Finding trust funders? Time to play the dating game!

14 JAN 2020
Anthony Oliver
Anthony Oliver
Fundraising Consultant

"You now need to think about compatibility… It’s best to think about what you’re looking for in a partner. Whereas in dating, this might be ‘likes films and country walks’; in fundraising, it may be ‘heritage’ (church roof), ‘community’ (new kitchen for church hall) or ‘youth work’ (youth worker’s salary)."

Anthony Oliver is a fundraising consultant with over 20 years’ experience working with a broad range of charities; from those supporting people with disabilities through to churches and other Christian causes. In this advice blog, he shares his tips for finding your perfect Trust or Foundation funding partners.

With over 10,000 trusts and foundations in the UK, the prospect of finding funders for your project can feel rather overwhelming. But, just like finding the perfect partner, it’s important to look for funders that are compatible.

The first step is to identify the ‘possibles’. Just like dating, you may get recommendations from colleagues, church members, or friendly fundraisers (we’re generally friendly!). But if not, a good place to start is to visit a larger library and consult the “Directory of Grant Making Trusts”. This has subject categories at the front and lists trusts alphabetically.

Now I’m told online dating is a thing. I’m happily married so wouldn’t know, but I do know the internet is an excellent tool for finding funders.

Head to the Charity Commission’s Register of Charities at, which you can search for free. This lists charities registered in England and Wales and you can use filters to narrow your search. Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate registers.

The Charity Commission site can be a bit clunky, and just like dating sites, you get what you pay for! For a Rolls Royce standard dating service, try the Directory of Social Change’s Funds Online website ( - a subscription service (okay, it’s not cheap…) where you can sign up by week or year. It’s regularly updated so probably the best source available.

Alternatively, search for free (for organisations with income below £100K), at Funding Central ( Simply register to access and search.

For church projects, your diocese can be a good source of information and signposting. For instance, the Diocese of Bristol has a list of funders in useful categories put together by fellow fundraiser Clare Jefferis and many will point to the Church of England’s parish resources site (their latest list of church funders is here). The Christian Funders’ Forum is also a useful source.

Once you have a list of funders (‘prospects’ in fundraising speak), it’s time to do some research. Firstly, make sure you have a good understanding of your project costs. Do you need funds to repair the church roof or improve facilities at a community centre? This is ‘capital’. 

Alternatively, do you need funds for running costs, such as paying salaries or delivering projects. This is ‘revenue’. Sometimes you’ll need a mix of both, but it’s good to be clear because some funders (Allchurches Trust) generally fund only capital and equipment, some only revenue (Henry Smith Charity), and some both (Garfield Weston Foundation).

Staying with the dating simile, you now need to think about compatibility. When starting out, it’s best to think about what you’re looking for in a partner. Whereas in dating, this might be ‘likes films and country walks’; in fundraising, it may be ‘heritage’ (church roof), ‘community’ (new kitchen for church hall) or ‘youth work’ (youth worker’s salary). 

Armed with your ‘compatibility list’, head back to the Charity Commission (or other resource) to check against the funding criteria for your list of ‘prospects’. Further information will be in annual reports published on the site (click ‘Documents’ tab). If the funder has a website, it will be a linked under ‘contact details’ (do a quick search if not), and these will often give a useful steer in the form of example projects previously funded. 

By matching your project closely to the funder’s criteria and mission, you maximise your chances of success, and minimise the chances of that sinking rejection feeling! Your project/funder ‘match’ doesn’t have to be 100%, but make sure that they will at least consider projects like yours (if in doubt make a quick phone call) to avoid wasting your time and theirs.

Finally, if a funder gives guidance on how to apply, that’s how you should apply! And don’t forget to draw out the synergies between your project’s aims and the funder’s mission in your application (see the Allchurches Trust blog on what to think about before filling in your funding application here). Your perfect match is closer than you think!

Anthony is a fundraising consultant who specialises in capital campaigns (from church roofs to new buildings) but also raises funds for running costs for many of his clients. Anthony is a trustee of Cheltenham Christian Arts - an Arts Council Funded organisations that runs the annual Christian Arts Festival in the town (pictured).

Finding Funders for your project
Pictured above is the Cornerstone Centre in Cheltenham who run a Boccia club (a disability friendly game similar to bowls) which Anthony Oliver has worked closely with to help secure funding.
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