Fundraising Options: Beyond NPO support

Written by Kirsty Falconer | Head of Fundraising and Programme Development

Future-defining decisions are being made on how – and if – many NPO disappointed organisations across England can viably continue with a funding model untethered by ACE NPO support.  I wanted to share therefore, a few considerations I’ve been talking through with organisations facing this decision to help in understanding if replacing NPO with other fundraising offers a realistic alternative for your financial model.  

Firstly and fundamentally, there are thousands of funding options out there and with some level of certainty I feel able to say that if you have previously successfully made your case to ACE, whatever the scale of your current turnover or the percentage NPO historically contributed to this, there will be alternative funding options out there for your work. However, while for some organisations this will be a case of upscaling or expanding an existing funding base, for others it will require a more fundamental repositioning that embeds new processes and new priorities into the heart of how you plan, position and resource your work. 

Phase 1: Research and Realism

Taking time to scope the landscape of alternative funding opportunities and practicing realism in identifying which are right for your work sits at the foundation of any achievable fundraising plan. 

Depending on what you do, who you work with, and its scale and impact, striving to quickly realise a fully diversified fundraising model including philanthropy, grants, and sponsorship may not be right for you. Understanding which income streams will have the highest chance of success for your work will allow you to focus your energies and resources in areas where returns are most likely. A researched review can also point you in the direction of the handful of funders who are beginning to think about accessibility in fundraising processes, opening out more equitable application pathways geared to smaller, lower-resourced, and/or diverse-led organisations.

Initially, prioritising best fit quick-wins and building your base of support rather than trying to meet all opportunities at once or channeling resources into high value, high competition funders will ensure your transition is lower-risk and can sustainably support a longer-term turnaround. 

Different approaches require different timelines. Individuals and some Corporates can make decisions quickly, however, building networks to make these asks is likely to take longer, and returns are often initially lower. Trusts and Foundations have (mostly!) clearer routes to connect to the funder, but the application process can be resource intensive and long – while all trusts are different, allowing 6-9 months as a guide (depending on a 1 or 2 stage process) from application to decision helps understand how long it might take to see results from fundraising in this area.

Phase 2: Reflection and Regrouping

Once you have defined who your “Case for Support” is best made to, it is essential to review how you articulate what you do in alignment to a new (or optimise to an existing) set of priorities. This requires strength and relevance of vision and mission and evidenced articulation of some key points – consider how you are consistently communicating these points in all funding conversations and applications even if the questions you are answering do not directly ask them .

Why is your work needed? Why is your programme or approach the best response? Why are you best placed to deliver? Why now? Who are you reaching? At what scale? What is the journey with or through your work? How do you use data to tell this story? What are the short and long term impacts and legacies?

Keep in mind that not all funding decision-makers have expertise or interest in arts or culture – thinking about how your work intersects wider social issues or outcomes is important in broadening the scope of who might feel compelled to support.

Phase 3: Resourcing and Embedding

Developing an internal culture of fundraising is essential to effective and efficient delivery of a fundraising strategy but can mean a realignment in the way your team thinks individually and collectively about fundraising. 

Giving clear and defined roles to everyone in your organisation – including your Board – that integrate fundraising processes as part of every team member’s priority shares the resource requirement and energises fundraising activities. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to start working to income targets, writing applications, or going out and making approaches to their networks (although, in some cases, broadening out the above to members of your team and Board might make sense!). 

For some teams, this might mean sharing the ability to articulate your 3-5 top organisational priorities to anyone they’re in a relevant conversation with – from members of the public to local councilors. This instantly amplifies your key fundraising messages to a much broader network of potential supporters and possible funders. 

All of this can feel like a lot to quickly adapt to and get right in the timeline of the NPO transition – with or without the 7 months of ACE transition support. Hopefully the above phases give a sense of what the task and timeline of this process could look like and help sharpen prioritisation. 

People Make it Work are offering free support sessions for organisations facing this challenge – do get in touch if you’d like further support in thinking through how these phases might relate to the specifics of your organisation.