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Support for Groups

Unless you're very unlucky, you should be able to get some help locally at no cost, though the quality of it may vary. Some advice and information may be worth paying for – it may be worth going on a training course, for instance, or buying a book. Just occasionally it may be worth spending money on a consultant to help you with your fundraising, but that certainly shouldn't be your first thought.

Whatever you do, remember that ultimately it's your organisation – not the adviser, or the author of the book or the creators of the software or website – that's asking someone for financial support. Trust your own judgement. And take responsibility for your own actions.

Because money is such a central problem for voluntary organisations and because successful fundraising is dependent upon so many other things – appropriate legal structure, effective management, competent accounting, not to mention knowing the right words to use, – it's hard to predict what information and which organisations should be listed as useful sources of help and advice. Only some of the sources listed below are likely to be appropriate for your group; don't think you have to explore all of them.

Where to go for advice about funding
How to identify the right funders for you
Books and other sources of information

Where to go for advice and information about funding

Local development agencies (LDAs)

This is a term used to describe organisations that help 'develop' local voluntary and community groups through delivering a range of different services. They are called all sorts of different things. Somewhere Council for Voluntary Service (CVS), Somewhere Rural Community Council (RCC), Voluntary Action Somewhere, and Somewhere Council of Voluntary Organisations are examples of what your local LDA might be called.

Some areas have specific funding information organisations. They too have a variety of names. South Yorkshire Funding Advice Bureau and Funding Information North East are examples of dedicated funding advice agencies.

You may find that your local authority can point you in the direction of your nearest LDA or funding advice agency. Or try one of the following:

  • ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England)
  • NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action – national means England) (formerly NACVS)
  • NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations – national means England)
  • NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action)
  • SCVO (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations)
  • WCVA (Wales Council for Voluntary Action)

Other places to go

Umbrella bodies: are there bodies covering your field of work, like Drugscope for work with drug related issues, Arts or Sports councils or a National Association of some sort? Use the Directory of umbrella bodies and resource agencies from NCVO to find a relevant agency.

Your local authority probably has officers that 'liaise' with the voluntary sector and may employ other staff, like community development workers, who are knowledgeable and helpful about funding for voluntary and community groups. Don't think of your local authority just as a source of possible grant aid, they may provide information and advice too.

Explore your local library service. They may have information about useful local contacts and will almost certainly be able to get you books.

Most of the agencies mentioned above will know about training courses and may indeed provide them themselves. Training provided by local agencies is sometimes free and often highly subsidised. At a national level, probably the best-known provider of short training courses on funding and fundraising is the Directory of Social Change, but there are several other national charities that regularly run courses. Shop around. And try and check that the training is at the right level for you.

Talk to other groups
People sometimes feel that they shouldn't tell anyone else about their funding sources in order to reduce competition. When you think about it, most funders get masses of applications and are able to fund only a small percentage of those they receive. Sharing information with other groups about sources, and about what worked and what didn't, is not really likely to jeopardise your own relationships with your funders but it may well help you do your fundraising better.


How to identify the right funders for you

You may write the best funding application in the world but all your hard work will be wasted if you send it to the wrong funder.

You probably need to think about the kind of funder to approach and then use research tools to identify the specific funders to write to.

types of funding and funders

  1. community fundraising and earned income

    Most groups have to raise some money themselves, if only to demonstrate that they expect to have to make a contribution themselves. Think what is right for your group, your skills and your need. For some groups a disco or a sponsored bike ride may be appropriate, for others they might not. Consider the people that might be sympathetic to your group and how you might persuade them to contribute.

    Some groups find it easier to 'earn' income rather than put on fundraising events. Many arts groups earn a considerable proportion of their total income from box office or ticket sales. Some organisations sell publications, some sell services, some sell other products. If you are thinking of trading in a significant way, however, get legal advice.

  2. statutory funders

    Statutory funding ranges from local council departments and health authority funding, through central government and quango funding to European funding. The main features of statutory funding are:

    • Statutory funders give grants to further their own objectives or meet their statutory responsibilities; they don't make grants just because they are sympathetic to a cause.
    • Nowadays they are more likely to enter into a service level agreement, or put work out to tender, asking interested organisations to bid for the contract, than they are to offer grant-aid.
    • They may more likely (than company or trust funders) to fund an organisation's core costs, although they will not be keen to support groups forever.
    • Their agreements or contracts may last for a number of years.
    • They are more likely to be bureaucratic, to have complicated monitoring systems and inflexible payment rules.
    • The process of decision-making may be drawn out and complicated, with several different stages to the application process; you may need to convince both officers/staff and politicians.
    • There are likely to be publicly available guidelines/criteria and information about the way your application will be dealt with, and there is likely to be a special officer or civil servant who you can talk to about your application.
  3. companies

    For very many community-based voluntary groups, company giving is the least important source of funding. The main features of company giving are:

    • Many companies give very small amounts.
    • Many companies only give to well-known national charities.
    • Some companies only give in areas where the company has a 'presence' (an office or factory).
    • Few companies are prepared to fund controversial work that might generate adverse publicity.
    • Most companies give one-off grants rather than long-term support.
    • Bigger companies are more likely to have a social responsibility department and budget, with clear guidelines about what they wish to support and a clear understanding of the difference between their grants programme and any marketing or sponsorship deals they do. Smaller companies, in contrast, may make little distinction between grants and sponsorship and have little understanding of the voluntary sector.
    • Many companies provide help in kind – things like providing goods to be raffled, free legal advice, second-hand furniture and the use of their boardroom as a meeting space.
  4. charitable trusts and foundations

    Charitable trusts and foundations are organisations specifically established to distribute money to good causes, so they are an important source of funding for many groups. There are several thousand in the UK; they differ enormously in size and scope and only a few hundred have paid staff. Their main features are:

    • Charitable trusts and foundations can only fund things that are charitable in law. (There are a few non-charitable trusts set up to fund political or campaigning activity; unlike charitable trusts, these pay tax on their income.)<.li>
    • They can only fund things that fall within the criteria laid down in their trust deed (their governing document).
    • Most give smallish, one-off grants and are reluctant to fund core costs, although many of the larger trusts fund projects over several years and some trusts do contribute to 'general running costs'.
    • To reduce administration costs, many trusts do not communicate with people who apply to them unless they decide to make a grant; nor do they make it clear when they meet (which may be only once or twice a year) or how they make decisions.
    • Most trusts and foundations give to recognisable 'good causes' but a significant proportion of the larger trusts are prepared to take risks and to support work that is 'hard to fund' or controversial.
    • Lots of trusts want their money to 'go further' and like projects which are a) innovative or likely to be replicated, and b) able to use their grant as a catalyst to lever additional money from other funders.
  5. the national lottery's 'good causes' money

    The national lottery is a significant source of funding for voluntary organisations. Lottery funding is similar to statutory funding in many respects and its distribution is indeed governed by statute, but it also shares some characteristics with trust funding.

    The different bodies that distribute lottery money have rather different policies, particularly in terms of eligibility, whether they require match funding and whether they will fund capital and revenue, but most voluntary groups should find that they fit the criteria of one or more distributing bodies.

    Look at the Lottery section of Other useful sites for links to the various lottery funding bodies.

identifying specific funders

Every group will need to decide for itself which funders to approach for what. You might, for instance, ask your local council for help with your core costs and look to trusts and foundations for one-off items of equipment or support for new projects. Or you might ask the lottery for the capital costs of a new building and raise the running costs from earned income and service agreements. There is no single model and no single 'right' way of doing fundraising. But having decided on the kind of funders to approach, how do you find specific details?

The section at the start of this document suggests agencies that may be able to help. The section below gives details of useful books, publications, websites and software. You may find that local development agencies or other support organisations have copies of the books and the various computer-based tools for funder research.

Sources of information about funding and fundraising

You can get printed directories, software and online resources which provide information about funders. Some information is available free but you have to pay for most of the well maintained resources. You might be able to access some of these free through a local development agency or your local library so it is worth finding this out before buying anything.

books about fundraising

The Directory of Social Change publishes a number of books about how to do fundraising and how to write good applications. They include Raising Money for Good Causes: A Starter Guide,Organising Local Events, Tried and Tested Ideas for Raising Money Locally: Small and Medium Scale Events, The Complete Fundraising Handbook , and Writing Better Fundraising Applications.

If you're looking for books about how to do fundraising, don't worry too much about getting hold of the latest edition or the newest publication. But if you're looking for names and addresses and policy details, it really is crucial to get the most up-to-date edition you can.

Have a look at our leaflet Funding resources for details of current publications.


FunderFinder produces software which helps groups identify appropriate charitable trusts (see our Products section for details). Many local development agencies, local authorities and community resource agencies have our GIN software as a resource for local groups, so voluntary organisations can usually find somewhere to use GIN at no cost. But there are other options which might be appropriate.

The Directory of Social Change produces a CD Rom called The Grant-Making Trusts CD-ROM which is more of a self-contained package than GIN, although it has a less sophisticated search. It has names, addresses and policy details for about 4,000 trusts. The last edition was 2007.

FunderFinder has two free software applications. Apply Yourselves and Budget Yourselves. Apply Yourselves helps groups write effective funding applications. You can download it from this website.

information on the Internet

The DSC also have a website which allows you to search for appropriate charitable trusts. You have to subscribe to the website. Other applications include Grantfinder and applications produced by j4b.

In general there is a lot of useful information about funding, funders, and fund-raising on the Internet and much of it is free. What there is changes – and grows – at a great rate, so it is hard to be specific about where to go. You can expect information on government funding initiatives, and all European funding, to be available on-line. The DSC's has information on some central government funding, local and regional government funding, but you now have to subscribe to the website.

Look at our Links to trusts section for links to trusts and to other useful sites.

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