Charitable trusts and foundations give about £2.6 billion in grants to charities (including religious organisations and universities) in the UK each year.

There are almost 9,000 UK charitable trusts and they vary a great deal in both size and scope. Because there is such a diverse range, it is especially important to research and target funding applications to them.

Charitable trusts and foundations like to fund these types of projects:

  • New methods of tackling problems
  • Disadvantaged and minority groups which have trouble using ordinary services, or which are inadequately served by them
  • Responses to new or newly discovered needs and problems
  • Work which is hard to finance through conventional fundraising
  • One off purchases or projects
  • Short and medium term work likely to bring a long term benefit or to attract long term funding from elsewhere

The larger trusts distribute several million pounds each year, but the vast majority are smaller and more likely to give out a few thousand. Some may give funds to any charitable purpose, whilst others are restricted to specific subjects (say, education or the arts) or beneficiary groups (for example, children or the elderly).

Most trusts derive their income from an endowment given by a wealthy individual, family or company. Some trusts receive their income from other sources, like TV or fundraising appeals; examples include Children in Need and Comic Relief.

The main advantages of charitable trust funding are that:

  • Some give away large lump sums
  • Their only reason for existing is to give money to good causes
  • Some will take risks and will fund unpopular causes
  • They are flexible
  • Groups can develop long-term relationships with particular trusts

The main disadvantages are that:

  • Most only give away small sums of money
  • It can take a long time to get a decision from them
  • It is a very competitive source of funding
  • There may be some strings attached