31st Jan 2020

Photo above: Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project, supporting young people in Sunderland

Every year the Community Foundation awards millions of pounds in grants to hundreds of organisations that make a difference in its area. But in 2018, the Foundation asked itself whether there were causes and communities where it needed to do more, and how it could be a better funder to organisations that consistently proved their effectiveness.

Drawing on its Vital Signs research, the Foundation’s trustees agreed three causes in need of more support: poverty, mental health and diversity and inclusion. In addition, they identified several ‘cold spots’ – places the Foundation was serving less well. Two initiatives were set up to better address these priorities and gaps.

The first was the Growth and Resilience Fund. Through a package of grants and non-financial support it will enable North East charities and social enterprises to change, survive, adapt and grow. The Community Foundation’s trustees are committing £150,000 a year for three years. A partnership has been established with County Durham Community Foundation, Northstar Foundation and The Mercers’ Company which has grown the pot to nearly £1,000,000 over three years and extends the programme to the whole of North East England.

The first 20 organisations are now receiving funding to develop income generation, to support succession planning for key staff and to improve organisational management. As well as money, the Foundation and its partners have brokered support on fundraising, property and risk management, as well as a leadership and coaching programme with DKS Leadership Academy in Sunderland.

Women's Health in South Tyneside (WHiST)

WHiST (Women’s Health in South Tyneside) received a grant to support the transition from a longstanding CEO in the least disruptive way and to maintain the stability of the organisation. Corinne Devine, Chief Executive of WHiST (Women’s Health in South Tyneside) said “The Growth and Resilience fund has helped WHiST through a critical period of change and transition. It has allowed us to secure our provision as it led to the success of additional grant applications. We are grateful for the ongoing support provided by this funding and in addition, access to free or low cost training opportunities.”

The second initiative has been designed to provide better support to the Community Foundation’s most trusted grantees working on those priority areas and in the ‘cold spots’. The aim is to provide funding with few strings attached, meaning groups can use grants for running costs or for projects that further their work. To resource the initiative, the Community Foundation’s Board agreed to pool money from a whole range of funds where they had discretion to award grants so long as they still met the expressed wishes of the donors. In the first year, 40 groups are receiving £620,000, with several opting to support specific activities and others covering their core costs.

Southwick Neighbourhood Youth Project in Sunderland received an award of £25,000 for work with disadvantaged young people to improve mental health and wellbeing. Ruth Oxley, Project Coordinator, said: “We were overjoyed to get the funding. We know that youth work activities can help vulnerable young people stay physically and mentally healthy, but our funding is often restricted for use on other priorities. Preventative work is vital because there are few services for young people once they get into difficulties, and the grant allows us to do this. We spend most of our time with our heads down trying to help young people, so it’s nice to be picked out for some extra help ourselves”.

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