We usually make VERY SMALL grants to VERY SMALL projects.
We don’t have formal grant criteria, but we are normally looking for leverage (in the sense that we make small contributions to projects nobody else will touch, in the hope that they can sometimes turn into something big). So about 50 years ago we started backing pregnancy advisory services, women’s shelters and rape crisis centres, because they were new and unpopular with other funders (indeed, we had a run-in with the Charity Commission at that stage, which did not like pregnancy advisory services); now, we seldom back them, because they have become mainstream. If things are new in a particular area then they can still meet our criteria – a lot of community action is intensely local, and the fact that something has been done elsewhere does not mean it is well-established in the places that apply to us.
Some projects that were mainstream back then have become unpopular with big funders right now – often because they can’t tick the right number of boxes (in terms of criteria like diversity and or impact statements). These criteria can make sense when evaluating big organisations, but they can be impossible for small ones to meet. So we also try to fill that gap.
Our original objective when the Trust was set ups to help projects that encourage Community Service by young people to their own neighbourhoods (along the lines pioneered by Dr Alec Dickson, who founded Community Service Volunteers). In 2023 we are still supporting many of the same sorts of micro-scale community projects, though we have added education (in its broadest sense) to our list of priorities. Our core goal is to help small groups of people who are getting together to make a difference for others. We don’t support self-help groups, however useful they are to their members.
Where we do make quite large grants, mostly in the field of education, we usually seek to get match-funding from other organisations, so that our grants can release much bigger funding streams than we could provide by ourselves. Our goal when we support education projects is to support excellence in teaching – at all levels, from universities to primary schools. We focus on things that can give students a broader experience – getting away from the examination treadmill.
We recognise the vital role that Parish Churches, Mosques, synagogues and similar bodies can play as community hubs, and we sometimes can help with their work in the wider community. But we seldom help with building appeals, and never with evangelising or religious instruction.
We are a small, volunteer-run trust, and entirely privately funded. That means that we can take risks that government bodies and big trusts find unacceptable. But it can also mean we are slow to reply, and inefficient – so please chase us up if you do not hear from us within a month or so.
These are the sorts of issues we tend to look at when we decide what projects to back:
- Is it something new for this particular area?
It doesn’t matter if the idea is tried and tested in other parts of the country. If it is new for this community then we are interested in hearing about it.
- Is it small?
We normally give grants to projects where an initial £125 to £2,500 can make a real difference. In general, we look at what it is costing per-head to reach the people the project is helping.
- Is it run by ordinary people, not professionals?
This is partly a function of size – once a project is big enough to employ staff, it is probably too big for us. It is also a function of our philosophy. All the community projects we support have, as a common theme, the empowerment of ordinary non-professional people.
- Will it find it hard to get support elsewhere?
We try to help those projects that are too new to get support through established fund raising channels, or which (if established) are under threat due to changes in national or local policy.
- Does it have the potential to become self supporting?
We like to see information that shows how the project will support itself in future years or (if it is a short-life project) over the course of its life.
We need to know that the project is well planned, and that the people running it have their feet on the ground.
We also like to see that projects have done some fundraising for themselves even if the amounts raised are small, before we commit our own funds.
- Is it outward looking, rather than being focused on its own members?
We are especially keen to help groups who are usually considered recipients of voluntary action (for example old age pensioners, refugees or young offenders) when these people become involved in helping other groups in the community – because this helps empower the volunteers themselves, as well as supporting the project they are working on.
- Does it have a U.K. charity number, or can it find a charity to accept funds on its behalf?
If your organisation is a U.K. registered charity, please give its full name and charity number.
If your organisation is not a registered charity, we cannot make grants directly to it, for tax reasons. However, we can usually get round this by making a grant to a registered charity in your area, which then will pass the money directly on to your project. Local Church of England Parochial Church Councils are often a good place to start – even for projects that have nothing to do with religion. They are automatically charities, and are often willing to help.
Please also have a look at what we DON’T support (below). Please forgive us if we don’t reply to you, if you fall into one of them. We just don’t have time to do so.
WHAT WE DO NOT [USUALLY] SUPPORT
We NEVER respond to national appeals, or to general round-robin funding letters.
We almost never help hard-science medical projects. Nor do we support counselling, family-therapy and self-help projects. The medical ones tend to be too big for us, and all of these medical and quasi medical fields are very hard for us to evaluate.
We don’t usually help arts/performance projects.
We can’t help projects outside the UK, except when we have personal knowledge of them – it is too expensive to manage, and too expensive to transfer the funds.
We don’t provide help to individuals – even in education. We do very occasionally support scholarship programmes aimed at fostering academic excellence at all levels. However when we do this, we give the funds to institutions to spend as they choose, not to individual students.
We do not support individuals to go on a gap-year community service project overseas.