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3rd – 5th July 2017
The Barbican

Core funding – the Shangri-la of fundraising

: Ewan Hastings

Ewan Hastings, Trust and Corporate Fundraiser at Waverley Care, shares his top tips for putting together a compelling case for core funding.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to fill up your charity’s bank account with lots of core, completely unrestricted income? All those requests from your service colleagues for a new admin person would be instantly achievable and your office could have faster computers and swanky, curved desks. If only it were that simple! 

Trustees will perennially see core funding as something that every fundraiser can surely just go out and get – especially so if you work for a small charity. In reality, that’s normally far from the case, as funders increasingly put restrictions on their grant giving.  

I like to think of core funding as being “the hammer that knocks the nail in” - in other words your charity’s services wouldn’t be able to run, were it not for the up to date IT software on the charity’s computers, the heating, lighting, stationery and paying for a roofer to fix the leak in the back office roof, which core, unrestricted funding can provide.

Core funding allows your charity to become stronger and more able to sustain services going forwards.  It also gives your charity the flexibility to adapt services to ensure that you are providing support where it is most needed.  It’s absolutely critical to the smooth operation of your charity.  So why do most trusts shy away from funding charities in such a needed and crucial way? 

Core funding is the Shangri-la of fundraising.  However it’s not impossible to get. I have found that with a bit of passion, allied to being proud to asking for it, have been the main keys to unlocking core funding for the charities with whom I have worked. 

Having worked now as a full-time fundraiser for nine UK charities, large and small, in a fundraising career spanning over 21 years – 14 of which have been as a trusts and foundations fundraiser - I have found that the following tips have worked for me in putting together a compelling case for core funding in my applications to trusts:


  • A number of large trusts have done articles in the fundraising media explaining their core funding policy.  Search for these online and learn the language of these funders. Then paraphrase the words they use in your applications, to them and other funders.


  • Be positive and proud in your application writing when asking for core funding.  As I explain above, core funding allows your charity to become stronger and giving you the flexibility to adapt your services where it is most needed.  Explain why that “hammer that knocks the nail in” is so crucial to your service users or cause.  


  • I feel it helps if you can demonstrate to core grants funders that your charity really is distinctive enough from others and can evidence systematic change.  It’s that searching for excellence by your charity that funders love to hear about and then go on to fund.


  • If a trust states the fact that it awards grants for core funding, then apply for core funding.  These trusts are rare and so the opportunities for asking for core funding must be taken.


  • If a trust, on the Charities Commission or OSCR website, lists a contact phone number, and has a generic listing where they give to “general purposes”, then call them and ask them if they give grants for core funding.  Often they do.


  • I have always felt that trusts like to hear the other ways in which you are raising core, unrestricted income e.g. through fundraising events and individual giving.  This shows that you are not totally reliant on core funding from trusts.


  • If you have had some core funding grants in already this year, list them in your application.  This will give other trusts the confidence to give you a grant too.

If you're looking for more top tips on applying for grant funding, check out my new ebook  “Trusts and Foundations Fundraising Success Top Tips: Valuable Lessons from an Old-Dog Fundraiser”, available now on Kindle.

Ewan Hastings MInstF(Dip), Trusts and Corporate Fundraiser, Waverley Care

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