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Building fundraising capacity: Booktrust

  • Date: 3 May 2013
  • Artform: Literature
  • Area: London
Two boys holding up a small girl reading a book Booktrust's Children's Reading Fund works with disadvantaged children aged 4 to 11 who have less access to books., Booktrust

London-based Arts Council national portfolio organisation Booktrust was awarded a Catalyst Arts: capacity building and match funding grant to support a fundraising campaign for their Children's Reading Fund. The fund works with disadvantaged children aged 4 to 11 who have less access to books, leading to lower academic achievement and fewer life chances.

The £30 million Catalyst scheme helps organisations with some experience in the area build their fundraising capacity and capability over a three year-period. Organisations use the funds in the first year to build their fundraising resource, with funding in the second and third year being used to incentivise donations.


Booktrust's objectives for applying for Catalyst funding were:

  • to make a step change in fundraising from individuals and corporates by launching a new programme aimed at supporting disadvantaged children
  • to approach corporates to support Booktrust through charity partnerships and donations and to help solicit donations from the general public
  • to invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) system to enable the organisation to request donations from individuals, something they have not previously done
  • to launch a new membership scheme for Booktrust in year three of funding
  • to use both real and virtual ambassadors (characters from children's books) to support the campaign for the fund, ensuring it gains a high profile and an image that can be promoted on digital platforms

Successes so far

Catalyst Arts capacity building funding enabled Booktrust to expand their fundraising team by two posts and successfully launch the Children's Reading Fund at an event in January 2013. Campaign ambassadors have been recruited - including celebrities Joanna Trollope, Dan Snow and fictional characters Roald Dahl's Matilda and Jacqueline Wilson's Tracy Beaker - and a CRM database has been purchased.

More than 120 donations totaling £150,000 were received in the first three months of the campaign. Total donations as of 31 March 2013 were £155,362: £86,805 from individuals and £68,557 from corporations. In addition, £250,000 is expected to be raised by existing corporate partners during the next two years taking the total raised or pledged to date to over £400,000. When Catalyst match funding over two years is included, funds raised or pledged to date stand at over £520,000.

Money from the first two years of the fund will be prioritised to support children in care, children with additional needs including deaf and blind children and children and families who are economically disadvantaged.


Charity partnerships have been established with Waterstones, Random House, The Book Exchange and The View from The Shard and approaches have been made to a further 25 companies.


Booktrust feels that the public perceive them as being well supported by public funding and therefore not in need individual donations. They have overcome this obstacle by creating a new brand identity for this fund which clearly puts across the need for donations, and details who will benefit from them.

The organisation has also been required to undertake a shift in culture, becoming more commercially minded and dealing with new approaches to fundraising. For example, they have had to learn to ask celebrity supporters for support and to appeal for financial support from existing contacts.

Future plans

As a result of its successes in fundraising to date, Booktrust has increased its original Catalyst target of raising £250,000 over three years to £2 million.

For the remaining years of funding they plan to:

  • build on the fund's success with corporations, increasing the number of companies that select the Children's Reading Fund as their charity partner
  • build on the successful network of ambassadors to help increase networking opportunities with and donations from wealthy individuals
  • successfully establish the new CRM database for a major appeal to Booktrust supporters and mailing list members by summer 2013, also enabling the organisation to carry out regular appeals for smaller donations to the general public, its supporters and followers
  • develop a membership scheme for Booktrust in year three of funding

Find out more about Catalyst

Useful links on building fundraising capacity