There are many cute little toddler beds with side rails on the market for under £150, but my daughter’s special one with high sides costs more than ten times that amount. I understand that thankfully there are less disabled children needing this equipment than children who don’t and therefore we are not benefiting from mass market discounts.
It hurts though, because families with disabled children have enough on their plate to deal with. Before having my daughter and being catapulted into the world of special needs, I used to fundraise as part of my work. In fact I’ve now had so many jobs that involved fundraising, from Probation Services to Museum Curator and many in between that I have become quite experienced in it.
It’s a skill that I decided to turn to when faced with escalating costs for equipment that neither Social Services nor the NHS would fund. To my delight, it turns out that the same approach works whether you are fundraising for a new museum building or a special needs trike, you just need to follow a few basic principles to increase your chances of success. So if you are up for the challenge, because it does take time, persistence and a bit of effort, here are my top 10 tips:
1. Accept from the start that Charities are there to help you and they need people like you to help, therefore you are an equal part of the relationship. They operate as businesses, employ (and often pay) staff and need applicants to fulfil their role so please get over the fear or stigma of ‘hand outs’ as it’s just not like that.
2. There are literally thousands of charities out there for all sorts of needs and conditions. Find those that meet your requirements and you theirs. For instance if your child has a specific condition, find the charities that fund that. You may also be a suitable applicant because of your location or even job. There are charities for ex-service personnel, people from different industries or even relatives of people that worked in specific jobs.
3. Some but not all charities will fund 100% of the amount you need. Some charities maintain ownership of equipment that they fund for you. Some have household income limits that they will support. Do your research!
4. Once you have shortlisted charities that A. fund what you want B. you meet their funding criteria & C. they are Currently funding what you want to apply for, then and ONLY then make your application.
5. Consider applying to two or three different charities at the same time. When one offers you a grant, tell the others immediately. Have a back up wish list of items in case one of the other charities still wants to help you (it honestly does happen!)
6. You are in competition with thousands of other families all asking for grants or support. You need to stand out from the rest. Here’s how to do it:
- Consider including a picture and small description of your child, their needs, their likes/dislikes, what makes them happy.
- Tell the charity (spell it out for them) what difference their help will make to your child.
- What impact will this have on the whole family? What will the grant be able to help you do as a family?
- How long/often will the grant be used for? (i.e if equipment how often used)
7. If you get a ‘No’ don’t be too upset, you can ask for feedback to help with future applications, and remember just how competitive it is. Don’t give up!
8. Hopefully you will get a ‘Yes’! When you do, thank the charity by email, writing or phone. If you are happy to, send them a photo of your child using the new equipment or holiday or whatever the funding was for and tell them if they can use it in their marketing. Charities work hard to raise money for families and this will help them to do so, in turn helping others in the future too!
9. Once you have built a ‘relationship’ with a charity, don’t be afraid to contact them again if you need more help in the future. Family Fund encourages people to apply once a year after their initial grant as they understand the need for support is ongoing.
10. Good luck!