Why community giving has never been more important

Fabian-photo_croppedIn light of the budget, Fabian French, chief executive of UK Community Foundations (UKCF), an umbrella organisation for community foundations, explains how local giving helps to meet government manifesto pledges.

In his first keynote speech since being reappointed minister for civil society, Rob Wilson spoke about “building civil society together”. Wilson envisages a society where communities are “self-confident and civically engaged”, and people actively ask how they can help their neighbours. He also wants to see more giving and social investment to connect keen donors to the right charities.

Cash to causes

His words were music to our ears. The community foundation network does amazing work with donors of all sizes. It is expert at connecting cash to causes. Staff experience daily how targeted funds help grow and strengthen communities, making them self-sufficient, fostering true community spirit.

While we welcomed the minister’s news of official investment in the form of the Local Sustainability Fund, and schemes such as Step Up to Serve and the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, UKCF has urged the government to be brave and to give more to get more.

Community First

Our 2011 to March 2015 England-wide match funding project, Community First, created an endowment of more than £130m for grassroots causes, money which will directly benefit thousands of community projects for years to come.

Community First demonstrated how local philanthropy, when matched by 50 per cent (approximately £42m ) from government funds, could be channelled through community foundations to help meet the pledges of the new government.

For example, the Conservative manifesto makes commitments to support and serve carers, the elderly and the disabled. It pledges to improve employment opportunities and boost sports provision. Community foundation grants fund a myriad of local projects that meet these commitments – from drop-in sessions and gym memberships for carers, and pioneering projects for dementia sufferers, to educational workshops run in schools to change perceptions of disabilities, as well as sports taster sessions and coaching schemes across the UK.

Building on philanthropy

The project showed that match funding unleashes philanthropy. Those in a position to give were inspired by the government’s example and we had no problem hitting the funding ceiling set by the Office for Civil Society. We also know the sector at large appreciates the potential of match funding, as underlined in NCVO’s 2015 manifesto, A Bigger Difference.

We have since costed a new match funded programme. We’re calling it Community First 2.0, based on a potential £75m uplift from the government. This, combined with philanthropic donations of £150m, would yield at least £11m a year to keep communities thriving and flourishing.

Money aside, UKCF has no plans to stop banging the community drum. We will keep talking to influencers and our sector colleagues to raise the profile of community foundations as fantastic hubs of community giving.

If the government really means business on developing civil society for the 2015-20 parliament then it will want to build on the success of community foundations and local philanthropy.

 

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