Sustainable funding: 4 main funding streams for charities and community groups


In a recent series of ActionFunder workshops, Corinna Hartwig (aka The Funding Dr) took us through where to access funding, addressing each key pillar in turn.
While Grant funding (pillar two) is a great way to generate income for individual projects, it’s important that your organisation’s funding strategy includes a mix of pillars. These might include selling goods or winning contracts. Watch the workshop recording to learn more about these and other means of generating income plus a bit about why spreading the word is an important part of your funding journey.

The sustainable income spectrum

Rule number one: don’t depend on just one income stream (aka don’t put all your eggs in one basket).
There are four main pillars in the sustainable income spectrum and more besides. These four pillars cover the main types of fundraising – from grants and donations which require you to ask for money to contracts and sales which require you to earn money.

Pillar One – Donations

The first pillar of the funding spectrum is donations. A donation is a gift given by a donor without expectation of anything in return. While donations used to be given in cash or cheques, they’re now mostly digital so don’t forget to install a donation button on your website and across your social media.

To help you with the online donation process, try setting up an account with an organisation like Justgiving, Pennies or CAF donate. And don’t forget to claim Gift Aid (this will increase all donations by 25% and won’t cost you a thing.)
Be creative with donations. Hold fun-runs, gigs or bake sales to encourage donations.

Pillar Two – Grants

To win grant funding, you need to:

  1. Find a relevant fund
  2. Fill out numerous forms
  3. If successful, spend the grant in line with the budget you set out in your application
  4. Regularly check in with the funder
  5. Report back on your impact

Traditional grant funding is highly competitive and often oversubscribed. It can take a lot of time and skill to apply to these traditional grants. And the funding often takes months to arrive in your bank account.

On ActionFunder, we’ve streamlined this lengthy process so that if you’re a community group or charity, you can access funding fast. Simply sign up to our site for free and you’ll get notified when relevant funds launch. Then upload any ‘projects’ you want funding for. Each ‘project’ will be seen by multiple funders. And once you win funding, you can fill out your impact reports in just a few simple clicks!
We do our best to make sure ActionFunder grants aren’t oversubscribed. And we get the funding into your account fast.

A few top tips for grant funding:

Pillar three – Contracts

The third pillar of the funding spectrum is contracts aka the structured market.
Have you ever thought about trying to win a contract to supply goods or services in your local area?
Contracts can cover things like infrastructure maintenance and health & wellbeing. They can be procured from the private and public sectors. Over recent years, the government has moved a lot of its funding from grants over to the structured market so there are more contracts available than there used to be.

To win a contract you’ll need to be contract ready. Or you’ll need to partner with an organisation that’s contract ready. Have a look around at who already secures contracts in your local area and try to come in as a delivery partner for them. Your local Community CVS could be a good source of information on partner organisations you might be able to work with.

Pillar four – Selling goods & services

The fourth pillar of the funding spectrum is sales aka the open market.
Anyone can generate income from goods or services sold on the open market. As a result of Covid-19, online shopping for hyper local goods and services is on trend. So why not make the most of it? Be creative with what you can offer – could you sell repair services or membership fees, could you run courses or sell how-to guides, maybe you could earn money from training & mentoring or giving talks.

Remember to think about selling to either B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer). And if you’re looking to create a digital shop front then try sites like Shopify.


There are other ways for charities and community groups to generate income. If you’d like to dig in a little bit more, have a read at this article highlighting three more funding streams!  

Interested in grant funding? Sign up to ActionFunder for free and you’ll receive notifications when funds launch in your area!

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