What are you raising funds for and how should you plan to do it?
How can you access grants from charitable trusts?
How can local community groups be a useful partner for fundraising?
How could a fundraising event help, and what do you need to think about when organising one?


Memory cafes are a wonderful resource for local men and women living with dementia, and provide a very popular and effective service.

When setting up a memory cafe, it is important to build into the activity an effective fundraising plan that will enable the cafe to weather any temporary setbacks (like the Covid shutdown) and provide a regular income to fund the cafe over the months and years to come.

Below, you’ll find some essential steps you’ll need to take when fundraising…


Know your project

Raising money for your memory cafe may sound daunting, but it is achievable if you are clear about what you want to do and how much it will cost to do it. Before you start your fundraising, you will need to know your project details – for example, can you answer the following questions?

  • What is the problem you want to address?
  • What do you plan to do?
  • Who will benefit from it?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How will you measure success?

Here is an example of how to answer those questions:

  • What is the problem you want to address?
    The overall ‘problem’ you want to address is how to help people living with, or caring for, someone with dementia. The specific problem you may want to address for a funding application would be the need your specific project aims to meet. For example, you may be applying for funding to set up and run a music therapy session for your cafe. The ‘problem’ you want to address could be the isolation many people with dementia experience, even when at a cafe. They may find it hard to use language to express themselves, or to participate in activities, resulting in them sitting passively and ‘shutting down’. 
  • What do you plan to do?
    Open a memory cafe to provide friendship, stimulation, peer support etc, run by a coordinator and local volunteers. For our specific project example, your proposed solution may be to set up, equip, and run a regular music therapy session, tailored specifically for your members with dementia. Music has been proven to have an impact on many people with dementia. They may join in singing songs or hymns, even though they do not engage in conversation and rhythm, and music can be stimulating, calming or energising.
  • Who will benefit from it?
    Local men and women living with dementia and their carers and loved ones.
  • How much will it cost?
    Your memory cafe budget should provide this information. This project would need to be costed, including a music therapists time, musical instruments, song sheets, etc. If it is planned to take place outside normal cafe hours, you would need to include room hire etc.
  • How will you measure success?
    You would need to consider how you would define the success of your project; in other words, did it solve the problem? To measure the level of your success, you might want to consider member numbers or answers provided through feedback forms.

Having a budget for the cafe for the year, even if you only need to raise funds for specific items, is useful. It will help you work out whether there is anything you need that you haven’t already thought of.

Create a fundraising plan

There are many ways to raise funds for your memory cafe, ranging from simple on-the-day raffles and coffee mornings to applications to charitable trusts and local business support. Each of these activities takes time and resources and it is best to create a fundraising plan that ensures you have a manageable balance of activities that bring in the money you need, when you need it. Ways of raising funds:

  1. Charitable trusts
  2. Local businesses
  3. Community groups
  4. Fundraising events

It is important to share some of the fundraising tasks around as it takes time and energy to bring in funds, and this is best broken down into bite-sized jobs. Fundraising events could be organised by a local support group or by a few volunteers and/or trustees, while charitable trust applications could be done by a trustee and the coordinator. While trust applications can take 6–8 months to be successful (or not!), coffee mornings or car boot sales can take weeks. Bucket collections at supermarkets can take a year once an application has been submitted, for the collection to take place.

Applying to charitable trusts

Charitable trusts are charities that offer grants to other organisations or to individuals. They give grants for work that meets the trust’s own specific aims and objectives. They can be very small organisations, run by a volunteer board of trustees and a correspondent, or a large trust with a budget of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Their money usually comes from the interest of one large donation or bequest. Do not assume that the larger the trust, the better your chance of success; it doesn’t work that way!

Finding trusts to apply to
Most trusts have been set up for a specific purpose and receive far more applications than they are able to support. It is therefore important to find the trusts that best match the project you are planning. There are many ways to find them:

The Devon Community Foundation: 

The Directory of Social Change: 

Selecting the right Trusts to approach for your project
The Directory of Social Change has a fantastic website that provides great advice on how to identify, select and approach charitable trusts that you can find below.

Trust funding applications: top ten tips: 

Here are some examples of memory cafes which have successfully applied for grant money:

Writing your application

  • Read what the trusts says it will support very carefully – do not waste time applying to trusts that have stated they are only supporting charities in a different geographical area, e.g. London, or a different type of work.

  • Make sure your project is a good match for what the trust says it will support and that you do not end up committing yourself to something you won’t be able to achieve, even if it sounds better in the application.

  • Write in plain English. Use short sentences and avoid acronyms and jargon. There is no need to use formal or flowery language. Remember that you are describing your memory cafe to someone who has never met you or seen what you do.

  • Be specific about what you plan to do. For example, rather than saying “We will run a memory cafe carers’ group,” say “We will run a weekly carers’ group for six months, starting [date]. Each session will be two hours long and will be attended by 10 carers.”

  • Focus your application on the funder’s priorities. For example, imagine your memory cafe runs a singing session for local people with dementia. If you are applying to a funder that prioritises projects which help older people’s mental health, focus on the fact that singing is good for the brain and general wellbeing. If you are applying to a funder that prioritises projects which promote arts and music activities, focus on the art and music element of the singing.

  • Provide evidence that your work is needed. Look at the Alzheimer’s Society for some useful facts and figures.
  • Include all the information the funder has asked for and any additional information or documents they require. Missing things out might mean your application gets rejected automatically.
  • Make sure you meet the deadline. Late applications will not be considered, even if they are fantastic!
  • Make your budget as specific as possible. Get quotes for everything you will need to pay for, so that it is accurate and don’t underestimate or overestimate the cost.
  • Do not include any non-specific items in your budget, such as “contingency costs” or “miscellaneous”.
  • Do not apply to more than one funder for the same costs at the same time. If you are successful in both applications, you will end up having to turn down one of the funders. This could damage your chances of getting funding from them in future. However, if your applications are to very small trusts that could only contribute a limited amount to the total needed, it is alright to write to several trusts for funding for the same costs, as each one may only be able to make a small contribution towards the total needed. It is often even better if you tell them which small trusts have already donated.

There are some advantages in terms of fundraising to either being a charity, or being able to apply for money under the umbrella of another charity:

Try your local businesses

Small businesses, such as greengrocers or local convenience stores, may want to help improve their local community, especially if it will help them to attract customers. Most of the big supermarkets like to be seen as community-minded and will often donate goods or staff.

The large supermarkets have corporate trusts that will receive applications for funding but be aware they do not like funding ongoing costs or salaries, and tend to want it to be a new project. Some big companies have established donation programmes that community groups can apply to. You usually need to fill out an application form. This means they are probably less likely to make an on-the-spot donation to your group and will want you to apply for one of their grants online.

Use your connections

Some companies like to encourage their staff to get involved in community activity, so may be more likely to donate to a project that is recommended by someone who works for them. Don’t be shy about using any connections you have.

Ask in person

A small business is more likely to donate to your group if they have actually spoken to you in person. While sending a letter or email is a useful way of giving information about your cafe, it is important to also visit the business, or phone them, to explain who you are and why you would like them to donate. This makes it more personal and gives you a better chance of persuading the business that your memory cafe is important and deserves their support. Take a letter with you so that they can read more after you’ve gone.

Put your request in writing

When you go into a shop or phone up a business, you may find that the person who makes decisions about donations is not available to speak to. They may also be too busy to consider your request right then and there. It is a good idea to have a letter that you can give or send to them, to follow up your request. This should:

  • Be on headed paper
  • Be no longer than one side of A4 if possible
  • Be addressed specifically to the person you are writing to – try to find out their name before writing the letter.
  • Include details of what you want the money for, how much you need and who it will benefit

If you don’t hear back after sending your letter, follow it up with another phone call or visit. People running businesses can be very busy and may need reminding about the donation you have asked for.

Offer something in return

One reason local businesses may donate to your group is if they think this will lead to them getting more business. Offering them publicity in return for their donation will encourage them to support you. Offer to tag them on social media or, if you are running an event, to include their logo on the programme and announce their support at the event so that everyone knows that they donated. Only do this if they make a significant contribution to the event costs – you don’t want to plaster your website with loads of logos for small donations of a fiver!

Gifts in kind

It is always best to ask local business to donate things that are relevant to their business, e.g. coffee, cakes, sugar and raffle prizes every week/month from a local supermarket. Gifts in kind can save your cafe a lot of money over a year, and it is always worth considering making requests for other items needed for specific activities. For example, ask a garden centre for some bulbs, compost and plant pots and have a cafe planting session so that members can plant up the pots to give as Christmas presents.

Remember to tell funders how their donation was spent

If you have received a donation once, the same funder may be interested in donating again in future. They are more likely to do this if you write to them, thanking them for their support and letting them know how your event or memory cafe project went.

For trust funders, a brief report 9–12 months after the donation was received, saying how the money has been spent, how many people benefitted and how it has made a difference, is always well received. Include photos and any press cuttings if you have them.

Keep a record of the trusts/community groups and companies that have donated to you, and the contact details of the person you have been in communication with, so that you can write to them again in future.

Raising money from local community groups

Every community will have numerous clubs and societies, including children’s groups, sports clubs, music groups, religious groups and social clubs, that regularly donate to local charities. These can include Rotary Clubs, Inner Wheel Clubs, Soroptimists, Lions Clubs and Women’s Institutes, all of which you can approach for small grants. They are also keen to invite local charities to speak at their meetings either in person or on Zoom. This is worth considering as it can lead to much more than just a donation. A new memory cafe, for example, was able to recruit all its volunteers from a Rotary Club it had given a Zoom talk to during lockdown!

Find out if any of your members, volunteers or trustees are members of community groups and see if they can make an introduction for you. Approach the community groups as you would a local business and follow the same steps in asking, acknowledging, thanking, and recording the gift.

Fundraising within your community is not an isolated activity. It goes hand-in-hand with promoting your memory cafe and also working to make your community dementia friendly. The more people get to know about you, the easier it is to get contributions. Listen to some more examples of how memory cafes raise money within their communities…

Fundraising events

Organising events is not for the faint-hearted, as it can be very time-consuming and costly. A fundraising event rarely brings in as much as a well-researched and well-written successful charitable trust grant application, but it can raise more than money. So, before you start, clarify what you want to achieve. Do you want to raise money, or raise your profile – is the focus of the event fundraising or friend-raising?

If it is fundraising, set yourself a target and make sure you put in place enough activities to cover your costs and made a good profit. If it is friend-raising, make it fun and informative, create lots of opportunities for people to learn more about your memory cafe and how to become volunteers, trustees, members, or donors. Try to cover your costs but be prepared not to!

Start well in advance – Rome wasn’t built in a day!

  • Start planning your event well in advance to give yourself enough time to organise everything
  • Check your proposed event date with the community calendar to avoid clashes – the local library and town council often have an events calendar

Make a plan – and delegate!

The easiest way to plan an event is to work backwards from the date of the event, listing what needs to be in place by a fixed time. For example:


  • The day before and on the day – set up room, collect donated cakes, etc.
  • Two weeks before the event – send final press release to local media and post on local websites/Facebook.
  • Three weeks before – send out/put up and post online the final, more detailed poster. Pin up a list or rota at the memory cafe asking people to pledge a small amount of time on the day (allocate a task to each of them), or contributions of food, raffle prizes, etc. Make sure your publicity gives the date, time, venue with address, what the event is and who it is for. Note the entrance fee if there is one.
  • Four weeks before – recruit volunteers to help on the day. Write/approach local supermarkets and businesses for raffle prizes.

  • Five weeks before – send out a ‘Put this date in your diary’ email/poster with basic details of the date and time of event. Promote the event online and ask for volunteers to help on the day/donating cakes, etc.

  • Six weeks before – check community calendar and fix a date and venue. Recruit a committee of volunteers/supporters to organise the event – give each of them a job.

With some events, think about asking other local groups to get involved. They may be able and willing to take responsibility for a particular aspect of the event so that your group has less to organise. For example, when organising a huge ‘Day at the seaside’ family event for a charity in the Midlands, a fundraiser contacted all of the local Women’s Institutes and community groups that had hosted a speaker from the charity over the previous year. They were asked if they would bake for the event, and run the cream tea stall, which they did very successfully.

Make sure everyone knows what is going on. Reporting regularly to the other people organising the event and to the whole group is essential – it can stop an individual or an organising committee from making costly mistakes.

Be clear about how, when and what you are going to communicate with each other as a group. Will you email a list of organisers and volunteers? Will you meet on a weekly basis? How will other people know when you have completed a task?

Agree a budget

All fundraising events will cost money to put on, whether it is for room hire, the purchase of sundries like beverages, printing costs, raffle tickets, the purchase of goods for sale or volunteers’ expenses. Take into account all your costs, so that you don’t end up with nasty surprises along the way. For example:

  • The venue
  • Publicity
  • Hire of equipment
  • Decorations
  • Entertainers/speakers
  • Prizes, refreshments, face paints, art materials
  • Transport
  • Phone bills, postage and other admin
  • Insurance
  • First aid equipment and volunteers
  • Fees for licences and permissions

Then plan how you are going to cover them:

  • Entrance fees?
  • Grant funding or sponsorship?
  • Raffle?
  • Sale of refreshments?
  • Money-making sideshows and stalls?
  • Charging stallholders or catering suppliers?

It is essential the fundraising event makes more than it costs. For example, if you are running a fundraising coffee morning, think about selling tickets for the event in advance so that people that can’t come can donate towards it anyway. Charge people without tickets at the door (perhaps £2?), which gets them a free coffee but sell the cakes to go with it! Run a cloakroom ticket raffle, have a stall to sell homemade goodies or bric-a-brac, have a ‘guess the number of beans in the jar/weight of the cake’ competition, or simply put out a donation tin.

Practical considerations for events

Health and safety

Take care to do what you can to avoid accidents and injuries at your event. It is useful to produce a risk assessment to help make sure you have thought things through systematically.

See some risk management samples and templates for event organisers here:

A risk assessment lists the different hazards that people might encounter at your event. Your risk assessment will be useful for you if:

  • Everyone running the event is aware of it and does what it says
  • You keep it up to date
  • It is realistic (you actually intend to do the things that you write down)

Conducting a risk assessment may seem like a big job, but it doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult. Remember, there is no point just having a risk assessment if you don’t use it!

First aid

Decide who will be responsible for first aid on the day. For large events, you could ask a first aid organisation to attend. Even if you are just using your own volunteers, you need to have a visible first aid point at the event and people who are taking the role of first aiders. Some of your volunteers may already have first aid training. If not, find some local training.

Here is one provider – there will be more: 


You should do what you can to ensure that disabled people can take part in your event. For example, if possible, choose a venue which is accessible for wheelchair users, and provide a British Sign Language interpreter for speeches and performances. Put information on your publicity about how accessible your event will be, so that people will know in advance if their needs are going to be catered for. You could also invite people to contact you in advance if they have a particular access need, so that you can adjust your plans to make the event accessible for them.


Do you want or need to photograph or film your event? You should put up signs informing people if they might be photographed, and you should gain parental consent before photographing children. It is advisable to ask permission from the people in the picture for permission to use the photo on your website or in publicity materials.

Here is an example consent form template that you can download: 


Consider whether you want to take out public liability insurance. When you organise an activity or event you have ‘public liability’. This means that your group could be responsible if any of the following things happen to a member of the public at your event:

  • Injury
  • Damage to their property
  • Loss of their property

If any of these things happen to a member of the public at one of your events and they think it was caused by the negligence of your group, they could make a claim against your group, asking you to pay an amount of money to them. The term ‘public’ means anyone who is not an employee or volunteer, so it includes members and anyone else attending your events and activities. You also have responsibility for volunteers and employees, but they are not ‘public’. If you have booked a venue for your event, the venue owner should already have public liability insurance.

Bookings, permissions and licences

Make sure the venue is booked and confirmed. Think about what equipment you will need to hire. Check with entertainers and speakers what they expect you to provide. Find out about the regulations for that venue/space early on – it can take months for some licences to be granted. You may need to consider:

  • Temporary event notice
  • Street collection licence
  • Road closure permit


It is best to get publicity out early, even if this means that it can’t include all the final details of the event. You might want to do one piece of publicity as early as possible that includes the date of the event and basic information about it, and another closer to the time that includes more detailed information.

  • Who do you want your publicity to reach? Think about where those people are most likely to see your publicity and what will attract them to the event.
  • How will the posters and leaflets be distributed? Who will do it?
  • Will you be using social media? You could set up an Event on Facebook and invite people to it. You could also use Twitter to send out reminders about your event in the weeks and days running up to it.
  • You could try to get something in the local media, such as your local community newsletter, newspaper, or radio station.

Using your event plan – final checklist

Shortly before the event

  • You need to run through the day in detail. Where will everybody be on the day? What will each person be responsible for doing?

  • Are all the jobs covered, or do you need to do a last-minute ring-around to fill some gaps?

  • Have you set up all the admin (forms/paperwork) that will be needed on the day, e.g. forms for writing down money you take in, photo consent forms, etc.?

  • How will equipment and volunteers get to and from the venue?

  • Will you be able to take hired equipment directly to and from the event, or will it need to be stored?

  • Who is responsible for money on the day?
  • Will you need a lot of change? If so, contact your bank at least a week in advance and ask them to put some aside for you.
  • What will happen if it rains?
  • Do you have enough time, materials and people for setting up and clearing up?

On the day

  • Take photos and record feedback from participants, stallholders and volunteers.

  • Give volunteers support and encouragement, and make sure everyone gets a break.

  • Keep track of money in and out.


If you’ve organised a fundraising event with different stalls, you might want to count takings from the different stalls separately, so that you know which activities made money and which didn’t do so well. This will help you make a more accurate budget for your next event.

Remember to thank your volunteers and helpers, and report back to and thank funders, sponsors, etc. For example, put the results on your website/Facebook page; put up a thank you poster with results at the memory cafe session. Email a thank you to all donors, sponsors and volunteers. Don’t forget to thank the organising committee and trustees that helped.

It’s always worth having a brief discussion with your group after an event is over, to talk through what went well and what could have been better. Think about the day of the event and the pre-event planning. You can make notes of lessons to remember for future events.

Opinion polls consistently show that most people would be willing to pay a little more to improve NHS services and social care. So do not underestimate the potential for fundraising in your local community. Listen to what happened in Honiton, when they set themselves the challenge of raising 150,000 pounds to bring a full time Admiral Nurse to the town….

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