Julian Black (Facebook, Linkedin)
Julian Black (Facebook, Linkedin)

Trusts And Foundations Fundraising – Music To ellenor’s Ears

Careers often change in interesting and unexpected ways. Julian Black, for instance, started out as a classical musician, conducting orchestras, and performing in opera houses. After a spell teaching, the charity sector came calling, and he’s now been with ellenor for almost a year.

ellenor is a hospice that looks after patients and their families living with life-limiting illnesses in the community, providing care both at home, in the hospice in Gravesend, and in local care homes.

As Trusts and Foundations Manager, Julian’s role is crucial in ensuring that ellenor is able to raise the funds needed to continue to offer those frontline services. Trust fundraising involves applying to charitable organisations or private funds – for example, large endowments run in memory of an individual – for grants towards ellenor’s services. These funds accrue money through investment or interest, which is then donated to one or more charitable causes.

According to the Association of Charitable Foundations, Trusts and Foundations giving makes up around 14% of all fundraising income, so Julian’s three-person team certainly have their hands full. They submit applications to the boards of these Trusts and Foundations to ‘bid’ for their support – explaining the importance of ellenor’s care within the local Kent and Bexley communities, and sharing its values and care stories.

According to Julian – whose day-to-day role involves pulling together the larger, more strategic bids – success lies in communicating the breadth of what ellenor does.

“We try to tell Trusts and Foundations the story of ellenor – what we do and who we’ve helped. We put bids together that highlight ellenor’s wide range of services to both adults and children – our clinical care, our emotional support, bereavement counselling, and play therapy, as well as respite and spiritual care.”

But the requirements of each Trust vary. Every new bid must not only be unique – that is, tailored to the Trust’s specific charitable goals and metrics – but also resonate with its trustees, too.

“We look to speak to the funder, get an idea of what they are looking to support, and send in a bid that reflects that. We look at it as a partnership – finding the things that our funders are interested in supporting and making that work for them”. If around half of Julian’s role is to find more Trusts and Foundations that align with ellenor’s values, then the other half involves nurturing the charity’s existing relationships.

“We are so fortunate to have a number of generous and committed funders, many of whom have been supporting ellenor for a number of years. It’s our job to maintain these strong relationships in the long term, so that they can see the real difference their support is making”.

Aiding this is the fact that, for some Trusts and Foundations, their connection to ellenor is a distinctly personal one. Some donors in this area, for instance, know someone – or have family – who have received care from ellenor in the past.

Other decision-makers, however, support ellenor because of its profoundly local, personal approach – something Julian himself loves.

“We’re not a large, impersonal organisation. We’re very, very embedded in the local community. There’s a real commitment to the personal, human side of things”.

Currently, ellenor works with around 50 trusts and foundations – some of who are partnerships dating back over two decades. One of the bigger names is the BBC’s Children in Need, who Julian says have been “instrumental” in ellenor’s work by funding the Music Therapy programme for a number of years.

Given his background, it’s no surprise that Music Therapy – an innovative technique, which helps children and adults learn to connect and communicate with their parents and caregivers or come to terms with bereavement and loss – is something that Julian is passionate about.

“Children can struggle to express what they’re going through emotionally through words. You give them a drum, though, or you help them to sing, and music becomes a vehicle for expressing emotion.”

Yet with the highs of the role come the challenges, too. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on ellenor’s relationship-building efforts in the short-term. As Julian explains, though, the impact on trust fundraising at large looks to be both a short and long-term one.

“If the economy is doing badly, the return on a Trust or Foundation’s endowment is much diminished. This has forced Trusts into difficult decisions about where their money is going. Some have had to withdraw their support in the short term to safeguard their long-term ability to donate, whereas others will choose to spend parts of their endowment. This helps us to keep operating in the short-term, but reduces the Trust or Foundation’s capacity to donate in the long term”.

Heading into the future amidst such an uncertain landscape, it might be easy to lose hope. But with the ongoing support of a wide variety of Trusts and Foundations within the local community and beyond, there’s clearly plenty to remain positive about.

“We’re blessed that our funders have been amazing. Without them, we couldn’t do so much of the work that we do, and I’ve been very moved by their willingness to turn up and support us during a time that has been so challenging. We are so grateful when people see that the work we do is so crucial.

“That really makes the difference”.