Researching possible donors and funders

26 July 2021

It’s all in the research! Time spent on researching donors and funders can save time on wasted grant applications.

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Organisation is key

Like all projects that are important but not urgent, it might feel as if spending time researching is a distraction from your project and fundraising. In the long run, however, every hour you spend getting organised now will help raise the funds your church needs to continue its work and mission.

Find your match

To make the most of your time and ensure your fundraising is effective, it’s important to identify funders that are a good fit with your church. For example, there is no point approaching a funder who won’t fund building costs for your kitchen renovation project. 
 
Find potential funders who align with your mission, priorities and plans. Many grants are rejected, not because they are bad applications, but because they simply don’t align with the funder’s interests. 
 
Treat your fundraising application as you would a job application – spend time to understand if a potential funder would be a good fit for you.

Types of donors and funder

Potential donors come in a variety of forms. Consider the following sources, and if they would be a good fit for your church.
 
  • Grant making bodies – including trusts and foundations, lottery funding, community foundations, and landfill communities fund  
  • Individuals and communities – including regular giving, volunteering, legacies, and one-off donations  
  • Local businesses  – including, gifts-in-kind, mentoring, pro-bono work and sponsoring events 
  • Earned income – this could be via a community café or shop. The Plunkett Foundation has further guidance on developing a community business for churches. 
  • Events – including challenges, digital events, coffee mornings and music concerts.

Where to go – finding donors and funders

The following sources are a good place to start your research into potential funders: 
 
  • Methodist Insurance's list of emergency funders  
  • Online databases. Some of these require a subscription such as: Church Grants, Funds Online and Grants Online. Others are free such as Heritage Funding Directory and Get Grants
  • The Methodist Church has some helpful guidance on finding grants  
  • Websites of other churches or charities for information on their current or recent projects or fundraising campaigns, as this may include a list that names their supporters
  • The Charity Commission has information on all UK-registered trusts and foundations, including annual reports, names and contact details of Trustees
  • Identify different communities, or groups of people, you could reach out to. They could include:
- Local people
- People with family connections
- Those with a shared community concern 
- Heritage enthusiasts or tourists 
- Those who may want to use the church facilities such as for clubs or exercise classes
- People who want to be involved in a volunteer activity for example a gardening project 

Organise your research

We have developed a template with examples, to help you with your research. Use the template to get organised and collect the key information needed on potential funders. 
 
Remember – every hour you spend researching now will make your fundraising quicker, easier and more effective in the future. 
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