Where do grants make the biggest impact?

Doing activities or investing in the charity to be more effective?

Traditionally many of the grants made by Two Ridings Community Foundation were focussed on supporting groups to do activity (project funding) but in the last year we have supported groups in York with grants to help them improve their effectiveness. This funding of charities to have resources, space and time to think and learn – especially when it comes to strategic planning – is often seen by charity staff as a luxury compared to delivery. Yet it reaps long term benefits.

Donors and funders tend to favour giving awards for running an event or doing a specific project. But through leadership shown by funders like Lloyds Bank Foundation, there is more evidence and practice that shows funding and other support for charities to be effective can have a significant impact on those charities in the long term.

In 2018/19 we awarded £190,000 awarded in grants to 35 organisations and 5 individuals in York. And of these 35 charities 83% (25) had income under £100,000 and many well below £100k (Holgate Allotments Refugee Group had an income of £1.50 and we gave them an award of £350 to fund a shed and tools). This shows our focus on the #SmallButVital charities that funders like all community foundations, Lloyds Bank Foundation and the support organisations like The Small Charities Coalition know, care about it and want it to thrive and prosper.

Of the awards made to charities, this project activity funding fell into two categories:
We gave 6 awards for kit – a shed, judo mats, planting and gardening equipment and wheelchair basketball kit.

And we made 11 awards for activity to engage vulnerable or disadvantaged people – including:
• Craft club in Tang Hall for lonely, isolated older people
• Speech therapists to help people living with aphasia
• Youth outreach activity in Haxby & Wigginton
• Theatre training for groups who work with people with mental health issues in York
• Counselling capacity to work with women with eating disorders

All of which is really positive and needed because these activities and connections made can make the difference for people who are isolated or lonely, or struggling alone with mental health problems or financially vulnerable. Even in a city as vibrant and successful as York there are pockets of inequality and hidden poverty, issues around poor physical and mental health and people experiencing loneliness and social isolation. Our Vital Signs report for York published a few years ago now is still relevant as it identified over 7760 people living in fuel poverty (and recent data say it is now over 9000 people), 5930 people living in overcrowded housing, 3130 children living in poverty in York (10% of York’s children) and 18233 unpaid carers in York.

But for the first time in 2018/19 we were able to invest funds with 11 groups to help them improve by making a step change in their effectiveness. Eight groups got funding to help them develop their services through better business planning and three to improve their use and reach of volunteers.

Examples of what we funded include:

• Business development plans for the Sea Cadets
• Business Plans and capacity to implement the plans for a collection of charities working together to improve how they work on addressing issues relating to homelessness, a pensioners club and a charity working to support older people Fundraising capacity for a charity that works with vulnerable families
• Funding the costs of staff time to encourage volunteering at a charity working with vulnerable women, an environmental charity and a charity that simply encourages volunteering in the city

We are fortunate in York that Two Ridings has a donor (Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust) who has set up a specific fund to help with all of this – the Step Change Fund. Applications close for this year’s round of Step Change funding on 13th May 2019. Find out more here

We don’t have similar funds for the rest of North & East Yorkshire yet ,but through creative use of our resources and partnerships we have found other ways to support groups and we will continue to make the case for investing in charities to have the resources , space and time to think and learn.
Jan Garrill
Chief Executive

On 9th April 2019 I was invited to speak about the Voluntary, Community & Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector in York at York Cares annual meeting. York Cares is a network of businesses in York who support the VCSE by investing staff time in activity ranging from Big Community Challenges to mentoring in schools to sharing skills and expertise with the VCSE. This is an abridged version of that speech.