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Trusts and Foundations

21 May 14 -- jsuess

On 28 April 2014, 30 delegates from around the country gathered at Worcester College in Oxford for a day of discussion around fundraising from Trusts and Foundations.  Delegates came from organisations such as Birmingham Museums Trust, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, the Lightbox, Pegasus Theatre and the Soldiers of Oxfordshire.

The session was led by Helen Duncan, Trusts and Foundations Manager at the Ashmolean Museum for the past 8 years and with prior experience in similar roles in classical music and at Oxford Brookes University, and Bill Brutty from Fundraising Training Ltd, a professional fundraiser since 1984 working for a variety of charities including UNICEF UK, the National Trust and the British Stammering Association as well a small community based organisations in the UK, Ecuador and Africa.

Trusts and Foundations

Helen took the morning with an overview discussion of the pros and cons of engaging with Trusts and Foundations, top tips on identifying appropriate funding opportunities, and how to build relationships with funding organisations.

Helen is extremely positive about fundraising from trusts and foundations: there are over 9,000 in the UK and they exist to give away money and the funding application process is relatively clear and straightforward. However, Helen emphasised that it is important to bear in mind that leveraging funding from these organisations can be an extremely slow, and highly competitive process.  These organisations also often require significant added value for their investment, will generally only support new activity, and are not a great source for finding top up funding for projects or core activity.

Helen pointed out the importance of approaching the right organisation for your project, and to respond to their specific criteria, and not blanket the market with a standard application as different organisation will both have different priorities that will need emphasis, and their own format in which they like to receive and assess applications.  For researching funders Helen recommended:

Although Trusts and Foundations generally have different expectations to individual donors when it comes to cultivation and stewardship, it can be beneficial to engage key trustees as though they were major individual donors.  It is also important to keep on top of their required reporting process.  Not only is it good practice, but it helps to nurture a good relationship with the organisation and lay positive groundwork that can helpful if you consider approaching them in the future to fund other projects.  Helen suggested that you should read their requirements carefully, inform them of any changes to the planned activity, send photographs and marketing material, and emphasise the difference that their support has made to your organisation.

Before the event Helen spoke to some of her trust contacts and asked them for their best advice.

Make sure budgets add up.

Follow guidelines – answer the question!

Be concise, don’t include too much difficult material.

Read the guidelines, read the guidelines, read the guidelines!

Download Helen’s slides

Before breaking for lunch delegates broke into groups to discuss their previous experiences approaching trusts and foundations, what worked, and where they struggled.


Making an eloquent case for funding

After lunch Bill Bruty took the group through how to best use the Charity Commissions website to research funders, how to position your project to make it most attractive to funders, and how funding applications are assessed.

When researching Trusts on the Charity Commission website Bill recommends not just looking at what kind of activity they fund and at what level, but also their pattern of income and expenditure.  Do they fund the same organisations to a similar amount each year? This may indicate that most of their income is wrapped up in long term obligations and they do not have a great capacity to support new projects.  Is their income static or increasing?  If it is increasing, this may indicate that they are actively seeking new and interesting prospects.

Next the group took on the role of Trustees and assessed some short real funding applications against 14 key criteria which Bill identified as common to most funding opportunities.

1. How many beneficiaries?

2. What are their specific needs?

3. What are the aims of your organisation?

4. How does your organisation engage its beneficiaries?

5. How does your work connect with other organisations?

6. What is the relevance of the project to our policies?

7. What are the project aims/outcomes?

8. What are the key activities?

9. What is the timescale for the project and when does it start?

10. How much do you need?

11. How will you monitor your progress?

12. How will you evaluate the project?

13. How will you fund the project in the long run?  Or,….

14. How will you disseminate the results if it is a one off activity?

When deciding how to pitch your project, Bill recommended casting it within Ansoff’s matrix for funding proposals.  The matrix considers whether the method you are using is new, and whether the audiences you are engaging are existing or new.  Projects that fit into categories two and three are the most attractive to funders.

1. Same People/Same Method: These proposals are your long established programmes that are effective, but require little adaptation.  These are difficult to present to external funders as there is little room for change to meet their agendas.

2. New People/Same Method: This is where you are taking a proven methodology and using it to address the needs of a new group of beneficiaries.  This could be the replication of an effective way of working with similar beneficiaries in new locations

3. Same People/New Method: This is where you are working with the same beneficiaries, in the same locations – but you are applying new ways of working with them.  These methods may be proven by other organisations, or by your own organisation in other locations or with different beneficiaries.  However, for the proposed beneficiaries these methods are new and unique.  These proposals are attractive to external donors as they are built upon proven success, but have elements of innovation.

4. New People/New Method: This is where you are working with new beneficiaries using new ways of working.  Whilst these projects may appear innovative and exciting, for external donors they may be too risky.

Bill also looked at ways to make onging projects seems fresh and attractive to funders. He pointed out that projects go through phases. First there is the innovative pilot phase where activity is new and there is a higher risk of failure. Then there is the consolidation phase where you can harvest the rewards of your pilot and achieve impact. Finally there is the adaptation stage where you must adjust your project to the political, economic, social and technical (PEST) changes that have occurred over the life of the project to keep it relevant and effective. If you can keep these phases in mind, you can extend the funding life cycle of an individual project.

Bill’s final piece of advice was that often assessment can come down to the numbers, and to use numbers throughout your application to demonstrate the need, activity, outputs and outcomes of a project. Also, the plural of anecdote is not statistic…

Download Bill’s slides

Overall the event was a success with all delegates rating the event positively, 72% as excellent. Delegates were asked what they planned to do differently at their museum following the workshop. Responses included:

Research more trusts and apply to loads!

Try and use the three phase approach.

Will apply learning regarding research to a campaign we are about to run to fund an object purchase.

Restructure my applications!

More planning, take time to research funders in detail.

Look at Trusts and Foundations accounts more and always look to the 14 key points when working on an application.