By Robert Roffe, Senior Policy & Learning Manager for the Big Lottery Fund in Wales
Raising funds in the current financial climate is a challenge for many third sector organisations. In Wales they are heavily reliant on public bodies like the Welsh Government and local authorities to give them funds, usually in the form of grants, but as austerity bites these funds are starting to dry up.
The difficulty is that there are very few alternatives for these organisations to turn to. Wales doesn’t have the same philanthropic culture as places like London. We don’t have many big companies or wealthy donors to set up trusts and foundations. This is why BIG is taking an interest in philanthropy and we want to help create a new culture of philanthropy in Wales.
As a first step we’ve awarded a grant to the Community Foundation in Wales (CFiW). The Community Foundation in Wales promotes the cause of philanthropy in Wales by creating and managing relationships between donors and those who are running local initiatives. They work to strengthen local communities by providing a permanent source of funding, building endowment and ‘immediate impact’ funds to link donors to local needs We’ve awarded them up to £1million to endow a trust that will form part of their ‘Fund for Wales’, but there is a catch; we will only pay into the Fund for Wales what CFiW can match from other donations. By doing this we hope to incentivise new donations by making donors’ money go further.
We don’t plan on stopping here. Over time, we want to try to engage with Welsh businesses and encourage them to dip into their pockets. This is not without its own challenges, as most of the Welsh business sector is made up of small businesses with relatively modest means. We’re going to explore using a ‘crowd funding’ approach, developing mechanisms that allow small businesses to make donations to a single fund or cause.
Wales also needs to benefit more from the existing UK-wide trusts and foundations. There are surprisingly few applications to UK trusts from Wales, and this needs to be addressed. Working with these other funders, we will explore and respond to the reasons for this low application rate and will consider developing partnerships and joint funding arrangements to lever in their resources.
Finally, we want to try to connect donors to small community groups who do not normally benefit from donations or have the fundraising expertise of the larger charities. We are looking at how we can support these groups to develop fundraising capacity and make better links to donors by publicising their work. We are particularly interested in innovations in giving here, exploiting modern technology and the internet as potential portals between charities and donors.
The challenge is huge and, whilst we can only hope to scratch the surface, we can at least act as a catalyst for philanthropic action and inform the ongoing debate on third sector funding in Wales.
What do you think about this challenge? Leave your comments below.