Using Funding Central: new opportunities and learning curves

Jess Farr was Sustainable Funding Officer at NCVO. She left in September 2012, but we have retained her blog posts for reference.

Since January I have been helping to evaluate Funding Central’s impact, and so have been lucky enough to talk with many of the service’s users over the past few months. From the smallest to the largest, it’s been fascinating to hear about the work Funding Central helps people fundraise for, so I thought I’d use this birthday occasion to publish some of the stories people have shared with me.

Learning the ropes

Age UK Cheshire East is an independent charity, partnered with Age UK, which provides a wide range of services for people aged over 50 living in Cheshire East.
Income Generation Manager Karyn Johnston has worked for Age UK Cheshire East for four years. Her role includes helping the charity develop across several income streams, including running fundraising events, building business links and sponsorship opportunities and applying for grants. She says:
“I have only been a fundraiser since 2008 and Funding Central has been my trainer and guide in that time.”

Karyn was new to fundraising when she first started at the charity and says that Funding Central really helped her to settle into her new role. As well as saving her time by providing an initial sift of funding opportunities based on her personalised search criteria, she has also learned some of the ‘fundraising ropes’ by reading Funding Central’s Support and Advice guides [link].

Men in Sheds: a funding success story

One of the charity’s recent success stories has been its Men in Sheds Project, which helps socially isolated and financially disadvantaged older men support each other by sharing interests, skills, and experiences.
This project was launched on the back of two successful grant applications to The Henry Smith Charity and Comic Relief, who both agreed to fund it over three years. Both of these funding opportunities were found through Funding Central, and Karyn says that she probably wouldn’t have come across them through any other channel.

The funder’s perspective

I haven’t just been talking to organisations looking for grants and funding on Funding Central. As part of the evaluation work, I’ve been checking on with funders using the site too, and picked up on this great story from grant and in-kind funder LandAid Charitable Trust:

Lucy-Jayne Cummings, LandAid’s grants administrator, first came into contact with Funding Central in 2010 when one of LandAid’s grant opportunities was featured on the website for the first time. However, this was not an immediately positive experience; as a result of the fund’s promotion through Funding Central, applications jumped from an average of 30 or 40 per funding round up to 350, and LandAid initially struggled to cope with the sudden surge of interest.

In response to the increasingly high number of applications (many of which were ineligible), Lucy led a project to clarify and better communicate LandAid’s funding criteria, as well as develop a more efficient online application process. This work was done to prevent organisations wasting their precious resources on writing ineligible applications, and also to help the trust keep on top of the higher volumes of applications they were now receiving.  Lucy says:

“without having had our fund advertised for us on Funding Central, we’d never have experienced that level of need”

Cutting the cost of fundraising

As a funder, LandAid don’t want charities wasting grant money on doing more fundraising than is necessary, so anything it can do to clarify its own criteria, and make the application process easier, helps charities make good decisions about where to put their fundraising resources. 65 % of Funding Central users (responding to our survey) said they had saved time by using the site, typically 1-2 hours per week, which is really helpful when so many organisations are under pressure to do more with less.

Lucy believes that charities shouldn’t have to pay to access information about possible funding opportunities for the same reason, and points out that Funding Central’s free service helps keep charities’ fundraising costs down. Since tightening up its own criteria, LandAid has experienced a drop in applications overall, but a rise in eligible applications, which helps save time for everyone, as well as making sure that LandAid’s funds are supporting the right projects.

Thanks to Karyn Johnston from Age UK Cheshire East and Lucy-Jayne Cummings from LandAid for letting me share their stories here.

More resources

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