Opinion: To understand giving is key to grant success

Andrew Billington, director of the Jack Petchey Foundation, who writes in a personal capacity

Who says it's easy to give money away? In my office I have framed these words by Aristotle: "To give away money is an easy matter and in any man's power. But to decide to whom to give it, and how much, and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man's power nor an easy matter."

I have been in the voluntary sector for 25 years. During the first 20 years, I was heavily involved in fundraising for charities and was on the committee of the Institute of Fundraising Managers.

Over the past six years, my work has turned full circle - I now spend all my time giving money away. In 1998, Jack Petchey, one of Britain's most successful entrepreneurs, asked me to set up and administer a grant-making trust. A capital sum of several hundred million pounds was available for the programme. Jack Petchey wanted to focus mainly on youth projects in East London. The foundation has grown rapidly and is extending its borders to include other London boroughs and programmes in Portugal.

I was a moderately successful fundraiser - during the 10 years I was appeals director with the John Grooms Association of Disabled People, the voluntary income increased by 600 per cent. But I think I would be better at it now, especially in raising money from trusts.

For instance, I would not spend money on producing expensive appeals literature and outsize publications - they're very difficult for recipients to file. I would ask my charity to spend more time in analysing the need for a particular programme before embarking on it. I would check to see who else is providing a similar service: maybe someone else could do it better, or the better solution might be a joint venture.

I received two applications from charities working with deaf people in the same geographical area recently. The applicants knew very little about each other's organisations, but responded favourably to the suggestion that they resubmit their applications after discussions between them to establish their respective priorities so that unnecessary duplication was prevented.

Aristotle's statement is right - it is the second part that sometimes gives me sleepless nights!

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