National vision starts at a local level

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One year on from the launch of the Community Wealth Fund Alliance, Public Affairs Officer at Lloyds Bank Foundation, Rachel Cain, writes about the importance of putting communities at the heart of key decision-making on how money is spent locally. The idea is gaining traction across the third sector and is backed by 150 organisations. 


As Brexit looms there is a profound need for a positive vision for the future. A movement is building around the idea of a Community Wealth Fund – a national, long-term initiative which starts with communities at a local level.

The Brexit conversation has highlighted and intensified the divisions that exist within communities. The phrase ‘left-behind communities’ is thrown around without much interrogation into its meaning and how to change things for the better – further alienating and dividing communities in the process. We know that there are places which aren’t benefiting from economic growth. We know that there are areas where jobs are scarce and uncertain, and where transport links are lacking. We also know that many communities have lost important social infrastructure – the places to meet which are vital for building the bonds that hold people together. Where is the vision for change?

Small and local charities like the ones we fund are often created with, by and for the communities they exist to serve. They are distinct in how they build trust, act as a foundation for change and take a person-centred approach which allows people to determine what they need to move forward.

These issues play out first and foremost at a local level and this is where change must start. One of the biggest challenges people face is feeling a lack of choice and control to shape and be part of the communities they live in. Civil society has a vital role to play in this. Small and local charities like the ones we fund are often created with, by and for the communities they exist to serve. They are distinct in how they build trust, act as a foundation for change and take a person-centred approach which allows people to determine what they need to move forward. They bring new resources into the community and act as the ‘glue’ which brings people and services together.

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Public Affairs & Programmes Officer Rachel Cain

But even where this community infrastructure exists, it is underfunded and overstretched. Smaller charities in particular have lost up to 44% of their funding from public bodies at a time when demand is rising, leading to closure or reduced services. To realise a positive vision, there needs to be long-term strategic funding, targeted to the communities which need it most.

This is the vision of the Community Wealth Fund. An idea backed by an alliance of voluntary, public and private sector organisations. The campaign is calling for a new multi-billion-pound endowment, created from dormant assets, to invest in the communities where disadvantage is most acute. This fund will provide strategic funding focused on building capacity and infrastructure. The funding could come from the next wave of dormant assets from insurance and pension policies, bonds, stocks and shares, matched with investment from larger companies. Most importantly, local people will lead the way this fund is spent, reflecting  what positive change in their area should look like.

A year since its launch, the Community Wealth Fund Alliance has been backed by 150 organisations across sectors and regions, and the idea is gaining traction. The answer to a positive vision for the future lies with the people who know their community best – they just need the funding and opportunity to put it into action. Read more about the idea, the research behind it and how you can get involved by signing up to join the alliance.

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‘Decision makers must not turn their backs on local domestic abuse experts’

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Business Manager for HARV Amanda Elwen

Hyndburn and Ribble Valley (HARV) Domestic Violence Team is a charity that has been providing services to vulnerable children and families since 1998. Amanda Elwen, Business Manager for HARV, has written an open letter to officials, calling on them to turn their attention to the urgent need within domestic abuse services and to give a voice to specialists on Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).

In response to the demand and strain upon domestic violence services, generic victims services were established. Amanda Elwen highlights the shortcomings of such services and the importance of supporting VAWG specialists. Read Amanda’s heartfelt open letter below:

Dear Commissioners, Policy Makers and Decision Makers,

Did I do something wrong? Did I speak too loud? Did I not behave appropriately? Do I not conform to your expectations?

You see, our relationship has deteriorated recently. For the last twenty-five years, I have dedicated my life to supporting thousands of women and children who have suffered abuse. My charities have delivered hundreds of contracts and independent evaluations suggest we have done a good job.

Recently, it seems that you think that you no longer need me and I have to say after 25 years, this hurts a little bit. You had a party the other evening and you didn’t even invite me, you invited lots of your new friends. I’m no longer invited around your table and you don’t even let me have the scraps anymore.

But you still expect me to keep doing what I have always done and sometimes when you need me for something, like an equality impact assessment, you promise me, one day it will get better.

I hang on your promises in the hope that things might change. I stay a little longer in the hope that I may get invited around your table once again. But you don’t call and you leave me with very little option. To survive or not to survive. Well surprise, surprise, we chose survive. You see, when you leave a woman with nothing, you leave them in very dangerous territory. But courage calls to courage everywhere. We survived by developing businesses that generate enough profit to enable us to continue to provide frontline services to women and children.

Let me say that again. In the 21st century, specialist VAWG services have to establish businesses to generate enough profit to then provide women and children with the services that are necessary for them to survive. How many women’s charities have we seen close this year alone? And at a time where demand for our services are greater than ever. Our sector is not valued, and we are being discarded and thrown to the margins. This is about respect. Respect at every level. You see, when women are respected, they do not need protection. If you need heart surgery, you go to a heart surgeon. If you need a tooth extracting, you go to a dentist. If you are raped, violated, coerced, harassed, assaulted, abused, humiliated, forced or exploited then who would you want to help you? If you have nowhere to live and have lost your children as a result of violence who would you want to help you? If it was your sister, mother or wife, who would you want to help them?

The answer is not a generic victims service. The answer is I want the very best, I want the expert, I want the people who understand the complexity of the situation and have the experience to know how to best support me and my family. I want the people who are available when I need them, the people who will fight for justice and stand by my side.

Women and children are still coming to us, the demand for our services haven’t changed and while women and children continue to line up for help, I urge you to find ways to get the VAWG specialists back around the table where key decisions are being made.

Ask A Grant Manager – July 2019

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Gary Beharrell – Grant Manger for the East Midlands

Gary is our Grant Manager for the East Midlands. He joined the Foundation in 2002 after working with a local charitable trust and in Higher Education. Previously, he has held roles as diverse as trustee of his local community centre, to his current trusteeships with the Funding Forum and the Association of Charitable Foundations.

Gary’s interests include long-distance walking and music. He has been known to attend a rock gig, after first rehearsing with his local choir!

Gary is passionate about the charitable sector, having been involved in many different ways since he was a teenager.

“I’m often asked to explain the role and put simply its ‘helping the helpers’. The variety of people I meet, the passion they show to help others and the innovation shown never ceases to amaze me. It is a privilege being able to work with such people and constantly learn from them.”


Q: Why does Lloyds set its income limit for applying organisations at £1m?

As part of our initial research for developing our current grantmaking strategy, we looked at this. Our research identified that charities with incomes under £1M were likely to be hardest hit by the current climate of austerity. The cuts to grants funding hit them disproportionately hard, with many unable to enter the tender process.

Through our Value of Small research, we also identified that these smaller charities were more likely to be rooted in their communities, with local trustees and volunteers. Consequently, we have focused our resources on those hardest hit but led locally.

 

Q: In an innovation era, why are grant making trusts always still looking for “checkbox” answers? They always seem to find the same types of projects, for example cafes that offer employability training. Everyone is so weary of change, but shouldn’t we embrace innovation to drive REAL change?

At Lloyds Bank Foundation we have a firm commitment to supporting core costs and don’t require change or seek to drive it. The nature of our grants means charities can look to drive real change as they are the experts and we trust them.

 

Q: As a small charity, we struggle to provide rigorous quantitative data; it’s usually because we don’t know how or what to collect to demonstrate our impact. We can’t afford to pay external agencies to conduct surveys and create reports for us. What’s the best possible way for us to document and evaluate our impact, in a way funders would find ‘appealing’?

Monitoring and demonstrating impact is an essential part of anyone’s work these days. Remember however if done well it isn’t only good for funders, but more importantly, is management information for everyone to monitor how well the charity is performing.

When starting fresh it is never an easy task to work out what to report on and what not to. There is a range of support out there to help you do this.

First, think through the difference or change you wish to make to beneficiaries. Potentially using something like a Theory of Change may give you an idea of things to measure. When you have this there are a number of free tools such as Inspiring Impact and Impactasaurus which provides free monitoring tools and some example questions. The Small Charities Coalition also has a number of guides and other toolkits designed specifically with small charities in mind.

Finally, we fund development opportunities (including monitoring and evaluation) through our Enable programme. We are taking applications until 31 August 2019 so get your applications in soon! Learn more and apply here.


Have a question you want to ask our Grant Managers? Submit your questions here.

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Paul Streets: Small charities moving the dial

It is the grass-roots organisations such as London Friends that often change attitudes, writes our CEO Paul Streets. Paul-Streets-018-20180123103542147

Our sector has always moved societal niche issues to societal norms. And as we celebrate Small Charity Week, it’s worth noting that this always begins in grass-roots organisations responding to unseen need, often through establishing small charities. My recent visit to London Friend near Kings Cross in London was a testament to this.

They achieve all this and very much more with just £400,000, with a staggering 100 volunteers supporting only 11 staff (seven of whom are part-time). This is a great example of the social value per pound that community-led small charities so often add.

It is probably the oldest LGBT charity in the UK. It was established in 1972, only five years after homosexuality was decriminalised. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the community continued to experience significant prejudice, including violence.

Monty Moncrieff, chief executive of London Friend, recalls an era when its front window was frequently bricked. The “Friend” in its name is a reflection of the need it was founded to meet: Fellowship for the Relief of Individuals in Emotional DistressIn three years, it will share its 50th anniversary with Pride and Moncrieff is already planning how it will celebrate.

The charity’s London offices are pretty basic: old furniture, old IT kit and a large area of replastered wall at the back where the damp got in and it has not got round to repainting. But the real work happens in five sexual health and advice centres, where it provides an Antidote programme addressing the adverse consequences of drug dependency and, in particular, the rise of chemsex.

Moncrieff explains that – even more than 50 years after decriminalisation – part of the community still experiences hang-ups about sexual activity and many experience loneliness.

Social media has gone some way towards helping to relieve this by connecting people more easily, but it has also increased the amount of risky sex with strangers. And the rising use in the past decade of drugs such as crystal meth to help people overcome the anxiety often attached has brought with it catastrophic consequences.

This highly addictive and potent drug reduces sexual inhibition, but also has distressing physical and mental health withdrawal symptoms, including heart problems, paranoia, aggression and, in some cases, suicide.

The Antidote programme is one of London Friend’s several offers of support, encompassing psychosocial counselling, alongside one-to-one structured work through a six-week ChemCheck programme and SWAP (Structured Weekend Antidote Programme), an initiative designed to mirror a drug treatment day programme over four weekends, specifically targeting people affected by chemsex.

They achieve all this and very much more with just £400,000, with a staggering 100 volunteers supporting only 11 staff (seven of whom are part-time). This is a great example of the social value per pound that community-led small charities so often add.

As is the embeddedness of London Friend, a charity that has grown and evolved with its service users. This means that, like so many small charities, it is able to reach those whom others can’t, work in ways others don’t and stay engaged when others won’t.

Also, like the 97 per cent of small but vital charities being celebrated this week, it is addressing the issues that so often go unnoticed or unmentioned. It tackles some of the most difficult, complex and sometimes unpopular issues in society, challenging us all to acknowledge, understand and address issues we might prefer to ignore, but which, if left, have the potential to do untold harm to people on the edge of society.

At a time when it’s easy to be gloomy about the UK, London Friend, and tens of thousands of organisations like it, are a reminder of the unseen and valuable national assets in our voluntary sector.

Five things I’ve learnt this year as Head of Grants

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Oliver Williams, Head of Grants – South

Oliver Williams is the Head of Grants – South at Lloyds Bank Foundation. He joined the Foundation in July 2018 from Premiership Rugby, where he looked after the national education, health, social inclusion and capacity building community programmes delivered by England’s professional rugby union clubs.

He previously held roles in small charities and trade unions mainly focused on education, social mobility and youth leadership.


I’ve had an absolute whirlwind of a first year here at the Foundation and have learned plenty. Not only how the office hot water tap works and where Corby is, but also what life is really like for the organisations and people working on the frontline to address complex social issues across England and Wales. There’ve been plenty of lightbulbs switching on, pennies a-dropping and realisations a-dawning, but these are the ones that loom heavy on my mind.

  1. Small charities do the complex stuff that larger charities (and the state) won’t touch

We read all about it in the Value of Small research last year, but the charities we work with really are more impactful, resourceful and responsive than their larger counterparts. I’ve seen and heard this time and again, in lots of different ways, and it makes me very proud to work for a funder with such a strong belief in and commitment to this part of the sector. But it’s not just how small charities work that makes them special, it’s what they do as well. Many of the small charities I’ve seen have been doing extremely complex, long-term, fiddly, sometimes controversial work, with those facing disadvantage at its most acute, that larger charities, let alone the state, simply wouldn’t touch.

  1. The sector is stretched beyond belief

As highlighted in A Quiet Crisis, spend on disadvantage is actually decreasing nationally in spite of rising demand and cost. Most worrying of all, 97% of the reductions have come in the most deprived areas of the country, a fact that is well reflected in what charities in these areas are telling us. Demand is rising, funding is ever harder to secure and the operating environment ever more challenging.

  1. Mental health and wellbeing is something we’re going to need to address

It was on my third day that I first saw a charity CEO in tears, exhausted and overwhelmed with the scale of the need and the challenge of meeting it. It was around week four that I read about the charity who had a third of their team on long-term sick. It’s a worrying trend that we’re all seeing; a sharp increase in workplace stress, long-term sickness and mental health problems amongst both themselves and their teams. It’s a trend that I fear will define the sector over the next five years, which is why we’re already thinking hard about how we can help address this. We won’t be able to do this alone though, so I urge infrastructure organisations, larger charities and funders to join with us to do what we can to support those working on the front-line.

  1. Learning from each other

Yes it’s a cliché. Yes, you could spend your entire working life in the queue for coffee at conferences and seminars and events and roundtables, half-heartedly asking the person in front “and have you had far to come today?”, nodding knowingly as they describe the problems on the branch line from Nuneaton. But sharing our experiences, lessons and perspectives as a sector, being generous with our time, knowledge and skills, is what can truly set us apart from the daftly competitive private sector, or the terminally siloed state. Setting aside the time to learn from each other, should be just as important as core activities, and we as a Foundation are committed to making this as easy and engaging as possible through our Learning and Networks programme.

  1. We really can make things a bit better for small charities

All of this has put us to work thinking about what more we can do to make things easier for small and local charities. We’ve already started to overhaul our processes, making good on our commitment to reduce bureaucracy, and give applicants a much clearer idea of the likelihood of success. We’re also looking hard at Enhance – our funder plus programme designed to support charities to develop, ensuring that it has something to offer everyone, from a volunteer-led community group to a fast-growing refugee support charity.

This is a fascinating, challenging and privileged place to work. The team we’ve got is the best, the resources we have are significant, and the profile we’ve built is powerful. We’ve started to grapple with these themes already, but I’m raring to commit my Difficult Second Year to doing even more.

Ask A Grant Manager – May 2019

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Sara Cooney – Grant Manager for London and Surrey

Sara Cooney is our Grant Manager for London and Surrey. Before joining Lloyds Bank Foundation in 2008, Sara held a variety of local and regional roles in grant making and community development.

“The most rewarding part of my work is getting to know the charities I work with. It’s about meeting the people in the charity, learning about how they help their local community and how we can support them through the work of Lloyds Bank Foundation.”

Sara enjoys travelling and is a keen SCUBA diver but doesn’t get into the water as often as she’d like, because she prefers diving in warmer seas. We don’t blame you Sara!


Q: How long after we have received a grant can we reapply? Especially if it’s for core funding rather than project funding?

If you have an existing grant, subject to meeting our current eligibility criteria, you can make a new application in the final year of your grant. If approved before the end of your existing grant, your new grant can begin once your existing grant is completed. As always, we would suggest speaking with your grant manager before making a new application.

Our Invest programme for core funding is currently closed, but we will be reopening with a simplified application process in September. Sign up here to be notified when our grants reopen.


Q: We are a women’s organization championing leadership and governance issues in Kenya. What do you fund?

As the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, we fund small and medium sized charities supporting people experiencing complex social issues within England and Wales. At the moment we do not support work in other countries.


Q: I want to grow the work we’re already doing. Why do I need to keep planning new projects / pilots for funders?

We understand the need for core and existing project funding, and actively encourage other funders to move away from what our CEO Paul Streets memorably called ‘projectitis’. That said, there’s still a place for innovation and new ideas, so we offer both types of funding for charities meeting our eligibility criteria.

No matter what sort of funding you are applying for, we need to see how your charity’s work will meet the needs of your service users and that with your support, people will achieve lasting outcomes and positive changes in their lives.

We appreciate the need for core funding, and funding for projects we already know are making a positive difference.

While it’s not a requirement, piloting new work could help you decide how you deliver the project. It can also help you test different approaches and the level of demand. This provides the basis for planning a longer-term project and helps inform your applications for longer term funding.

Our Enable programme can offer you up to £15,000 to pilot a service in a new area or with a new audience. We are taking applications for this programme until 31st August.


Q: Is ‘local’ always the right unit for reaching the most marginalised? How many times do communities of interest/identity need to be left out of ‘local’ i.e. neighbourhood initiatives before its worth funding across localities to strengthen their voice/influence/power and create responses to their needs?

As an issues-based funder, we support small to medium charities who work with people experiencing complex social issues. We look at different ways to ensure our funding has the greatest possible impact. This may be through supporting charities who are specialists in the services they provide, including those working on local solutions for local problems.

We find that it is often small and medium sized charities which are most successfully reaching and working with the people who are most marginalised and this can include charities which are supporting communities of interest or people experiencing particular issues.

For example, our Transform programme worked with both smaller local charities and larger national charities to influence the conversation around domestic abuse at a national level.

This was also reflected in the independent research The Value of Small which we commissioned which highlighted the distinctive contribution of small and medium sized charities.


Have a question you want to ask our Grant Managers? Submit your questions here.

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Lessons in influencing policy and practice

Rachel Cain, Public Affairs and National Programmes Officer, shares five top tips from Transform project leaders in influencing policy and practice in the domestic and sexual abuse sectors

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What does a good influencing project look like? It’s something we’re thinking about as we’re developing our new Criminal Justice National Programme, and as many Transform projects come to an end.

Transform was our first national programme aimed at influencing policy and practice and has enabled 16 organisations to bring about change in the domestic and sexual abuse sector.

Whether developing a training programme or campaigning for policy change, the impact of these projects have been wide-ranging. Recently, charity leaders from the Transform programme reflected on what they’d learnt, what made their projects a success and how they overcame challenges.

We’ve gathered together their top five tips to help anyone planning a similar project around influencing change:

  1. Be flexible in your approach

Opportunities or challenges in the policy environment, the media or the political sphere can quickly change the landscape in which you are working. Being able to respond and adapt can be crucial to success. For example, the Domestic Abuse Bill was brought to Parliament during the Transform programme and some projects used this opportunity to advocate for better provision for the groups they work with.

There may also be opportunities to capitalise on important media stories on a related topic, or finding ways to work around barriers such as Brexit dominating Parliament. It’s also important to adapt plans in response to feedback from target groups. Consider what has worked well so far and how you can build on this.

  1. Broaden your reach

Whether building a case to influence policy or strengthen your network, success depends on engaging the right people across a range of organisations beyond those you already work with. This can be difficult, particularly when trying to get buy-in from busy people working in charities, public services or government who have conflicting priorities.

Identifying those you haven’t yet reached is a crucial starting point in broadening your reach. It can be a real challenge, for example, to find or connect with people who are affected by an issue but who have never engaged with services before. Consider how you can break down these barriers, and ensure their voices are not otherwise lost in evidence or debates.

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  1. Take the lead from those who have been affected by the issue

Many of the Transform projects have been led by, informed or co-created with victims/survivors. While this can have a number of positives, you also need to tread with care and commitment.

Consider whether your organisation has the capacity to meaningfully engage people, remove barriers to participation, provide necessary support and create safe spaces for people to share and be involved. If not, how can you find the capacity?

Projects that the Foundation has funded under Transform highlighted the need for sensitivity around the issues of domestic and sexual abuse, regardless of who they were working with. In every situation there will be people with a range of different experiences, so these issues should always be approached with care and consideration.

  1. Think early about how to enable others to put your work in to action

Many people reflected on the value of having tools or resources that enable others to put work into action. Plan this as early as possible rather than waiting until the work is done. Ask yourself how you can follow through to ensure a campaign is implemented effectively. Perhaps you might provide briefings so that service users understand their rights and that service providers are held to account in delivering on this. Similarly, if your aim is to get practitioners in other organisations to improve services for a group of people, how could you take it further than a training course? Longer-term engagement and providing tools to help busy people embed a new approach into their organisation whilst managing existing work will lead to more sustainable change.

  1. Build capacity to deal with surprises

Staff turnover and capacity poses one of the biggest challenges to organisations and is often unpredictable and difficult to plan for. However, doing so successfully can have a big impact on progress. Some reported that project schedules slipped due to lengthy academic approval processes while other organisations experienced unanticipated levels of interest, appetite and engagement in their work which, while positive, can put additional demands on capacity.

In building capacity, consider that new aspects of a project will require more time for staff to get up to speed. If working in partnership, have you been clear about roles and responsibilities, and included time for developing and maintaining good working relationships? Tips included building extra flexibility into plans to allow for change and ensuring that your initial proposal accurately reflects the level of resources needed to make the project a success.

Whether you’re interested in our new criminal justice funding or looking to change policy or practice in another area, there are many ways to put this learning into practice when planning your next steps towards influencing change. We’re looking forward to sharing more success and learnings from out Transform programme in the coming months.

About Transform:

Transform is a one-off grants programme launched in 2016 that offered grants worth up to £100,000 over two years, aimed at stimulating innovation and improvements in the domestic and sexual abuse sectors.