The Funding Alchemist

Belinda Yabsley is the owner of a company called The Funding Alchemist.

Based in Rotorua, her company helps people from all over New Zealand find the funding they need for their great causes. 

On average, Belinda will raise over 1.2 million dollars every year for Rotorua based organisations through fundraising initiatives, grant funding applications and sponsorships. 

It all started in 2014, when she and her husband Tony, were asked to Join the Lake Taupo Coast Guard committee. At her first meeting, when she asked how they could best utilise her skills, they suggested Belinda could try and find funding for two new motors they needed. Not only did she get the money they required to purchase these two new motors, but she found a new passion and has been raising money for good causes ever since. 

It wasn’t long before Belinda had requests for help from others around the country as many organisations struggle with the process involved in applying for grant funding. In can often be frustrating and time consuming, especially when unsuccessful.

The key says Belinda, is to do your research. Make sure you have read and understood what you can apply for before applying. She recommends you visit the website of each grant funder, where you will find their criteria for applying. If possible, take time to talk the funders themselves, as many have grant advisors you can call and meet as these relationships are just as important as they are for anyone in business. Belinda suggests starting with those in your local area, as they can offer expert advice on who else you can apply to, if they can’t fund you themselves. 

Remember to be patient, as you may not be successful every time you apply but you must keep trying. Start the process as early as you can, as the more time you give yourself, the better chance you will be successful. Belinda recommends at least 6 months ahead of when you might need it, allow more time if you can, especially if your event or funds are needed in the first couple of months of the following year. Some funders and trustees take a well-deserved break over Christmas too so don’t let poor planning become someone else’s emergency.

With the COVID19 pandemic changing the focus for many trusts around the country, it is also important to keep fully informed of what has changed. Many funders encourage and are now looking for collaborations between groups, so their dollars can go further.  Others are now looking to fund where there is a benefit to a wider range of demographics, where it will reach more people. This is where Belinda’s skills are invaluable, as she is constantly learning where there are opportunities, and when to avoid unnecessary work. Belinda’s knowledge and experience over the past 7 years can make applying for grant funding less risky, giving you a greater opportunity of success.

One of the most important things to get right when applying for funding is timing.  After a main holiday, where the income to the Trust increases, there can often be more money available to distribute. If you apply prior to a holiday, like Christmas for example, then you may struggle to get the funding you require in time. Sometimes you may be competing with other applications that mean your application is more likely to fail as there may not be enough funding available in your area in that particular round. Belinda’s advice is to talk to the grant funder before putting in your application, as they will know when best for you to apply and give you some helpful pointers.

Belinda suggests not to expect the full amount you apply for, and to work on getting a third of the funding you request. For this reason, it’s important to apply to as many places as possible, potentially for the same thing, although this can be challenging if they both want to fund the same item. Generally, funding advisors will talk to other funding advisors about your application, to help you get as much support as possible and to make sure they don’t over fund the same thing.  Belinda also insists you are honest on your application.  If you have applied to another funder for the same purpose, state that when you are asked this question on other applications as grant funders will speak to one another. 

The Organiser met with both the Rotorua Trust and One Foundation to hear what advice they had for anyone applying for funding.

Lyn Preston, Grants Manager for One Foundation said “We encourage people to talk to us before applying, so we can talk about how and if your application aligns with our goals.”

Jackie McCullough, Grants Manager for the Rotorua Trust said “I encourage people to keep information submitted simple and concise, to give us a clear understanding of what you need and why. Please refrain from waffling – just answer the question!”. She also said, “I totally endorse what Lyn says about calling first to discuss the project, that saves time for both applicant and funder. I would also encourage applicants to read the information provided on the Trust’s website, it provides a lot of useful information.”

There some very important things to remember before applying for grant funding. These include: 

  • You cannot apply for anything retrospectively, which includes any deposits you may have already paid; 
  • You need to get two quotes for every item, even if the supplier is one you have used for a long time.  You have the opportunity to let the funder know who your preferred supplier is.  They just want to know your quotes are comparative in the marketplace;
  • Request for your quotes to be valid for at least three months where possible as some funders can take four to six weeks to make a decision from the time you apply.

As well as engaging someone like Belinda to help you when applying for grant funding, there are many online sites that offer support. Some of the sites will charge a small fee to become a member but they save you time by identifying who you are best to apply to. Belinda belongs to many of these organisations as they assist her when she is supporting others in their quest to find funding for a specific purpose and in a particular area. For a full list of these, download our Funding Database located in the Get Organised section of The Organiser website. 

Once you are successful in your application, you need to work hard to make sure the Trust is recognised for their support, just as you would a sponsor. They may not be as proactive in promoting their support as say a sponsor might, which means you need to make sure you do that work for them. Belinda recommends you include their name, logo or banners wherever you can, be it in press releases, FB posts, programmes, banners, certificates, on trophies, building signage and/or uniforms.  Anywhere you are able to find a way of recognising their generous support will be appreciated and can often mean a better chance of success when next applying for funding. She also insists on returning any grant funding money if you do not use it all against the purpose in which it was granted to you for.  Good, strong governance and timely accountability reports completed by your finance officer or Treasurer is just as important if you are wanting to apply again in the future.  

As well as many local events, Belinda has obtained funding for Lake Taupo Hospice, Lake View Golf Club, Rotorua Search and Rescue, the Rotorua Fire Brigade, the annual Rotorua Bike Festival, the CARE Village at Ngongotaha, Eastlake Soccer Club, WaiBOP Football, our Young Mariners, Rotorua Yacht Club, Life Education Trust Rotorua, just to name a few alongside many sporting organisations in and around the area. She truly loves helping people who are doing great things in our community, especially when there is a good cause involved.

One of the causes Belinda believes in strongly is Rotorua Counterpunch Boxing, which is an organisation that helps people suffering with Parkinson’s by offering boxing related exercises that help combat the disease. The Rotorua Daily Post wrote an article about Rotorua Counterpunch Boxing in 2019, highlighting the organisation and the people involved.

If you would like to get in touch with Belinda, you can do that via her supplier listing, The Funding Alchemist on The Organiser.

The Organiser has a spreadsheet to download from the Get Organised area of the website, which lists funders contact details for your reference.

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