#FundingWeek: Facing Your Fundraising Fears

Today’s guest post is by Sassy Hicks. Sassy is the Membership, Marketing and Projects Manager for the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), an Assessor for the Investing in Volunteers Award and a member of the Institute of Fundraising (IoF). In her spare time, she volunteers as a Fundraising and Marketing Officer for local heritage groups in South Wales. She can be contacted via email on: sassy@aim-museums.co.uk

“A couple of years ago, I was at a very jolly board meeting for a local history group run entirely by volunteers. I had been invited along to see how they worked and to then write about the group and their activities in a local Third Sector based magazine, because the group was (and still is)hugely prolific in their output. Each year, the small team of fifteen people willingly give up their free time to produce local history books, visit numerous schools to run sessions on history and manage to produce several impressive history talks per month.

The meeting was going well with tea flowing, jovial conversation and we were ripping through the agenda at lightning speed and I fully expected to be home in plenty of time for EastEnders and an early night. But then, as we reached nearly the end of the meeting, the subject of funding came up and the atmosphere in the room plummeted rapidly. Gone was the sense of shared purpose and in its place was…fear. It seemed no one on the board wanted to take responsibility for securing much needed grants and the debate on whose role it actually was lasted another two hours.

It is totally understandable that funding and the subject of how you are going to finance your activities can be intimidating. None of us particularly relish sitting down with a funding application in front us and it’s true that there is nothing quite as scary as the blank page, so if we can possibly excuse ourselves from this task then we will. Even professional Fundraising Managers like me dread the uphill battle of finding grants that: a) Are relevant, b) Didn’t close only yesterday and won’t be open again for another year c) Don’t have guidelines that require a full week of reading.

Most of the time, funding is viewed as a necessary evil or as something that requires massive amounts of time, resources and skills to pull off properly, but even small volunteer led organisations can be successful if they face the fear and adjust their  mutual mind-sets.  Having worked in fundraising for over a decade, I hope some of the tips and tricks I outline below will help you gain a fresh perspective on how your funding is sourced and secured and that you will gain the confidence to give it a go!

1: Get everyone involved: Fundraising is a much easier and more pleasurable task if everyone in the organisation takes some responsibility for it. Create a fundraising group if you don’t already have one and divide the tasks behind fundraising such as sourcing, completing and checking grants and associated forms between you. If you really don’t have anyone currently volunteering that wants to take on fundraising, consider advertising a new volunteer role to do this task. Ask your local CVC or Museum Development Officer for advice on how to advertise it widely.

2: Learn the language: Fundraising comes with its own set of words and phrases which can feel off-putting at first. Don’t know your outcomes from your outputs? Scared of the difference between stakeholders and beneficiaries? Are capital and revenue confusing you? Spend a bit of time learning this language and you will instantly gain confidence. This glossary of fundraising terminology, courtesy of Andrew deMille Fundraising Consultants, is a good place to start: Fundraising Glossary

3: Marketing matters: Marketing and fundraising are inextricably linked. If people don’t know about your organisation and what you do – how can you expect them to support you? (And this includes funders!). Get into the habit of promoting your organisation so that people can learn to trust in your ‘brand’. Create newsletters and then put them online, develop social media channels so you have a strong presence and use any visitor feedback as the basis for case studies that you can include in your grant applications. If you secure funding, be courteous and tell the world about it! Place funding logos on all marketing materials too.

4: Tell your story: Don’t forget that grant assessors are human beings too and they see hundreds of applications every year. Make yours stand out from the crowd by ensuring your application is engaging, informative and that it highlights your organisations unique selling points. A good grant application needs all the basic information, statistics and budgets – but it also needs to be compelling.

5: Start small to win big: There is no better confidence boost than when you have put in hours of hard work completing your grant application and you discover it was successful! Start your fundraising journey by applying for a few smaller grants and build up to the big stuff gradually. AIM (Association of Independent Museums) offers its members different grants throughout the year and we are always happy to advise and guide you through the process. You can find information about our grants here: AIM Grants Programme

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