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20 Dec 11

Trust Fundraising: the Cinderella of the Fundraising World?

It’s the same old story, being played out every day in charitable organisations across the length and breadth of the country.

While major donor managers and corporate fundraisers are out and about courting potential sponsors and organising glitzy charity balls, trust fundraisers are all too often hidden away in the darkest, dustiest corners of the office.

With nothing more than a desk, a telephone and an ageing computer to keep them company, trust fundraisers are overlooked and their role is regarded as no more than a stepping stone for the far more glamorous positions occupied by their high profile colleagues.

Yet according to NCVO’s Civil Society Almanac of Charities, over 10% of income comes in the form of grants, while major donations account for around 6% and corporate income comes in at a little over 4%. This should really come as no surprise, as statutory grants are supported every year by billions of pounds that come directly from corporation and income tax. As a result the money comes as much from the millions of workers who donate a small proportion of their income tax as it does from the millionaires who have made their fortunes and create trusts and foundations of their own.

The shoe simply doesn’t fit!

So why is it that trust fundraising is regarded as the lowly relative; destined to be stereotyped as nothing more than a bunch of desk jockeys? Nearly all the trust fundraisers I know are charming, outgoing, sociable and creative people, who also happen to know how to formulate, plan and write a winning proposal.

What’s more, the process of trust fundraising is really no different than that of the other disciplines: cultivating relationships (not just with the trust itself but also with the people who make the decisions), soliciting their support and then stewarding the relationship. At the end of the day, trust fundraisers can develop a relationship, which in the right hands can blossom and last for years.

My own experience is set against my background as a project manager and like many others in my position I had to do my own fundraising. Using all my project management skills, I discovered trust fundraising to be just as target driven and exciting as any business project. I use my skills to create a rapport with people from all backgrounds and walks of life, I have developed the resilience to pick myself up from the inevitable setbacks and celebrate the sense of triumph that comes with a successful outcome.

The truth, (that we all need to face), is that money is becoming tighter with more and more charities vying for a slice of a shrinking cake. So rather than arguing about which area of fundraising is the most valuable, charities need to ensure that they are maximising all the areas of the fundraising mix, be it major donor, corporate, grants, direct mail or street collections

So I encourage all my fellow trust fundraisers to hold their heads high and the statistical evidence even higher in praise of their invaluable role. It’s time to come out of the shadows and share the spotlight alongside our more celebrated colleagues. And for those of you looking for a career in fundraising, I encourage you to see trust fundraising not just as an entry level opportunity but as a career in itself.

Maybe that way, we will all get to go to the ball.

Radha Vyas is a freelance trust fundraiser and you can find out more about her work by visiting