of staff ⎼ who will do what, detail what your volunteers/paid staff will be doing and what hours they will work.
  • Where will you stage/hold your project/event? Have you covered issues around accessibility, insurance, etc?
  • Are you allowed to do this under the aims of your association’s constitution? This is often overlooked but can result in successful challenges from members.

When you apply for a grant you will almost certainly be asked about the cost of the project, so it is worth considering your possible income and budget position.

Do not just look at costs, also consider potential income e.g. if you plan to sell refreshments include this income in the budget.

Be as accurate as possible. If you need to buy or hire equipment get quotes so you can justify your figures. Guessing or estimating may be inaccurate and may lead to applying for insufficient funds.

Do not underestimate what the project will cost! Funders usually have a pretty accurate idea of costs. By putting down an unrealistically low figure it is going to make them think that you do not understand the full cost implications, and will create a poor impression. You need to have enough funding to carry out the project. If you do not apply for enough then the project will not be completed. Funders may query the delay or failure to complete.

  • Do not overestimate either! Do not go for the expensive option if there is a more practical option available.
  • Remember to include all the “hidden” extras such as maintenance, insurance, travel, etc.
  • Are these costs for capital (one-off purchases) or revenue (ongoing costs such as rent, salaries, etc).

Monitoring and evaluation

For many this is the boring part after the excitement of developing and carrying out a project, but it is, nonetheless, a very important part of the overall programme. You will also need to state on your application form how you will know if your project is successful ⎼ so think about monitoring the project in the planning stage.

Monitoring is simply the process by which you record information about the project ⎼ numbers attending, feedback from those attending, etc.

Evaluating means looking at the information you need to collect in order to assess how well the aims of the project are met.

Other information

In order to establish that you are a competent association with sufficient legal standing you will also be expected to provide most of the following:

  • Details of your bank account.
  • A copy of your constitution and your legal status.
  • A copy of your most recent accounts.
  • Risk assessment for the project (health & safety).
  • Details of what you have achieved as an association so far, and how long you have been operating.
  • Membership numbers and details of volunteers (without giving personal information).
  • Details of other funding received (it is a fact that attracting one source of funding often leads to other funders donating money).
  • Evidence of your competence, both financial and managerial.

Looking at this checklist you may reasonably assume that you will not get funding if you are a new association aiming to run a major project, unless you can show that individuals have skills and experience in previous associations or organisations.

While there are thousands of funders, there are similarly thousands of applications made to them each year. What will make your application stand out from the others?

You will need to show that you have the belief and confidence in your project to make it succeed. You need to have a detailed plan showing how you will make the project work, and you may also need a fair bit of stamina to get through the process!

You can achieve the funding you desire by practising what you want to say to each other. Take a critical view of the project ⎼ would you give money to it? If possible talk to the funders about your project before applying. A brief conversation may save the time and effort of making a full application if you do not meet their aims, or their funds have been exhausted for the year. Equally, it might provide information that helps you target your application.


  • Do not send a standard letter ⎼ it is likely to be binned!
  • Use headed paper and tailor your application to meet the aims of the funder.
  • Keep it short and focused on who you are, what your project is and why it is worth funding (two sides of A4 is sufficient).
  • Do not use jargon or abbreviations ⎼ you may know what it means, but the funder will not.
  • Keep it factual ⎼ back up any statements you make.
  • Give contact details for someone in your association who can be contacted for further information.

Some funders will tell you exactly what they want. If they do then supply what is asked for ⎼ do not send everything you have. The funder will not have time to read through all your documents. If they do not request specific information then supply a brief statement of your project ⎼ this should include:

  • The name of the project.
  • Something about your association ⎼ who you are, what you are aiming to do, etc.
  • A brief summary of your aims and objectives.
  • A description of the project ⎼ what it is, how you will run it, who it is aimed at and what benefits it will provide.
  • Details of how you will monitor it to ensure you meet your stated aims.
  • Who else is involved ⎼ other groups or funders. Also enclose:
  • A budget summary.
  • Your most recent accounts.
  • A copy of your constitution.

Finally, if you are successful in getting funding, always write and say thank you, it’s good manners and you might want to apply again in future.