This is the time of year when many permaculture and other projects are thinking about obtaining financial support. However, the world of grants and funding can sometimes be off-putting, feeling like a daunting and complicated maze to the inexperienced. We asked our friend Matt King, Chief Executive of South East Essex mental health and wellbeing charity Trust Links, to share some tips and advice for the uninitiated;
It’s great to have ideas and plans for projects. And alot can be developed on an entirely voluntary basis – but the reality is that many projects need money, either to help them purchase resources or pay wages, or even just to meet the expenses of the people who are working on the project or helping out.
The first thing to think about is the governance associated with your project. Will you be a registered charity, Community Interest Company, sole trader or community group? Your governance will affect what funding you can access. Some grant making trusts require you to be a charity if they are going to give you funding. If you are looking for grant funding, is there a local charity that you can partner with? Should you register as a Community Interest Company? Are you part of a community group?
The other thing you need to think carefully about is what you are trying to achieve. What is the need that you are addressing and who are your target audience? What is the intended impact on your target audience and what outcomes will be achieved? How many people are likely to benefit? Are there other benefits to the environment and the broader community? It is important to know these things as it will affect who will help fund and support the project.
There are a range of ways that your project can get funding and other resources:
- Crowdfunding using an online platform enables lots of individuals to donate to the project, which collectively can add up to a significant amount that can make a real difference. You will need to identify something specific that the public and your supporters would like to pay towards, so usually something tangible such as some equipment. A good video and compelling narrative can support your crowdfunding campaign, which you can promote through social media to get the word out to your supporters quickly and cheaply.
- Grants from trusts and foundations is probably the most straightforward way of obtaining funding to support your project, provided you can clearly explain what you want to achieve and the impact and outcome of the project. You will generally need to be a registered charity or Community Interest Company for most grant making trusts and foundations, although some trusts will fund community groups and individuals. You will need to identify specifically what you want to fund – capital funding for equipment and building and/or revenue funding for wages and core costs. If you are asking for money for wages, you will need to be clear on exactly what the worker(s) will do and how it will contribute to the project. Your local Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) can help you identify which funders to apply to and may also be able to comment on draft funding applications. There are both local and national grant making trusts; you need to ensure that you meet the criteria of the funder and demonstrate in the application form how you meet their criteria and the project helps deliver the priorities identified by the funder. Bear in mind that decisions can take 1 to 6 months, so build this process into your project timeframe. A good start is an Awards for All application to the Big Lottery Fund for up to £10,000. This is a fairly simple form with one main box of up to 500 words for you to describe how you will achieve at least one of the following priorities: bringing people together and building strong relationships in and across communities; improving the places and spaces that matter to communities; and enabling more people to fulfil their potential by working to address issues at the earliest possible stage. See https://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/funding/Awards-For-All
- Private sector companies can support your project in a variety of ways. Some larger local companies may donate money to your project if you write to them or get to know a senior manager at the company who can persuade the Director or charity committee of the merits of your project. You may be able to get donations from companies or items that can support your project or discounted items or even for raffle prizes. Some companies give their employees time off to support charitable activities, so you could request specialist support for your project or a team of people for a day from a company to get something going in your project (e.g. a painting tasks, building task).
- Donations can be obtained from more well-off individuals. There can be tax breaks for people in higher tax brackets. Major donors need to be approached carefully and with respect, but may be a good source of income if you or those close to the project have wealthy connections.
- Fundraising: Have you got a community of supporters who would help raise money for this project? Fundraising can be done in a variety of ways through events such as coffee mornings and through somebody being sponsored for doing something – you could organise your own sponsored activity or join an established activity such as a marathon, tough mudder, etc.
- Trading – is there any aspect of your project that you can sell? This might be items produced through your project, experiences for beneficiaries, training or consultancy to other projects. You can build a good revenue stream through sales, although you need to consistently focus on your product in order to be able to keep selling it.
If you plan for your project to be a going concern beyond the short term, it is advisable to have a good mixture of funding sources and approaches. Relying on one funder or funding type can leave you vulnerable to their whims or possible cuts, which could potentially jeopardise your project completely.
Remember, you don’t get anything if you don’t ask, so think carefully about what you need and what difference the resource will make, then be bold and ask. If you are turned down, you can learn from this by asking for feedback (some funders do not give feedback, but it’s always worth a try) and improving your request. A rejection may not be personal, it may be that they are swamped with requests and literally do not have the resources to give to your project. You will need to build resilience to rejections and not be deterred, but keep asking from as wide a pool of funders as you can to increase your chances of getting support.
Matt King is the chief executive at Trust Links, a mental health and well-being charity working in South East Essex to support people experiencing mental health problems. The project is committed to building stronger communities and promoting Sustainable living, and promote therapeutic gardening through a number of Growing Together projects in the area. “Through therapeutic gardening, we aim to nurture the wellbeing of our members, improve mental health, offer a quiet place to think and relax, provide access to new skills in horticulture leading to job opportunities and build strong community links”.