Finding Funding

By Nikki Wilson

I’m often asked if we can think of any funding that would be suitable for a project or organisation.  Unfortunately there’s rarely a short and simple answer to this.  The funding environment is as varied as charities, social enterprises and small businesses themselves, and priorities and fund focus often change over time as funders adjust to emerging needs or new strategies.


Assuming you’re working on an impact or community-focused project, depending on the organisational structure there’s a good possibility that the National Lottery Community Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England or Sport England would be good places to start. 


There are also Directories that charge a fee including those from the Directory of Social Change and My Funding Central (free for organisations with under £30k turnover).  While the cost needs to be justified, it may be worth considering a subscription service if you aim to generate a significant proportion of your income as they’re likely to allow a more targeted search and save you time.


Otherwise, there are a few free options that might be a little more work, or less comprehensive but could come up with some good options.  Here are a few places to get started:


Infrastructure organisations such as Local Councils for Voluntary Organisations:  these often have their own directories and/ or can provide appointments to use subscription-based directories.  They’re great for highlighting locally focused funding options and signing up to their newsletters can bring up-to-date information straight to your inbox.


Many of these are members of NAVCA where you can search for your most local and which has its own Funding section.


Charity Commission: until recently this might have been a needle-in-a-haystack option but some changes to the search function have helped to narrow things down.  This great blog from Tania Cohen from 360 Giving tells you how.


GrantNav 360 Giving (!): and while you’re at it, Tania’s blog explains how to use GrantNav too.  It’s a record of grants made, so it takes a slight shift in approach but is a great way to see where organisations in your sector have received funding previously and to do some research on prospective funders’ past behaviour.


Charity Excellence Framework: an immense and growing resource that’s totally free to access and collates funding lists and directories classified by sector amongst many other sources of advice and support.  Sign up for the weekly newsletter to get a short digest and news on what’s been added in the past seven days!


Growth Hubs: these have coverage across England and while they primarily focus on business development their information is often relevant to all sectors and includes sources of business grants.


Local Authorities: Economic Development teams often include directories of information sources and issue regular newsletters combining national and local opportunities.


Using the sources above could bring up a range of possible options but I’d always advise being selective about where you put your fundraising time.  It can be tempting to keep applying for funds, shaping projects but this risks shifting your focus and energy from your core mission.   Try to be objective about how closely you meet the funder’s criteria and only apply to those where you can see a good synergy so that you can preserve your energy and enthusiasm for moving forward with your mission.