Fundraising: Grant-making trusts

Written by: Brin Best | Published:
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Many schools do not consider applying to grant-making trusts for funding, even though they are well-placed to make successful bids. Brin Best explains more and lists some of his top trusts to apply to

This article will focus on grant-making trusts as a key income stream for UK schools. Although many schools will not yet have made their first application to such trusts, as they often appear to be under the fundraising radar, some schools have managed to secure significant or even substantial funds from these often large funding bodies. Indeed, there are many case studies showing how these funds have made a huge difference to schools and their wider communities.

One of the reasons that the work of grant-making trusts is not well known in many schools is that they do not, in the main, seem to readily advertise their funding schemes directly to educational organisations. Furthermore, for inexperienced fundraisers the formal application procedure and special vocabulary that such funders tend to use can be off-putting or even intimidating. This is a great shame, because with some focused effort, grant-making trusts can be a fantastic source of income for schools. This article therefore aims to demystify grant-making trusts and provide some suggestions to schools of the most appropriate trusts to aim for.

What are grant-making trusts?

Sometimes also called “charitable trusts”, grant-making trusts are organisations (either registered charities or organisations with charitable aims) that give grants to “good causes” such as schools. They are usually set up by wealthy people, their ancestors or major businesses. There are several thousand grant-making trusts in the UK, ranging from small (often locally focused) organisations giving a few hundred pounds in grants, to extremely large national charities which award grants amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds or more. Each grant-making trust has specific aims and objectives, and publishes guidelines explaining the areas of need it wishes to support.

A key focus on education

Schools are in a strong position to apply for money from grant-making trusts because there are very many trusts in the UK that distribute grants especially to support the advancement of education. Similarly, increasing opportunities for young people and local communities is another popular goal for these trusts. Funds gained from trusts can be spent on a wide range of areas – for example you can apply for money to build new facilities, employ staff, buy equipment or run events.

It is important to understand that the people who manage grant-making trusts are passionate about making a difference to people and communities, but are very unlikely to simply provide your school with a general donation to support its running costs. As the examples in this article demonstrate, you will need to devise innovative, exciting or life-enhancing projects with a beginning and an end – projects that can demonstrate significant outcomes for the target group(s). This is an on-going theme for all school fundraising today. So, here are my top grant-making trusts for schools:

The Foyle Foundation

The focus of this major Foundation is support for learning. The Foundation supports projects that facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and have a long-term strategic impact. For schools the main source of funds is the Foyle School Libraries Scheme.

Many schools have managed to secure funds through this scheme, with grants ranging from £1,000 to £10,000. Priority is given to funding library or reading books, although contributions are also made to library software, ICT equipment and furniture. Preference is given to schools that can show that their library can be maintained and renewed in the future, and schools that work in partnership with other schools to improve reading standards. There is no set deadline for making an application.

  • Example: a grant of £10,000 was awarded to a school in Lancashire to restock the library and install a computerised lending system.
  • Example: a grant of £8,000 was provided to a school in Swindon to provide reading books to improve literacy across the curriculum.
  • Example: a school in Bournemouth was given £5,000 to buy library books and e-readers.
  • Visit:

Garfield Weston Foundation

This significant Foundation supports a wide range of organisations with grants of varying sizes. It awards more than £62 million in grants annually. Recent grants have been given to projects that focus on community, youth and education (among other areas), with the Foundation wishing to focus on targeting the areas of greatest need. In 2018, the Foundation’s 60th anniversary year, there will be a special focus on a capital grants programme that aims to improve existing, or provide new, community facilities

There is no limit on the size of grant available, with every application considered solely on its own merits. Applicants are, however, expected to secure a significant amount of matched funding, especially for larger projects. Applications can be made at any time and it can take up to four months for trustees to make a decision.

  • Example: a £10,000 grant was awarded to a school in Greater London to support the renovation of a disused and derelict Victorian school building. The grant enabled a new space to be created, dedicated to the arts and sport, for school and community use.
  • Visit:

The Wolfson Foundation

The Wolfson Foundation is a major UK charity that awards grants to support outstanding practice in the fields of science, medicine, health, education, the arts and humanities. Around £30 million is given out each year, with approximately £1.5 million being reserved for schools that have achieved excellence, or can demonstrate progressive improvement in their results. Funding for capital infrastructure is prioritised by the Foundation, and it likes to award grants that will be a catalyst for additional funding.

Grants are normally for not more than £40,000, with science/technology projects that provide spaces for laboratories being especially favoured. Trustees meet twice a year to consider outline proposals, with 50 schools usually invited to submit additional information for further consideration.

  • Example: a grant of £50,000 was provided to a school in Greater London to help create an improved design technology area and additional specialist equipment.
  • Visit:

Don’t overlook your local trusts

Although the above-mentioned trusts are all national in scope it is important to recognise that many schools are also able to secure grants from their local trusts too. The key point about these trusts is that they restrict grants to a geographically small area, so if you meet their criteria for funding you will be facing much less competition than if you apply to a national trust.

Details of all the UK’s grant-making trusts are contained in the invaluable Directory of Social Change publication The Directory of Grant Making Trusts 2018/19. Although this is an expensive publication to buy outright, your local major library should stock it, or failing that many “Voluntary Action” offices can give you access to its electronic equivalent, together with advice on finding appropriate funders.


Accessing funds from grant-making trusts requires a certain amount of research which will inevitably take time. It is, however, time well spent since the careful targeting of your applications is one of the keys to unlocking the funds given out by grant-making trusts.

  • Brin Best is an award-winning educational consultant with 25 years’ experience of fundraising in schools. He is the author of several best-selling books, including Cost-effective Fundraising for Schools (Optimus Education). Visit To read his previous articles for Headteacher Update, visit

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