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Fundraising tips for grass roots organisations

Tips for small charities and how to obtain funding from trusts and foundations

How can grassroots charitable organisations or community groups maximise their chances of getting funding from trusts and foundations for their excellent work?

You’re doing great work either as an individual, or an informal group, but you don’t have a bank account or a management structure. This blog aims to help organisations develop a structure to increase their chances of getting funding from trusts and foundations for their work, and also provides tips on fundraising.

Overcoming Catch 22

What does the term Catch 22 mean for small chairty fundraising

Why do I think this is needed? Well after having worked with several grassroots organisations and smaller charities, I realise that many of them are in a ‘catch 22’ situation. Catch 22, a phrase which is now very commonly used is based on the book of the same name, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller about the madness of war.

It’s defined in the English dictionary as:

an unpleasant situation from which you cannot escape because you need to do one thing before doing a second, but you need to do the second thing before doing the first – a so called ‘catch 22’”.

Many grassroots, community organisations can often find themselves in, while though not unpleasant, catch 22 situations. Doing excellent work in the community, most of it done by volunteers, they don’t always have the structure or expertise to apply for funding from trusts and foundations to help them maintain and extend the excellent work that they do.

Knowing how, knowing who

Having known many ‘one man bands’ or ‘organisations’ who provide excellent, and much needed services. These include a local church in a deprived part of North London who run a homeless shelter, to the lady offering free meals to isolated residents, I know the challenges that these organisations face in seeking funding from trusts and foundations.

Small charities volunteers

There are many people providing services like this all over the UK. Often unseen and unheard except by the grateful beneficiaries, they often are run by one or a small group of volunteers, with no formal structure or governance, only with a desire to help those in need.

Challenges faced by small, grassroots organisations

However, these types of organisations often find it very hard to access funding from trusts and foundations that could help them expand their services and provide support to more people. Below are some quotes from these organisations that give an idea of the challenges that they face in accessing funding.

“ I have been making and giving free meals to the elderly for months, and now we need some support. Why do we have to complete at 10 page application form?”

“I have been running a basketball club for at risk youth after school to keep them off the street and out of trouble. I don’t even charge for my time. There is no way that I can or have the time to submit an application for funding.”

“I didn’t realise that there was help for what I was doing, a group for young mothers who are lonely, and isolated. I wouldn’t know where to start to apply for funding and I just don’t have the time.”

So, if you are providing support and help in the community, whatever the activity, there is funding from trusts and foundations available to help you do this. However, how do you find out what funding is available, how do you access it, and what do you need to do to make an application? Why would you need to apply as an organisation and not an individual?

Well, this blog aims to help you address these issues and think about how best you can structure the service or support that you provide, to put you in the best position to apply for and be successful in securing funding from trusts and foundations. Below are some tips on the challenges and how to overcome them.

Tips for raising funds for small charities


I am a one man/woman band but no one will give me funding.


Funders rarely give money to individuals who provide community services. Most will only give funding to organisations.

Addressing/overcoming the challenge:

Develop a structure to provide your service. Setting up a charity can seem daunting as there are many legal requirements. However there are alternative structures including community interest companies (CIC) and community interest organisations (CIO). Do your research to see which one will meet your needs.

These websites have information on setting up charities and social enterprises:


I don’t have time to set up an organisation.


Organisations are formal structures and there are governance and legal requirements that organisations need to have, which protects both them and the funder. Funders also have a duty to demonstrate that they have robust processes in place to ensure that the funds they have given will be used wisely and for the intended beneficiaries. This is much easier to manage with an organisation compared to an individual.

Addressing/overcoming the challenge:

Speak to other voluntary groups. There is a lot of free support/help available online on how to set up an organisation. Consider getting support from a consultant to help you set up the organisation and provide guidance on the type of structure that would best suit you, and to ensure that you comply with all the legal requirements.


Setting up trustees in smaller charities

Why does the organisation need a management committee or trustees?


The management committee and trustees will be responsible for the overall running of the organisation. A formal structure will demonstrate to funders that you have good governance in place. It will increase their confidence in the sustainability of the organisation and the likelihood of receiving funding.

Addressing/overcoming the challenge:

Review your supporters, to see if any of them would be willing to be part of the management committee or to become a trustee. Ideally it is best if members of the trustee board and management team are not related. Get advice from other community organisations. More information can be found here on how to recruit trustees.


Why does the organisation need its own bank account? What do I need to do to set one up?


Having a bank account for the organisation with two people who have to approve any withdrawals highlights that there is accountability for spending, and a structure and process for approving the use of the money.

Addressing/overcoming the challenge:

The guidance for setting up a bank account will depend on the type of organisation. Speak to your local bank and other local organisations to seek advice on how to set up a bank account. The Charities Aid Foundation and the Small Charities Coalition have information on this.


I don’t have time to do all the administration. What should I do?


Administration and governance of a community organisation is very important. It demonstrates that the organisation is well run, and has the potential to be sustainable. Having a formal structure will enable you to provide more services, in a structured efficient way.

Addressing/overcoming the challenge:

Consider employing a part time administrator who can deal with all admin, including setting up the organisation. If you don’t have the funding to do this, then consider getting a volunteer, with the aim of offering them paid employment when the organisation receives funding. Reach Volunteering matches people to organisations.

Volunteers for smaller charities


We are an organisation, and have a bank account. I don’t have time to complete an 20 page application form. Can I write a letter asking for funding?


There are at least 168,000 charities on the charity commission website. Although some might be inactive, many of them are active and will be applying for funding. This means that your organisation/project is competing with them. Funders have to review thousands of applications each year. It is easier, fairer and more efficient to review applications against set criteria. This is best done by asking all organisations to complete the same application form. This enables them to fairly assess each application.

Addressing/overcoming the challenge:

If the administrator has some fundraising experience, they could develop an ‘Ask’ letter to send to smaller trusts and foundations. However, due to the type and volume of information that funders require, It is best to seek fundraising support. Consider working with a fundraising agency or fundraising consultant. They will have experience of developing successful applications, and will have knowledge of funder’s requirements. Although this may seem to be an additional cost, it will be beneficial and will increase the chances of successful applications.

Worth it in the end

It may seem like a lot of work setting up an organisation, but in the long run, it will reap benefits. It will help ensure the sustainability and long term future of your organisation, and that your beneficiaries, both now and in the future get the support they require.

Orchard Fundraising is happy to meet with small charities to help and discuss their specific funding needs, without cost or obligation. Following conversations, we will develop a bespoke proposal that meets your requirements and helps you achieve your aim.

For a free consultation get in touch with us here.

We have worked with numerous smaller charities and helped them achieve their goals by obtaining the funding they need to deliver their services to their beneficiaries. Read our client testimonials here.

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