Raising funds locally

Making Music is grateful to the Voluntary Arts Network for providing this information about fundraising.


  1. Fundraising for small groups and organisations
  2. Why should they give money to you?
  3. What are your aims and objectives?
  4. What are your methods?
  5. What do you want to do?
  6. Breaking down your target
  7. Who to approach
  8. Types of funds
  9. Pitching to the right people
  10. How to ask
  11. Following up
  12. More information

1. Fundraising for small groups and organisations

So, you want some money!

You are not alone: there are many organisations and groups who are also looking for money.  Competition for funds is stiff, but there is no reason why you shouldn't be successful if you put together a good case. This guidance can help you understand the basis of successful fundraising, help you see giving from the donor's point of view and suggest action you can take to get the money you need.

This sheet will help you to raise funds locally by helping you think about:

  • what your group aims to do
  • what you want to do
  • what it will cost
  •  where to find the money to make it happen
  • how to ask for money successfully
  • what to do after your request has been answered

Together these constitute your fundraising strategy or plan. This guidance doesn't:

  • examine the arts funding system in the UK
  • look at applying to trust funds and major donors

2. Why should we give money to you?

The first thing any funder or donor will want to know is who you are, what you do and why they should give their precious cash to you. You need to establish your group’s credibility and show that if they give you money it will be spent wisely to achieve the objectives you set out to accomplish. Before anything else you will need to show that you have a structure in place which demonstrates you are capable of handling money and that funds you are given will be used for the purpose for which they were intended.

Amongst other things, this means you will need a constitution which sets out your management structure, states that you are non-profit making and says what will happen to your assets and any money you have should your group cease to operate (called ‘winding-up’). In addition you need to think about your aims, objectives and methods.

3. What are the aims & objectives of your group?

Your aims and objectives are usually given in your constitution or other governing document.  They give a brief description of why your group exists and what you set out to do. For example:

Heathcote Handbell Ringers exist to promote and develop interest and skill in the art of handbell ringing, in the locality of Heathcote. They aim to offer support and training to those already practising the art of handbell ringing, to encourage others to take part in this art form and to ensure the continuation of the tradition in Heathcote.

4. How will you achieve your aims and objectives, ie what are your methods?

For example:

By holding regular meetings to enable members to share information and skills, to invite teachers to meetings and workshops to offer training, to perform to as wide an audience as possible and to work with schools to encourage young people to develop an interest handbell ringing.

It is often useful to clarify your strengths by undertaking a SWOT analysis. This is a simple list of the Strengths and Weaknesses of your group, and the Opportunities and Threats facing you.

It is also useful to gather together evidence supporting your work, such as press clippings, letters of praise from satisfied customers and a statement of support from as respected authority, such as the head teacher of a school you have worked in, or your local arts council.

5. What do you want to do?

The next stage of planning your fundraising activities is to identify exactly what it is you want to do and how much it will cost. You will need to draw up a budget for your expenditure to achieve your objectives. If you don't know how much money you need and exactly what you want it for, funders are unlikely to take your requests for money seriously.

Draw up a budget for your work, looking at specific costs. Some costs you will want to bundle together, such as ‘overheads’ to include phone, office lighting and heating and related costs. You may also want to draw up different budgets to highlight different parts of the project for different funders.

For example:

Budget for Heathcote Handbell Ringers exhibition and annual show

Hire of marquee (3 days) £1200
Research and production of exhibition "History of Handbell Ringing" £1000
Hire of portable exhibition stands £600
Lighting £200
Administration £300
Publicity and Print £400
Total £3700

Your budget will identify how much money you need to find through fundraising.  It may be worth stopping at this point and examining whether this is achievable, or if you are selling yourself short, or if it is unlikely that you will be able to raise the amount you need in the time available.

6. If your target seems like a mountain waiting to be moved...

Break it down into smaller chunks.  Think about what the total sum could be made up of: for example, the £3,700 the Heathcote Handbell Ringers are looking for could come from one donation of £1,000, a discount on the marquee hire of £600, £600 from three fundraising events, a grant from the local authority of £400, a donation from local business of £400, 100 individual donations of £5 and so on. It is unlikely that someone will foot the whole bill, so think about ways of raising and asking for money.

7. OK, so who's got the money?

Once you have made and costed your plans you will have to find out which funders are likely to be interested in funding them. Money can come from a variety of different sources and it is always a good idea not to rely on any one source but to spread your funding base as widely as possible.

Statutory bodies

For example local authorities, your Arts Council Regional Office in England, the Arts Councils of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.


A full list of grant-making trusts can be found in Directory of Grant Making Trusts, published by the Charities Aid Foundation and revised every year; make sure you have the most up to date edition. You can find this and other reference sources on companies and charitable giving in your local reference library. There are also a large number of websites where you can search for trusts and other funding sources. 


Other organisations

Schools, rotary clubs, church groups and other community groups.


8. Different kinds of money you might ask for

  • Fees for services you provide
  • Grants for projects
  • Grants for your running costs
  • Donations of specific items of equipment or products
  • Donations of services or professional consultancy time
  • Discounts on equipment, products or services

9. What, more research?

When you have found out who the most likely sources of funding for your project or running costs are, you need to research their criteria for giving. Most funding organisations will have written guidelines on the kind of projects and organisations they fund. Read between the lines and think hard about what they are telling you about the work they are interested in supporting.

You may wish to package your work in different ways, stressing different aspects to match the different requirements of different funders. If you are looking for donations from individuals or companies, try to think about your cause from their point of view. You will need to package your information and request for funding to gain their interest and support.

Think of your application for funds from their point of view: what do they get out of it? You may wish to offer them privileges, such as tickets to your first night, name your building after them, offer them the use of space or give their staff discounts. Try and match what you are trying to do with the aims and objectives of the people and companies you are approaching.

And don’t waste your own time. If a trust supports only red-headed children in Sleaford, don’t bother applying if you are a blonde from Salford. It may sound obvious, but many organisations complain about getting applications from people who have clearly taken no notice (or not even read) their guidelines.

Hopefully if you have done your homework you will be ready to ask the big question. The only reason people will give money is because someone asks them. And with all the facts and figures you need to make a good case, the only thing left to do is ASK!

10. How to ask

Face to face - If you can arrange to meet the right person in a company or in a trust fund to put your case to them personally, do so. It is by far the best way of winning their support. It may take several meetings to get the result you want. Always be prepared, know exactly what it is you are asking them for and what you are offering in return.

Personal letter - If you can call and speak to someone before you send a letter to let them know it is coming so much the better.

  • Always address your letters to someone with a name!
  • Always make your letter personal and speak to them about yourself with their interests and concerns in mind
  • Never send round-robin letters or photocopied general requests, it is a waste of your time and money

Telephone - If you feel confident enough and have the name of the right person to speak to, call them and talk to them directly. It may feel uncomfortable as you will be selling your project to them, but if you enjoy this approach it is often successful.

Application forms - If you are applying to a trust or other grant making body the chances are you will have to fill in an application form. It is also a good idea to make initial contact with them to double check they fund the kind of work you are intending to do.

  • Always send your application form with a covering letter briefly setting out your case
  • Always answer all the questions on the form and send any additional materials asked for
  • Always send your application in plenty of time before any deadlines
  • If it is an important application form, phone and check it has arrived

11. After asking, follow up

Keep a record of people you approach for money, what you asked them for, when and what their response was. If you receive a positive response, write and thank them for their support. Take opportunities to show them that you used the money well and are grateful for their help.  Let them know how the project develops, or what you did as a result of the money they gave you. Write to them and let them know your future plans. Send them your newsletter if you have one and give them a mention in it as well! Keep track of who is working with them, so if your contact moves on you will know whom to approach next.

If you receive a "no, not at this moment in time" type of response, keep a record as they may wish to fund your work in future. You could find out if you approached them at the wrong time, or if they give to specific causes on a regular basis and how they choose them. They may still have the potential to become funders in the future. 

File your "nos" as well. Not in the waste paper bin, but somewhere someone taking over your job of fundraiser will be able to find them, so they don't waste their time and energy chasing people you know aren't interested.

The second thing about your "no" responses is not to take them too personally. People will say no for many different reasons.  And remember, the best way to increase your success is to double your failure rate!  Best of luck!

12. More information

Searchable databases

Voluntary organisations

  • NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) 020 7713 6161 www.ncvo-vol.org.uk
  • SCVO (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations) 0131 556 3882  www.scvo.org.uk
  • WCVA (Wales Council for Voluntary Action) 0800 288 8329 www.wcva.org.uk
  • NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action) 028 9087 7777 www.nicva.org

Arts Councils


  • The Directory of Social Change publishes a very useful range of funding-related documentation. 08450 777 707 www.dsc.org.uk
  • The Charities Aid Foundation similarly has some useful stuff. 03000 123 000 www.cafonline.org
  • Community Builders supports community-led organizations with finance, training and resources www.communitybuildersfund.org.uk
  • KnowHowNonProfit is an online forum for non-profit people to learn and share with others www.knowhownonprofit.org

13. Useful reading

  • The Arts Funding Guide, Anne-Marie Doulton, Directory of Social Change (tel 08450 777707)
  • The Complete Fundraising Handbook, Sam Clarke, Directory of Social Change in association with ICFM


We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.