Step 2: Researching possible donors and funders

25 May 2021

We understand the process of finding the right funder for your charity can often be overwhelming and time consuming. Step 2 will help make your search quicker, easier and more effective.

How to get funding for a charity project

Sources of funding

Potential donors and funders come in a variety of forms. Drawing on a diverse range of sources can help increase financial resilience, as demonstrated by research after the COVID-19 pandemic.1 Consider a mix of the following sources in your fundraising plan:
  • Statutory sources - local authority or national government grants and contracts  
  • Grant making bodies – including trusts and foundations; lottery funding and community funds 
  • Corporates – including sponsorship, mentoring or pro-bono work and payroll giving 
  • Community and individuals – including regular giving, volunteering, running fundraising events for you, legacies, membership and crowdfunding
  • Earned income – including e-bay stores and charity shops, running cafes, selling merchandise or hiring premises   
  • Events – including sporting challenges, digital events, galas, coffee mornings and concerts.
Watch our webinar with sector experts, The Directory for Social Change, for more guidance on funding sources. 

Where to go – fundraising websites

The following sources are a good place to start your research into potential funders:


Charities Excellence framework
  • Contains several online heath-check questionnaires for your charity to review fundraising, governance and impact. 
  • You must register on the site for access.
Funds Online
  • Contains four lists of funding sources including grant making charities, statutory sources and contributions from companies. 
  • Run by the Directory of Social Change, who provide further resources and training on their website.
  • General directory for charitable funding.
Grants Online
  • Contains regional funding information, as well as funds organised by cause.
Local community foundations
  • 46 local community foundations across the UK provide support to local grassroots charities and groups.
  • Check the UK Community Foundation website to see local support in your area.
Lottery good causes
  • Provides information on the various lottery fund programmes available.

The Heritage Funding Directory
  • Funding for the heritage sector.
Some of these websites charge subscription fees, so consider if you are part of any umbrella organisations or a network that already has access, so you do not need to pay. 
It is also worth researching the annual accounts and reports of other charities and organisations doing similar work to you, to see which funders have supported them. Annual reports are in the public domain and are available via the Charity Commission website.

What to look for - researching charity grants and funding

When researching possible donors and funders, you will need to consider the types of information in the table below.
NameName of potential funder or donor
TypeThe type of potential funder that you want to approach. These include trusts, foundations, corporate funders, statutory bodies and philanthropic individuals who may be able to support your activities.
Area of interestThe potential funder’s areas of interest, the fit with your organisation and the projects/activities which need funding. For example, the funder may be interested in the protection of the environment and natural heritage; promoting the arts or helping marginalised sectors of society.
Past givingOther charities, projects or organisations that a funder has supported in the past, and what kind of grants they have awarded. The funder may have a particular track record in supporting grass root community groups or the restoration of museums and heritage buildings. Understanding what a funder likes, or has a tendency to support, will help you to work out if they are a good match for your organisation. Knowing about relevant past grants or gifts, including the amount, will also help you gain a sense of what level of gift to request.
Key peopleTry to find a list of trustees, key executives or administrative staff (such as a grants manager) of a given trust, foundation or funder. These should be listed in their annual reports or provided on the given funder’s Charities Commission website listing. Try to map a route to any of these through your networks to effect an introduction or letter of endorsement. 
ProcedureAny key elements in the funder’s application process including deadlines and any financial information or supporting materials that they require. Some may wish you to complete a paper application form (rather than online) while others have an online quiz to assess your suitability for their grants. Some funders have several deadlines per year so think about which deadline ties in best with your charity’s governance process.
Important to noteAny special considerations relating to your approach to this funder or donor for a grant or gift. For example, some funders exclude capital projects or ongoing costs.
Target amountThe target amount that you will be seeking from this donor, taking their areas of interest and track record into consideration.
Next stepsWhat your organisation needs to do next to approach this donor or funder. For example setting up a phone or video meeting with the grants manager or drafting an application for funding.

Top tip: It can be helpful to colour code each of the possible funders/donors to show their potential to give a gift or grant to your charity. This can be according to their likelihood to give or the possible size of their financial contribution. Colour coding can help you to prioritise your approaches and applications. For example: green – most likely to give to your charity; amber – may give to your charity; red – unlikely to give to your charity.

We have provided a downloadable empty template for you to capture this information during your research. 

1 2020 Ecclesiastical Charity Risk Barometer - a survey of 252 senior charity leaders carried out by YouGov on behalf of Ecclesiastical in August 2020

Completed your research?

Move to Step 3: Successful grant applications and building a strong case for support

Step 3

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