Anna Taylor: Broaden your fundraising horizons

More charities should look to raise funds from foundations based overseas, writes our columnist

Anna Taylor
Anna Taylor

Many charities raise substantial funding from charitable trusts in the UK. Smaller organisations are likely to form the bulk of their income from trust donations, because this is often the most straightforward way to bring in reasonable sums with limited man or woman-power.

Far fewer charities, perhaps because they lack training and support, raise funds from foundations based overseas, even though many could fairly easily adapt their materials for this purpose. This is a huge missed opportunity.

The US-based Foundation Centre's estimates of foundation growth and giving, published in 2012, show that US foundations give away about £30.9bn a year; UK trusts give away £3bn. An estimated £1.1bn of grants from US foundations goes to charities based in England.

Indeed, English organisations come second only to Switzerland in the Foundation Centre's league table of overseas grant recipients by country.

Of course, most of this funding from US foundations goes to work that is of international interest. A list of the top 50 English recipients of US grants is dominated by international development charities, medical research bodies, environmental causes, universities and major arts institutions.

Substantial funding is also available through major foundations based in Europe. The European Foundation Centre website puts European foundation spending at a whopping £130bn a year - with Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Turkey and Switzerland the biggest givers.

Japan also has several important grant-making foundations, and organisations based in emerging market countries are increasingly engaging in this form of philanthropy. Many of the biggest foundations accept funding applications in English for innovative work that can demonstrate impact, regardless of the charity's origins, because they want to support the best projects available.

In the UK, most fundraisers will be familiar with the directories of UK trusts. However, the funding guides and training courses that are available almost all fail to include advice for charities on how to identify potential overseas foundation funders.

I am writing an International Development Funding Guide that I hope will go some way towards rectifying this for charities. We'll see whether this starts a trend; having read about the topic quite extensively, I have come to the conclusion that there is a real information gap in this area that needs to be filled.

Many UK-based charities have world-class programmes and are global leaders in their particular fields. It is important that their fundraising reflects this, so they can maximise their impact.

Anna Taylor is a freelance fundraiser, writer and researcher and a former UK director of Child in Need India

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