Funding advice charities
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Marc Bloomfield
Description: Practice management
If you are involved in a legal advice charity, having a fundraising strategy is key to making your agency sustainable and managing financial risk. The aim is to achieve diversified funding. An ideal mix includes grant funding from statutory sources such as a local authority, contract funding from statutory bodies such as the Legal Aid Agency and others, such as the Money & Pensions Service, and grants from trusts and foundations. You can also raise money from events and individual donations.
Step 1 – decide what you need the money to achieve and create a strategy
You need to have a clear understanding of what you want the funding to achieve. This should be directed by your strategic plan. Agencies that send multiple applications to trusts and foundations just because they have an open funding round at a time when there is a projected budget shortfall tend not to get very good results.
Step 2 – identify suitable funding sources
Trusts and foundations: Each funder has distinct characteristics. Read the information they provide about their aims and funding priorities carefully. It’s like an exam – you need to answer the question they are asking.
Comply with any word count restrictions. Make every word count, and revise over and over again to make the most impact with what you have.
Companies: Businesses can contribute in a variety of ways, from goods and services to actual cash, but you need resources to develop relationships and create win-win situations for donors.
Individuals: Events, and one-off and regular personal contributions. This can be a highly specialised area requiring considerable resources, but you can start by getting involved in fundraising events organised by the Access to Justice Foundation (ATJF) and the London Legal Support Trust (LLST). It’s an easy way to raise funds as the ATJF and LLST do the organisation and create all the marketing materials you need.
Local partners: Mayors’ charities, and faith and civic groups raise money for community activities. Sometimes they will donate or raise money for you, sometimes they will be good partners in your fundraising activities.
Fundraising online: You may be able to raise funds via your website (but it will need to have a section relevant to donors), Facebook group or specialist sites such as JustGiving or GoFundMe. Amazon Smile donates a percentage of purchases to your named charity at no cost.
Step 3 – capacity
You might create a volunteer fundraising committee, employ a fundraiser or outsource to a consultant. Be careful how you fund your fundraising capacity as trusts and foundations want to see their money going into service delivery rather than paying for fundraisers.
Step 4 – research
You need to identify the specific trusts/foundations/donors you plan to target. Many trusts offer the opportunity for discussion before applications are made.
Step 5 – create a case for support
This is critical, regardless of whether you are applying to a trust/foundation or seeking funds from individuals. Explain what will be achieved with the money in a simple, externally focused way that is memorable and emotionally engaging. Asking someone to fund a housing lawyer for a year is much less compelling than telling someone what a difference they will make to the lives of people in your community. If you are planning to approach individuals, you will need to explain what their £20 will do and what difference it will make.
Step 6 – ask for money
You need to know how much your services cost to deliver. Create a realistic budget for your project and know how much you are asking for. Be open and honest with funders about the true costs of what you are asking them to fund. If you are likely to be funding projects from multiple sources, then be clear with those funders that they are co-funding the work.
Step 7 – build long-term relationships
This starts with thanking the donor, and continuing to involve them in your organisation, with updates on the difference their contribution has made. It’s surprising how many agencies forget to do this!
Step 8 – feedback
If you aren’t successful, it is helpful to obtain feedback. Not all trusts and foundations have the resources to respond; but it never hurts to ask.
Resources
The following organisations provide helpful guidance:
NCVO; and

About the author(s)

Description: Vicky Ling - author
Vicky Ling is a consultant specialising in legal aid practice and a founder member of the Law Consultancy Network.