Planning a funding strategy

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Why do you need a funding strategy? 

Finding funding to carry out your VCSE organisation’s activities can be stressful - because It’s crucial to enabling your organisation to deliver its services. 

A proper funding strategy will help secure the income needed to run your organisation now and in the future. Ultimately you need funding to carry out all the activities associated with meeting your organisational objectives. This will include buildings, overheads, salaries and so on - but funding is also about needing to deliver specific services to targeted service users. And once you are clear on what you need the money for, it will be much easier to find the right funding sources. 

CAN’s development officers are highly experienced in helping clarify organisational objectives and find the right funding. Contact us for advice – details are at the end of the article. 

It may help to explore some of the basic questions that need thinking about before you can even start. 

What do you need funding for? 

You need to be able to explain and define what your organisation does, who your service users and beneficiaries are, and exactly what you need funding for. Some sources of income may be more appropriate for you than others.  


  • Which funding relationships are you best placed to cultivate? 
  • Do you want to talk to donors, or is your work more suited to public sector commissioning? 
  • Do you have goods or services you could sell to generate income?  
  • Is your work more project based, and aimed at drawing in grant funding? 
  • Do you need to find unrestricted income to allow you diversify in unspecified ways? 


Where does the VCSE sector get its money from? 

Voluntary organisations get their income from lots of different sources and these will vary depending on the type of organisation you are and what services you deliver.  

  • Donations and legacies - from community fundraising and individual giving, philanthropy, corporate support, and legacies; usually monetary but can also be in the form of time or expertise. 
  • Fundraising events – public awareness-raising often involving sponsored activities and ‘bucket-shaking’ 
  • Income generation or trading income - selling products or services, such as providing education, training, and paid-for advice   
  • Contracts – agreed terms and conditions via a competitive tendering process at the very start, along with regular contract management and assessment
  • Grants - involve an application process where the funder has clear criteria about what they anticipate being achieved by the deliverer 
  • Bid writing – often a technically difficult process requiring the ability to demonstrate clear knowledge of the delivery background. 

Most of us in Norfolk’s voluntary sector will be familiar with funding coming through some mixture of sourcing streams explained above. All involve having to establish good relationships with the funding organisation’s decision-makers and often individual key influencers. And in a competitive environment it is important to maintain these relationships rather than see them as one-off exercises.  

Who can help? 

We can. As mentioned above, CAN’s Development Officers are very experienced in advising and supporting many hundreds of community groups and voluntary organisations through the complexities of finding the right funding and the application process.  If you’d like help with your funding strategy, call us on 01362 698216 or email [email protected]   

We also have an extensive library of factsheets including one specifically on developing a funding strategy here.  Other factsheets provide advice and information on local and national funding, holding an event, and working with volunteers.    

And if you join CAN as a member you can access a wide range of additional benefits. Find out more here.  

NCVO’s ‘income spectrum’ is also useful tool to help you think about the different sources. You can find their full document here