9th Mar 2022

Photo: Projects4Change, opening of Betty's Hut in July 2021, thanks to a grant from the Ron and Louise Bowey Grassroots Fund.

This month the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland – the largest of its type in the UK – has exceeded the milestone of awarding £150 million in funding to local charities and community groups in the region.  

The Community Foundation supports life-changing projects helping people and places across the region. The £150 million awarded since it set up in 1988 comprises over 40,000 grants to more than 10,000 small charities and 4,000 individuals.  

Rob Williamson, Chief Executive of the Community Foundation said:  

“It’s a landmark achievement for the Community Foundation to pass the £150 million mark in grants since we were founded in 1988. North East England has a long tradition of philanthropy, and we are proud to support and grow giving here, matching generous people with the area’s important community causes. 

West End Women and Girls Centre: women taking part in the Edible Elswick community growing project.

“We were one of the first community foundations set up in the UK and we’ve grown to be the largest thanks to the generosity of our donors. Reaching this milestone means we’ve been able to support thousands of people in our communities and supported our active charitable sector to make a much-needed positive impact in the region.”

The very first grants round was in 1989, when £120,000 of funding was awarded to 11 organisations. Among the first recipients was West End Women and Girls Centre (WEWGC) in Newcastle, then known as Elswick Girls Group. It received £847 towards a video project.  

Over 30 years later, and WEWGC is still being funded. Its latest grant, from the Community Foundation’s Ray Wind Farm Small Grants Fund, will support the charity’s work on a smallholding at Fallowlees Farm, Northumberland to help women from urban communities engage in a rural environment and learn more about agriculture and conservation. 

Huffty McHugh, Centre Co-ordinator said:  

“Our partnership with the Community Foundation who first funded us in 1989 when we were called ‘Elswick Girls Club’ is very special. They are an amazing partner, supporter, sounding board and generous friend allowing us to develop female pioneers, share commonalities and grow our community.” 

Silx Teen Bar Youth Project: young people taking part in a litter pick.

Equal Arts is another local charity which the Community Foundation has supported from the start. It helps vulnerable older people through creative activities which are enjoyable, improve wellbeing and build relationships. Equal Arts’ ‘Hen Power’ project, which uses hen-keeping to combat loneliness and improve older people’s wellbeing, was piloted in North East England with Community Foundation funding before expanding out of the region. 

Douglas Hunter, Chief Executive, Equal Arts said:  

“An initial £1,000 grant for Hen Power from the Community Foundation has led to a £3m programme of work over the past 10 years with projects across England and overseas. And still new projects are being established in Percy Hedley School, Cramlington as well as in Bristol and Southend.” 

People and Drugs (Silx Teen Bar Youth Project) is based in Blyth, Northumberland, and is a regular recipient of support from the Community Foundation. It is concerned primarily with the health of young people who are in danger of, or have already become, addicted to or dependent upon illicit drugs. It diverts young people aged 11 to 25 away from involvement in crime, alcohol and drugs by providing educational and recreational activities. 

Chris Antony, Development Manager, People and Drugs (Silx Teen Bar Youth Project) said: 

“Without the Community Foundation I really do not think we would have developed and improved our offer of provision to the young people. Often providing the financial spark allowing us to ignite and develop our essential projects, the Community Foundation has delivered a lot more. They share our understanding of the changing needs of the young people Silx works with every day. Their funding advice has helped us maintain and develop several projects and activities.” 

Wor Hoose: Men's Pie Club

The Community Foundation also supports newer organisations and activities. ‘Betty’s Hut’ is a new community hub supporting residents of Cowgate in Newcastle, set-up by Projects4Change. With a grant from the Community Foundation’s Ron and Louise Bowey Fund. ‘Betty’s Hut’ is named after local resident Betty Playford, who, for over forty years, provided activities for young people from a purpose-built hut in the field next to where the new hut now stands. The new development stands as a legacy to her work in the community. 

A Community Foundation grant was also the starting point for the ‘Men’s Pie Club’ at the Wor Hoose Community Project in Walker, Newcastle, run in partnership with Food Nation.  The project engages men who have become disconnected from their community helping them to make social connections by teaching them to make pies. The club was set-up to help tackle depression, isolation and low self-esteem. The informal approach enabled men to learn and share new skills and knowledge and gave them the opportunity to share a meal or have a pie ready to take home.  

The success of the Community Foundation is largely down to the generosity of its donors. Through the years, the Foundation has welcomed a diverse range of donors, giving them the opportunity to make a difference to the causes that inspire them. Trevor and Lyn Shears started the Linden Fund at the Community Foundation with a desire to give back to the local community by supporting small and grassroots local charities. Since establishing the fund, it’s gone on to make over £1m in grants. 

Lyn Shears OBE, said:  

“We didn’t really know where to start with our philanthropy, and without the support we received from the Community Foundation, I don’t think our giving would have been as informed, effective, or enjoyable as it quickly became.  

“We continue to benefit immensely from their local connections, networks, and knowledge – we have found the Community Foundation is ideally placed to make connections between philanthropists and the organisations doing the work on the ground in the north-east. 

“The incredible milestone of £150 million in grant making has been achieved because of an ethos that people, whatever part they play in the funding relationship, can truly appreciate and connect to.” 

As well as achieving the £150 million funding milestone, the Community Foundation has built an endowment which is nearing its 2025 target of £100 million. The endowment is a community asset to serve the region now and for generations to come.  

Rob Williamson, Chief Executive of the Community Foundation said:  

“Our growing endowment means more charitable organisations can be offered funding and longer-term support as over time, the Community Foundation will be less reliant on money given annually.” 

For more information about funding opportunities at the Community Foundation visit www.communityfoundation.org.uk/apply 

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