Developing a funding mix strategy

This guest article is by Corinna Hartwig and Julia Witting of Funding Doctors. Funding Doctors is a social enterprise which provides practical advice and support for other social enterprises, community groups and small charities looking for funding or help with business planning.


When applying for funding, we recommend that a funding strategy is developed that is based on a 'funding mix'. This will ensure that you are not dependent on a few large grant providers for the success of your project, particularly at a time when many funding streams have been withdrawn, resulting in increased competition for those that remain.

Take time to think your strategy through, or take advice from funding advisers. The trick is to think creatively and 'outside the box', but also to have a good knowledge of time scales and what they mean for your project. You will need to plan meticulously over a long period of time and have a plan B up your sleeve.

To give you a flavour of where funding can come from, see the following list, which is not exhaustive by any means:

  1. Community fundraising events
    Sponsored events, raffles, quiz nights, car boot sales, auctions of promises, etc etc.

  2. Tapping into Corporate Social Responsibility programmes
    Many large organisations have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes which means that they have lots to offer to their local communities. This can involve:
    • Match-funding community fund-raising and volunteering hours where their employees have been involved in fundraising or volunteering. A small community fundraising event can generate a good lump sum for the project through match funding, as well as create publicity that demonstrates that the project has momentum.
    • Donations in kind to community projects. You may be able to reduce the total cost of the project by getting resources donated directly.
    • Providing schemes whereby their staff can take time off work to donate their time or expertise. Many large companies provide their staff with entitlement to a certain number of hours of annual paid leave to volunteer for charity and community projects.
    • Many large companies have charitable foundations through which they offer grants to community projects.
  3. Grant-giving bodies
    • EU grants, for example those supporting particular types of enterprises in specific regions of the UK.
    • Or grants that focus on particular theme such as education or targeting deprivation
    Many of these grants are subject to immense competition, and any application you make must stand out from the competition; you must provide a strong business case, with a focus on need and outcome.

    Always check before applying that you meet the specific funding criteria.
    • Read the grant criteria and phone up the advertised contact for more information to test likelihood of getting funding. Don't bother applying if you and your project don't meet their criteria. Speak to the funders or their intermediaries to check eligibility and chances of success. Ask them to review a draft of your application. S4CP can help you with this.
    • Fill in the forms properly or you'll fall at the first assessment screening.
    • Use plain English; panels who assess the applications have limited time to read your application.
    • Focus on clear outcomes that meet the funder's criteria — use their language.
  4. Local donors and organisations with something to give
    Information about services that support volunteers can often be found in your local library or on the website of your District, Borough or County Council.

  5. Local authority funding
    Whilst much government funding is being withdrawn, many local councils still offer grants (parish, town, district, borough and county).

  6. Loans and venture capital for social enterprises
    There are a number of organisations that specialise in funding social enterprises and charities that have a sustainable income stream. You should obtain professional financial advice before entering into a loan agreement.

  7. A sustainable revenue stream: trading and contracting
    There has indeed been a clear shift for central and local government to fund specific projects on a contract basis by competitive tender from providers, in response to local strategic priority, rather than providing grants on a reactive basis. Various internet portals are now available advertising tender opportunities within local government and the health service.

  8. Sourcing volunteers, trustees, other advice and free goods
    There are a number of resources available to source volunteers, expertise and other donations in kind, including those with particular skills if you have identified particular skills gaps.

  9. Fundraising through shopping portals
    This is a growth area in fundraising. Online shopping portals enable your project to take a commission every time someone shops at big brand stores online. You will need to persuade your local community to sign up and shop this way. Read the small print to check how much commission the site takes.

  10. Raising money and finding volunteers via the internet and mobile phones
    This includes crowd sourcing and crowd funding. Make sure you read and understand the small print and the costs associated with using both services.

Good luck with your funding project!

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