On Thursday 16 January, the northern Fellows and I travelled to London to speak with Dorothée Irving from Paul Hamlyn Foundation (PHF). Working as Grants Officer for the Arts, Dorothée had kindly taken time out of her schedule to share her extensive knowledge and experience, which proved invaluable to us as junior fundraisers.
As a group, we focused mainly on the PHF’s Arts Open Grant Scheme, however, many of the topics covered were relevant to all fundraisers whether that be in the arts or otherwise.
Dorothée’s first piece of advice was to do your research. This is a message that is drilled into us as fundraisers from our first day on the job. Without looking at the background and objectives of a trust or foundation, it is possible to spend many wasted hours on applications which clearly don’t fit with their strategic aims. It is important to find out what the foundation has funded in the past and when, as it may give you an indication as to whether an application would be suitable or not. PHF’s website is particularly comprehensive, with advice and guidance for fundraisers as well as case studies so it is definitely worth having a look.
There were two pieces of advice that particularly stood out for me. The first was to be sincere. If you don’t believe in what you are doing or fully understand how you are going to do it, the application will not come across as genuine. PHF looks for people and projects that identify a need in their sector and truly believe that they can deliver a benefit to the groups that they work with.
The second was to be open and honest. As a successful applicant, it is unlikely that your project will go exactly to plan. It is therefore vital that you speak to the funders about issues that may affect the outcome of the project. Trusts and foundations often have a wide and varied range of skills and expertise, not to mention their far reaching circle of connections that can be used to create a greater social impact and Dorothée explained that there are some problems a foundation can help with. One example she gave was if you lose your project manager during the project, the foundation may be able to recommend someone with a positive track record to help complete your project.
It was especially interesting to hear how trusts and foundations spoke to one another. It seems obvious in hindsight, but this was something that I hadn’t particularly considered. They may contact an organisation’s previous funders, or discuss any issues that might have arisen with particular individuals in the past. This reinforced the previous point that you need to be open, honest and try not to burn your bridges, even if your application is rejected.
Overall it was a fascinating session which gave us an incredible insight into the people behind the application forms. Trusts and foundations are not just ‘money machines’ but they are organisations in their own right working towards their own values and objectives. When both a trust and a charity’s values align, they can complement one another wonderfully, and this is when we can really make a difference.
On behalf of myself and the rest of the group, I would like to express our sincere thanks to Dorothée Irving and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for giving us a sneak peek into their world.