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How to spot a trust fundraiser by Liz Gunson - Trust Fundraising Manager

31 May 2018

I think when most people think of fundraising they think of shaking a bucket at their local supermarket, or running marathons, or doing something weird and wonderful like the ice bucket challenge. But fundraising can and should be done in many ways – one of which is by applying to trusts.

We’re not exactly rare animals, but we’re not very visible. And since we’re not as visible, this is a little introduction to our world…

How to spot a trust fundraiser:
• Probably sitting at a desk in a corner, with head down, concentrating
• Likely to ask out-of-the-blue questions, such as ‘what’s another word for…?’
• Loves data, facts and figures. Especially if these come in the form of infographics (there are some smashing ones in our annual report)
• Good with detail and can usually see the big picture too
• Probably regarded as a nerd (maybe even boring!) by the rest of the fundraising team
• Unabashed love of spreadsheets
• Irrational fear of the postman – ‘must get it in the post today!’
• Might disappear into an application for a day or two if it’s particularly complicated. (Best to leave them be if this is the case).
• Great person to go to if you need details about a project.

Liz Gunson
Liz Gunson

At face value, trust fundraising is all about writing applications to trusts and foundations asking them to support our work. It’s a bit like doing your homework well, and if it’s really good you get a gold star (or donation, in this case). Easy, yes?

But who do you send it to? Some trusts only support certain work, and if they gave last year you might not be able to apply for a couple more years. What do you send them? What are they interested in? How much are they likely to fund? How do you find that out? And after they’ve given what do you do? Reports? Visits? Special event invites? What about applying again? Help! This is why we’re often nerds, and super-organised ones at that.

At its heart, trust fundraising has two, inter-dependent parts: projects and people.


Projects: Kidney Research UK supports some truly incredible research. I know it’s kind of my job to say that, but, quite genuinely, some of the research just blows my mind. Did you know we can make mini kidneys from stem cells now?

A big part of my work is translating that science into easily understandable, two-page ‘cases for support’ which clearly show the difference a trust’s support could make. I’m not from a medical background at all (not much about biology in Graeco-Roman history or literature) so it’s been a steep learning curve. But I love the challenge.

People: Fundraising is about relationships more than anything. We tend to think of trusts a little abstractly as organisations, but a good trusts programme is about building good relationships with the people in the trust (trustees, administrators, volunteers, etc.,). It might be as simple as getting applications to the right person, at the right time. But we like to go beyond what’s expected – maybe they’d like to come along to a lab tour, or a meeting with the researcher they’re funding? Whatever a trust gives towards our work is so appreciated, and we like to show that appreciation as much as we can.

There’s a mantra written for fundraising offices which goes ‘we connect people who want to change the world with people who can’. That’s how I see my job – I connect people who want to cure kidney disease with the researchers who can actually do it. It’s a pleasure, and a privilege.

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