28th Jul 2022

Rob Williamson, CEO of the Community Foundation on ITV Tyne Tees on 26 July 2022

As the summer holidays begin, Mark Pierce, our Associate Director of Knowledge and Research reflects on the Community Foundation's work developing a funding programme for holiday playschemes.  

It’s not often that the Community Foundation knocks a major national story off the top spot of the ITV news. But at the end of July our CEO Rob Williamson was centre stage talking about the programme of grants we had made to support Summer playschemes in Tyne & Wear and Northumberland. The initiative brought together 24 donors and resulted in grants of £133,000 to 17 schemes.

The programme as the result of several threads in our development as a funder over recent years, and we thought it might be of interest to set them out here. Front and centre has been a renewed focus on our philanthropic mission. The creation back in 2016 of a Chief Philanthropy Officer post to lead on enhancing our offer to donors has fostered stronger relationships of trust and a deeper knowledge of what inspires individuals’ giving. The Playschemes programme came about because donors accepted, and were inspired by, our case for concerted philanthropic action.

Our 2019 Vital Signs report on Food Poverty highlighted the importance of holiday playschemes.

On what was this case based? A longstanding focus on researching local need is certainly part of the picture. Our 2019 Vital Signs report had highlighted the benefits of additional charitable funding for quality holiday playschemes to children in poverty.  But changes prompted by a 2015 survey of our service to grantees by the Centre for Effective Philanthropy also played a role. We had been persuaded of the importance of doing more to support grantees and listen to what they were telling us about local priorities. And in early 2022 many were telling us that government support for holiday playscheme provision, although welcome, might well exclude many children from poor households who just failed to qualify for support.  Our call for action to donors was built on solid evidence from a range of sources.

The final piece of the programme was the application of new approaches to grant-making. These had been piloted prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the urgency of the public health crisis in 2019-2021 had added impetus to their adoption.  They centred on a more agile trust-based approach to supporting grantees with a good track record of delivery and on assembling packages of funding that delivered both on donor priorities and the Community Foundation’s strategic priority of alleviating poverty. New approaches to managing the programme meant we could quickly gather and distribute philanthropic funds in response to an identified need.

The Playschemes programme primarily showcases what local philanthropists can achieve working together with support from the Community Foundation. But it also reinforces our sense that time spent on listening to donors, grantees - and using it to reflect on our practice as philanthropy advisors and funders - is never wasted.

Mark is responsible for ensuring data is gathered, used and shared to support the Foundation’s strategy and goals. He leads on learning from the Foundation’s grant-making and related fields, alongside running our own research, including Vital Signs and overseeing research we commission, including Third Sector Trends

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