ELINET Experience

In order to receive a profound basis for our work we sent out a questionnaire to ELINET members (approximately 80). The survey was open for about a month in May/June 2014. A total of 49 organisations completed the survey, which is a response rate of just over 60%.

Many organisations explained which fundraising projects worked and were appealing for funders and which did not work. We found a lot of similarities in their experiences, explanations and in the given examples.

We selected the most interesting findings for you.

Pilot feedback on the toolkit

Another part of the ELINET experience is the piloting process: A small number of ELINET organisations 'piloted' the fundraising toolkit by giving feedback on its usefulness as they developed their own fundraising strategies. The second part of the piloting process, for some of them, was feedback on their learning as they started to fundraise. The comments included here are from three organisations engaged only in the first part of this process.

Read their feedback below


1. What are the main objectives and expertise of your organisation?

Regional comparison

ELINET members differ in their orientation and expertise depending on their location within Europe

The comparison of all respondents and NW European organisations in terms of their main objectives and expertise shows that NW European organisations seem to focus more on awareness raising (52% and 41% respectively) whereas they focus less on teaching formal education (23% and 33% respectively) and the development of new educational methods (45% and 53% respectively). This seems to indicate a difference in orientation and expertise of ELINET members depending on their location within Europe.

Sector comparison

Universities focus considerably more on research, teaching formal education and the development of new educational methods than non-universities. Nevertheless research and developing new educational methods are also high on the non-university organisations’ agenda, but they have many other priorities also.

The comparison shows that, in contrast to non-universities, universities focus considerably more on research (100% compared to 49%), teaching formal education (93% compared to 14%), development of new educational methods (79% compared to 46%) and consultancy (57% compared to 35%) whereas they report less frequently to have reading promotion as a main objective and expertise (7% compared to 46%) as well as awareness raising (14% compared to 49%), working with libraries (7% compared to 30%), teaching non-formal education (14% compared to 30%) and family support (0% compared to 11%).
Research, teaching formal education and the development of new educational methods are therefore the three main objectives of universities. Compared to that, non-universities work across a much wider range of objectives. Research remains top of their objectives alongside awareness raising, with reading promotion and developing new educational methods coming a close second.

2. What are your sources of funding?

Regional Comparison

NW European organisations receive more local funding
Government funding is the key source of funding for all

Comparing all respondents with NW European organisations in terms of their sources of funding it becomes clear that NW European organisations are more likely to report that they receive funding from corporates (45% and 31% respectively), individual/community giving (35% and 24% respectively) and local government (45% and 35% respectively) whereas they report less frequently that they receive funding from international trusts and foundations (13% and 22% respectively). ‘Other’ sources include ‘earned income’ such as from membership fees and subscriptions.

It was described above that NW European organisations seem more likely to be funded from corporates, individual/community giving and local government than all respondents, whereas they report less frequently to be funded from international trusts and foundations. The reasons behind this are not clear; we would have to investigate this further. But it may reflect that NW European organisations have developed their capacity for diversifying funding more fully or possibly that there is more potential for this in NW Europe due to the funding environment. It may be that international trusts and foundations are the only key alternative source outside the NW.
We are aware that this is just one possible explanation and therefore would love to hear your thoughts on this – so please feel free to leave a comment below!

Sector Comparison

Universities receive more statutory/government funding than non-universities, non-universities receive more individual/community giving

The sources of funding were generally quite similar for universities and non-universities. However, higher proportions of universities than non-universities received statutory/government funding (86% compared to 70%), in-country trusts and foundations (50% compared to 38%) and international trusts and foundations (36% compared to 16%). Lower proportions of universities than non-universities received funding from corporates (21% compared to 35%) and local government (29% compared to 41%). No universities receive funding from individual/community giving (0% compared to 32%).

To our mind it is significant that after Governments and the EU, for non-universities four funding pipelines are comparable in yield (local government 41%, Trusts and Foundations 38%, corporates 35% and individual giving 32%). Furthermore, significantly and perhaps surprisingly, universities appear to be less effective at major donor/high net worth individual fundraising.
If you have any other or additional thoughts on this, please feel free to leave a comment below.

3. Is your priority to raise ‘unrestricted’ core funding or ‘restricted’ funding?

Comparing Chart

It is interesting that the priority to raise purely unrestricted funding is not higher. Respondents indicated this was because they felt it was an unrealistic aim, and so most ticked the second option. Nevertheless for the non-university sector it may reflect a lack of belief that individual funding can support the literacy sector.

4. Which difficulties do you encounter concering fundraising?

Regional Comparison

NW European organisations experience fewer fundraising problems than other organisations

Compared with all respondents, NW European organisations generally seem to experience several fundraising problems to a lesser extent. 61% of all countries stated that they did not have the staffing capacity to fundraise, compared to only 32% of NW European organisations. Additionally, fewer NW European organisations reported that they did not have fundraising experience (13%, compared to 32% of all organisations) and they did not know how to approach funders (10%, compared to 26% of all funders). This seems to indicate a considerable imbalance in terms of conditions and ability to fundraise among ELINET-members depending on their location within Europe.

Sector Comparison

Both universities and non-universities have issues with capacities to fundraise

Both universities and non-universities highlight considerable lack of fundraising capacity. The comparison shows that no universities reported that they did not need to fundraise, compared with 22 % of non-universities. However, a third of universities and non-universities (33 % and 30 % respectively) reported that they do not have fundraising experience. Considerable higher proportions of universities than non-universities do not know how to approach funders (33 % and 22 % respectively) and appear to have no other substantial funding sources available in their country besides government funding (22 % and 9 % respectively). No universities but 13 % of the non-universities reported that non-statutory fundraising might have a negative impact on their statutory funding.

As the chart shows, no universities reported that they did not need to fundraise, compared with 22 % of non-universities. With the exception perhaps of some Government Agencies in the network, this seems to be a surprising and possibly worrying statistic, and could fit with the 13% of non-universities worrying that non-statutory fundraising may have an impact on their government funding.
Oddly universities reflect they have more staffing capacity to fundraise, but report more frequently that they do not know how to approach funders (33 % and 22 % respectively) which might indicate either a relative lack of fundraising knowledge on the part of the universities (even though they have more capacity), or possibly a greater understanding of their shortcomings in experience. Another explanation might be that there are just no (or not many) funders which universities could approach (and consequently they don’t know how to do it) as 22 % of them report that there are no other substantial funding sources available in their country besides government funding, compared to 9 % of non-universities.

5. In your country, how easy or difficult is it to raise funding or other resources from these sources?

Regional Comparison

These appear to show that NW European countries report similar experiences in terms of how easy or difficult it is to raise funding or other resources from these sources.

This is interesting and possibly surprising. It does suggest that a single toolkit, aiming to impact on both perception and capacity, is equally relevant to all parts of Europe.

Sector Comparison

Universities struggle more to raise funding from individuals and communities than non-universities

The comparison shows that much higher proportions of universities than non-universities found raising funding from individuals or communities very difficult (69% compared to 21%). Additionally, much higher proportions of universities than non-universities found it very difficult to raise funds from philanthropists (82% compared to 52%).

The fact that universities struggle more to raise funds from individuals or communities and philanthropists could be linked to the graph above (“Please tick the statements that are true for your organisation”) where universities have indicated a general problem on how to approach funders, whereas it might be specifically a problem with approaching individuals and philanthropists.

6. ELINET member experience on activities of fundraising

Activities appealing to funders


In the eyes of our members (one of) the most attractive activities for funders are those which are supporting disadvantaged groups and groups with needs. That could be special focus groups like migrants or children struggling with their reading, and that could also include work with families/family literacy. Successful in getting funding are also bookgifting and nationwide campaigns which attract a broad target group. Also mentioned a lot are networking events like conferences and publications in journals, and the continuous professional development of teachers. A few mentioned also digital engagement and resources.

Doing projects with disadvantaged groups attracts those sponsors who want to reflect their social conscience (Corporate Social Responsibility) or support of a political policy. The second successful area of literacy projects, like bookgifting and campaigns, attract funders who want to get more visibility, promote their image, and find a return on investment in media coverage.

This emphasises the important point that the project must fit the vision and strategy of the funder.

Funders also like - and more and more demand - a clear description of the project, evidence-based material and evidence for the impact of the project. The best will be a project with a detailed factsheet, an evaluation and the evidence that it is sustainable. Funders should have the chance to visit or take part in the activity to be emotionally involved. The organisation must be trustworthy.

Activities difficult to fundraise for


Some of the members have had opposite experiences with some of the activities mentioned above. They have had difficulties to find funding for projects concerning digital literacy, promotional events like conferences, continuous professional development of teachers and early childhood and boys' literacy.

The most difficult activity to get funded is core funding. Every member knows that to get money for the organisation, administration and development of (pilot) projects as well as evaluation is very difficult. The easy reason: Many funders don't see the benefit to themselves.

Pilot feedback on the fundraising toolkit

Stefan Salomonsberger, Bundesverband für Leseförderung, Germany

"The toolkit triggered off a lot of ideas; it helped structuring different thoughts and has supported the ongoing process so far. The videos are inspiring because of the emotional aspect of listening to the experts and their passions."

"The toolkit as it is now presented on the ELINET website is full of well thought out suggestions, ideas and methods to help organisations in the field of fundraising. The overall structure (Top Tips, Guidelines and the foundation ELINET Experience) allows very easily to manoeuvre around the different areas and to get inspired. If someone takes the time, it replaces a one‐to‐one business consultancy. Especially the positive and balanced way the guidelines are written takes away the fear of maybe failing or not achieving everything along the course. However – considering the fact the people tend to avoid reading long texts on the internet, some of the really good tips will be overlooked; especially the video content will then be their first source of information, because it is gripping."

"To understand fundraising as being a part of a BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT PROCESS was one of the most important lessons learned from the ELINET toolkit... The idea of analyzing our organisational structure before starting a fundraising process was the most important step. Different ORGANISATIONAL REVIEW TOOLS were helpful to find the one (or a combination of two or more) that mostly fitted our needs. The TOP TIPS were a good kick off when starting to work with the toolkit. Being a newcomer in the field of fundraising you need structured guidance. We very much like the IDEA OF QUESTIONS as an essential part of the toolkit. Because you are able to answer the questions according to your own needs. Furthermore the module‐like structure of the toolkit allowed us to choose whatever was appropriate to our situation."

"The organisational review tools helped the Board in developing the strategy and the project…. It triggered of a lot of ideas; it helped structuring different thoughts and has supported the ongoing process so far. The videos are inspiring because of the emotional aspect of listening to the experts and their passions… Personal testimonials or advice are always inspiring. They personalize and bring to life the tips and guidance of the written part of the toolkit. Still the videos bring in the British point of view in terms of fundraising, let alone Germany and Turkey. It would be great to see and hear different aspects throughout Europe."

Where any strategies of help?
"Because of its openness and diversity, we were and are able to sort of shop within the different methods. A freedom that is very helpful, because a lot of times guidelines or top tips do not apply to all addressees."

"Once we decided to apply as a pilot organisation we knew that the process of changing organisational structures or planning a fundraising strategy will be a long and difficult road. The toolkit supported this project as a source to start with but also as a means of reflecting what has been achieved at a certain point of time. It also gave you permission to 'fail', to not try to be 'perfect'."

Ilmi Villacís, Lukukeskus, Finland

"The fundraising toolkit broadened my view about fundraising.… I started to think about Lukukeskus’ fundraising activities more strategically and got many good advices from this FR toolkit. The toolkit gave me very detailed instructions to create a fundraising strategy. Even though the strategy work would not be easy and takes time, it certainly pays back in the future. I learned that the core thing of fundraising is good planning and it’s worth to put effort and time to it."

"Regarding fundraising, it was a little bit challenging to use it for an NGO as it is quite business oriented, especially the balanced scorecard. But still it is possible. I consider questions on FR as very useful as they helped me to see what Lukukeskus is doing from a broader view."

"In the fundraising toolkit it was particularly interesting to read about corporate fundraising. This is not done in Lukukeskus and with the help of this toolkit I feel prepared to make some concrete steps. There were provided very specific instructions. I found many tips and advices how to approach funders. We have already begun negotiation with some funders with the help of the fundraising toolkits’ advice."

"Tables and income stream analysis is both important to evaluate our own funding situation but also point out our funding structure to decision makers. We made a chart which is inspired by the fundraising income stream analysis."

"Making an organisational fundraising SWOT–analysis helped us to recognise our challenges in fundraising. It was obvious that we need a fundraising strategy. Our funding depends too much on public finances and state budget. We need to develop tools to get more corporate and individual finances. It requires more attention to what we want to achieve in the long perspective and how we point it out to different audiences (you must approach businessmen different from politicians or civil servants)."

Martin Linthorst, Stichting ABC, The Netherlands

On fundraising strategy development, including the business development:
"This is very useful for me. Especially the decision tree. It gives me a view of what a fundraising plan must be and what problems must be solved."

On organisational tools:
"I read this with the following question in mind: Which tool I can use for Stichting ABC? (...) SWOT analysis is a good tool if you have a lot of time to discuss in several meetings the results with the key figures in an organisation. It takes much time and participation of everyone (…).
Investment Readiness: This looks relevant for me (…).
The balanced score card: This is a tool I can use (…).
The Change Curve: A useful tool for a discussion on 'Where are we now' (…).
I have a suggestion. I think that people who are not confident with these tools will have problems to make a choice."

On 'Is your Organisation a Fundraising Organisation?':
"For me an eye-opener. I did the 'Test the above'. I could only answer the question 1 and question 2 (…)."

On detailed fundraising guidance for individuals - Fundraising Events Guidance (UK); Individual Giving appeals (UK); High Net Worth Individual Fundraising Guidance (UK); and Community Fundraising Guidance (UK):
"The tips and tops and the notices are very useful. For me these are references to read when writing the project plan for Stichting ABC in the Netherlands. It has given me a clearer idea what to do with our ambassadors, what they can do to support their work as an individual and as a member of our foundation. For me it makes me more clearer to distinguish between the types of funders, and that our foundation must not only think about finding funders but also about how to keep funders involved with our work (…)."

On the Community Fundraising A-Z:
"Useful as a reference book. Especially for our ambassadors who are willing to do something on fundraising."

"Once you start approaching funders, you start learning. This is action learning. When it comes to funding, this is more important than theory (…). The films are good to inform people what it means to be an organisation that seeks fund raising. On the other hand: fundraising should not be talked about, it should be experienced. You need successful experiences."