Independent Living Institute


Disability Awareness in Action
Resource Kit No. 5

by Agnes Fletcher
© 1996 Disability Awareness in Action, All rights reserved

Download the "Fund-Raising Kit" as a PDF file (120 KB)

Effective Fund-Raising

Research - Research - Research

Knowing where to look for funding is your first step. Large international and regional funding agencies may have branches near you. Seek the advice of others who have tried fund-raising and use your local library to find contact numbers and addresses.

Many organisations make grants - businesses, organisations of businesspeople, charities, development agencies, government departments. Remember that most are cautious and busy. The number of applications for funds is so large that many good proposals, even if they fit the priorities of the funder, are refused.

International, regional and national funding agencies have different demands for how a funding proposal should be written or arranged. Whatever the specific format, funders generally need certain common basic information. They are usually interested in the following:

  1. What is the problem, need or want?
  2. What solution are you proposing and why has it been chosen?
  3. What are the expected benefits and for whom?
  4. Will the project work?
  5. Are the costs justified?
  6. Are the costs and skills within the means of the donor?
  7. Can the agency give the resources you are seeking?
Each agency will look at your proposal in relation to its own priorities and policies. For example, if "self-reliance" and "community participation" have been adopted as major policies, an extra question would be: does your project contribute towards community participation and the achievement of self-reliance? Some funders give for "capital costs" - that is the costs of things that are needed, such as buildings, vehicles, equipment. Others give only for revenue costs - or the costs of the day-to-day running of the project. Make sure you know which area the funder you are applying to covers.


Choose the funding agencies whose interests most nearly match your project and its needs. Be creative in fitting your proposal into as many funding categories as possible.

Do not send copies of your proposal to agencies you have not researched, those for which your proposal is clearly not appropriate, or those that do not fund your type of organisation.

It is a far better use of your organisation’s time and money to target a few carefully researched agencies that may be interested in your proposal than to send letters and proposals to dozens of agencies in the hope that one might be interested.

Build a Relationship
Get to know your funder Try to talk to the person who is dealing with your application. Encourage them to come to visit you. Always let them know of any problems you may have. Think of their needs too. Don’t ask for too much money. Don’t forget - they only know what you tell them about yourselves.

Don’t ask for too much money!

A $25,000 request may be reasonable from an organisation whose regular budget for giving is large. It is probably too much for an organisation that is relatively young, does not have a "track record" of administering grants and/or has a regular budget of only $40,000.

If you are a new organisation, it is better to start asking for smaller grants and gradually increase the amount as your organisation builds a record of successful grant management.

Funders want to know that their money is properly used. If you are a new organisation and have no proof that you can administer well, then ask for a small amount to prove your abilities.

Consider multi-year requests. Most projects related to disability are trying to make major changes in people’s lives and in society. They will take several years to become effective. For most projects, it may be wise to consider asking for funding for at least two years. You might ask for more money the first year (when start-up costs are high) and less for the second year.

Funders like to support projects that have the potential to become self-sufficient over time, so their contribution can be smaller each year as a project gains increased local support.

Some agencies will guarantee funding for more than one year. Others will not but if you do well in terms of the first year’s aims and provide the funder with a clear, accurate and prompt report of your first year’s results, there is a chance that you will get favourable consideration for the second year.

It is good to build a strong and continuing partnership with one or more funders in this way.

It All Takes Time

Many months, sometimes even a year may pass between the time you give your proposal to a potential funder and the time you get a reply. Although the process for proposals varies from agency to agency, it might include these stages:

Because of the length of the proposal-review process, when possible start fund-raising at least a year before the money will be needed.

You should not submit a proposal until your plans are fairly firm and you should avoid any major changes to your plans in the middle of the review process if at all possible. Circumstances may mean that plans need to change over the course of a year. This should be explained - the change and the reasons behind it. If the aims or main features of an action plan change, it may suggest to the funding agency that you didn’t plan very carefully in the first place.

Some funding agencies get more than twelve requests for every one they award. Consider yourself lucky, especially to begin with, if one in every dozen proposals you send out is funded. The odds should improve as you build a track record of doing good work and as funders become more aware of the problems you want to tackle and the work you are doing.


The Board of Management or the Executive Committee has overall responsibility for the financial management of an organisation. They may choose one or more people - not necessarily the treasurer - to have special responsibility for fund-raising and to help any staff who are also fund-raisers.

Your organisation might have one person in charge of project planning and another who writes the proposal, or a single person who does both of these jobs, or a single person who does everything! However, many other people may need to take part in the planning/writing process, such as members of governing and advisory committees, people who will be responsible for carrying out different parts of the project, representatives of other groups you will be working with, evaluation consultants and those who will have responsibility for managing the money and accounting.

Fund-raising is a creative job, although a lot of time is spent writing letters and applications As a fund-raiser, your job is to sell the work, to put across the interest and the enthusiasm of members, so that the person reading your application - who isn’t necessarily an expert in your area - can see what an exciting project it is.

If you write a fund-raising application giving endless lists of names and small details, no one will read past the beginning of the second page. You need to write in a way that will keep the reader’s interest. This isn’t easy.

You don’t have to be a professional writer or a magician to write an excellent proposal. What you do need is a clear action plan and the ability to explain it in simple language.

Even the best proposal writer cannot produce an outstanding proposal unless the project has been planned with care and in detail and unless the writer has access to all the information.

Start small. Once you have built up a reputation for hard work and reliability, you may be able to persuade funders to give more. The secret of fund-raising is an imaginative but inexpensive presentation of the project and evidence of good administration.


Spending Wisely

STEP ONE: Making Plans
Decide what you want to do.
Agree actions to be taken.
Find out how much they will cost.

STEP TWO: The Budget
Write your budget.
It must be reasonable.
Change it if you don’t get the funds.
The golden rule is: don’t spend what you haven’t got!
Cheaper choices may be available.
If you have lots of projects, budget each one separately as well as making them part of the whole budget/programme.

STEP THREE: Fund-Raising
Do some research before anything else.
Applying to the right funder is the most important thing to get right.
Build up a relationship with the people who work for the funding organisation.
Put in a clear and reasonable proposal with budget.

STEP FOUR: Keeping Control
Keep regular records so you know how much money you have and what your cash flow is.
Change your budget if necessary.

STEP FIVE: Reporting
Make regular reports during the project and a final report to the funder.

continue...Funding Applications