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The best resources for fundraisers to search for funders, for free

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With the closure of Funding Central, NCVO’s online grants database, how can you identify potential funders for your work using open data? Here we set out some of the best free resources for fundraisers to search for funders

NCVO’s online grants database, Funding Central, is closing on 31st March 2021. In this blog, we share alternative free resources for small charities to identify potential funders of their work using open data.

There are some very good, paid-for alternatives to NCVOs free Funding Central service, such as Directory of Social Change Funds Online. However, not all charities have the budget available for a subscription. Data that is open and available through 360Giving tools and the Charity Commission register provide a useful starting point and leads for further research. Below we show you how to find potential funding leads using The Charity Commission advanced search, 360Giving’s GrantNav and other resources.

The Charity Commission advanced search feature

This is for searches of funders registered in England and Wales – but you can do a similar search on the Scottish Charity Regulator, OSCR, for trusts registered in Scotland: www.oscr.org.uk/search , and on the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland for funders registered in Northern Ireland: www.charitycommissionni.org.uk/charity-search

During 2020, the Charity Commission upgraded their website to improve advanced searches of the register. You can find the register at: https://register-of-charities.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-search

A screenshot of the Charity Commission website page: Search the Register of Charities

When you click on advanced search, you get a number of options and can combine keyword searches at the top with filters to narrow your search results. Tick the box to select “Main way of carrying out purposes is grantmaking”. This selects the charitable trusts and foundations on the register. The box is about half way down the page, just before the geographical filters:

Screenshot of Charity Commission's Charity Search webpage showing advanced search

There are over 16,000 organisations which have a main purpose of grantmaking so add additional search terms and filters relevant to your cause. You can select classifications about what the charity (the funder) does, who the charity helps and where it operates, or use keywords to search for specific activities.

For example, if the charity is a youth club for young people with disabilities based in the London Borough of Barnet, the selections might be as follows

Classification: What the Charity Does = “Disability”
Classification: Who the Charity Helps = “Children/Young People”
Classification: How the Charity Helps = “Makes grants to organisations”
“Main way of carrying out purposes is grantmaking”
Area of Operation: London Boroughs = “Barnet”

This returns a list of 12 potential funders:

Screenshot of Charity Commission webpage: 'Search the register of charities' showing additional search terms and filters

You can download the list using the link at the bottom of the page. You can also click through to the record to see if it might be relevant to your organisation, before visiting the funder’s website to explore further.

Screenshot of Charity Commission's Charity Search webpage showing John Lyon's Charity

You can also widen the geographical area of the search. For example, selecting London Wide as the area of operation will identify 91 potential funders, and even more when you include charities that fund nationally.

GrantNav

Using the Charity Commission register is one way to identify potential charitable funders. Another way is to see the grants that funders have already made by using the 360Giving grants search-engine, GrantNav: https://grantnav.threesixtygiving.org.

Using the case above, you could search for “young disability barnet” as follows, adding additional filters to narrow down your search. In this example I have included a filter for charities based in the London Borough of Barnet.

A Screenshot of the GrantNav website showing search results for "young disability barnet"

This will return a list of grants that have been made. On the left-hand side of the page are the filters. To understand which organisations fund this type of work, scroll down and look at those listed under the heading ‘Funding Organisation’. The numbers in brackets refer to the number of grants made by that organisation that meet the selection criteria.

A screenshot of the new GrantNav search page. Circled in red is the left-hand filter titled 'Funding Organisations'

Alternatively, if you know of an organisation that does similar work to yours, search for them to see who has already funded their work. You can do this by clicking on the organisations name that appears next to ‘Recipient:’ or you can search for them in the main search window at the top.  For example, if you clink on the link to the Recipient: “Larches Trust” in the results above, you will get a list of all the grants made to them and the funders that made the grants. These organisations might have programmes available that could fund your work.

A screenshot of the GrantNav search results for the recipient 'The Larches Trust Limited', highlighting the funders that made them grants

Other useful resources

NAVCA and your local Council for Voluntary Service/Voluntary Action Council

You may also find lists of local funders at your local voluntary sector support service: https://navca.org.uk/find-a-member-1

The Small Charities Coalition

The Small Charities Coalition also has a funding opportunities bulletin that you can sign up to if you are a member: https://smallcharities.org.uk

Contracts Finder

Using Contracts Finder, you can search for funding opportunities over £10k from statutory organisations.  You should select the filter of “Notice Suitability” equal to “Suitable for VCSE”. 

You can also register for alerts for opportunities in your area. Many of these will be supplier contracts but there are some for delivery of services for community support that might overlap with your work  https://contractsfinder.service.gov.uk

A screenshot of the Charity Commission website: Contracts Finder showing you should select the filter of “Notice Suitability” equal to “Suitable for VCSE”

Research and Implementation

Identifying potential funders is just the start. Using data in this way can be a helpful starting point to prioritise and develop your plans. The next step is to explore your eligibility for their programmes and start the process for applying. 

We hope this helps you to identify potential leads to research. 

Good luck!