Favourite funding sources – part one

Today I want to point you towards your local Community Foundation, for several very good reasons.  In most areas of the United Kingdom they are distributing some quite significant pots of money, but usually through  a much simplified, more user-friendly application process.

Comic Relief grants, FairShare grants, and Grassroots grants are all available through the Community Foundations, and these three pots are invaluable for smaller voluntary and community organisations.  Best of all, you don’t need to be a registered charity to receive any of them.    

So the first step is to find your local Community Foundation.  There are 57 around the UK, with 95% of the population covered by one, and you can visit  http://www.communityfoundations.org.uk to find your nearest.

Because they are trusted to make fair decisions that benefit the most needy within their geographical location, most Community Foundations also distribute very locally-specific funds, set up by a local philanthropist or a major business in the area.  And there are the national pots of money which, sensibly, are given to the CFs to distribute because that saves setting up another layer of local infrastructure to assess and monitor grants.

So back to those three useful pots of money.

a)   Comic Relief:  You don’t have to be a charity to apply – community groups, residents’ associations, social enterprises, credit unions and CICs can apply, and grants are between £1k and £10k.  Projects should be locality-based (ie a housing estate or a village) and larger areas such as towns or boroughs would have to show an exceptional level of community involvement.  50% of the available funds will go on social inclusion through sports, and the remaining 50% will be shared amongst all the other community needs.

b)   FairShare grants:  this is Lottery money, ring-fenced for areas of deprivation with historically low rates of achieving Lottery grants, and are very geographically-specific.  For example in the whole Dorset area (including Bournemouth & Poole) just the Wallisdown ward of Bournemouth is eligible.  Similarly in Wiltshire and Swindon, just one ward in Swindon is eligible.  Don’t waste your time if your project is not wholly within an eligible area.  However if you ARE in the right place, there is a sizeable chunk of money available.  Check your Community Foundation website for eligible wards.

c)  And finally the hugely popular Grassroots Grants.  Grants are between £250 and £5k, but to be eligible your organisation’s turnover must not average more than £30k per annum for the last 3 years.  This is not flexible, so if you’re a registered charity see what shows up on your accounts on the Charity Commission website and if it’s too high, don’t waste your time.  No forms, just send a good description of what you want to do, and emphasise how grassroots you are!  You need to be community-led, user-focussed, and targeting the most disadvantaged people in your community.  This pot is likely to come to an end in March 2011 so this year is your final chance.

Finally, talk to the grants officer or development worker at your Community Foundation.  Remember that your own CF will be managing several obscure local funds as well as the national pots.  If they don’t have a fund themselves that seems to fit your project, they can offer useful advice about other available pots, and they are usually really happy to give out free advice.

Next time I’ll look at some favourite funds that give larger grants. 

©  Tamara Essex 2010

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