Show me the money

By Robert Roffe, Senior Policy & Learning Manager for the Big Lottery Fund in Wales

Robert Roffe
Robert Roffe

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.

Find out more about the Big Lottery Fund’s work in Wales and follow us on Twitter


  1. Philanthropy is a neat concept and the prospect of digging deep into the pockets of businesses at a time when the country is experiencing difficult trading conditions is indeed a challenge and I would suggest isnt the only way that businesess or individuals can demonstrate their philanthropic credentials. I would also suggest that Community Foundation in Wales are not the only organisation in Wales that are focused on philanthropy , there are others who do exceedingly well albeit at a local level. Anyway back to my point that there is another way which doesnt involve parting with cash and that is parting with resources and those resources could be materials or time or both. After all what do organisations want cash for – to buy things and so if they get the goods given/donated to them then that saves them the need to find the cash in the first place. We all know about donating ICT goods but what about securing low cost rental accomodation , provision of free training, pro bono professional support and advice etc etc – the list is endless. Also by asking businesses for support in this way it doesnt affect their bottom line in the same way as giving a cheque would .
    One example of how this can work – a couple of years ago when we started out on the journey of encouraging businesses to support communities we worked with a carers organisation to find alternative accomodation as their current offices were too small i.e. they had had out grown them. Through negotiations with a FTSE 100 equivalent company we managed to secure a 10 year lease for accomodation four times larger than the existing offices with a 75% rental reduction across the 10 year term. Having secured the building we then needed to recarpet, paint, install ICT cabling, new kitchen, new boiler , signage, equipment for new ICT suite etc . How did we manage to do that ?- well 25 local businesses all pitched in with donations in time and materials – we estimated the total value of that support was £30K and not a penny of that changed hands apart from one cheque from a company who said they did not have any time or materials to give but wanted to support the project and they asked would the carers organisation take a £2000 cheque – now thats what I call different.

    Was this a one off you ask? No – because since then we have set up Business Supporting Communities project across North Wales with help from the Big Lottery and have repeated this way of working and so it can be done.

    • Thanks for your comments, John. You are absolutely right, philanthropy isn’t always about money and yes, there are other organisations that can deliver philanthropy-type activities. I’m happy to explore all avenues as part of my work on this. This broad approach is very much our ‘starter for ten’. I’ve already has discussions about our proposals wit some of your colleagues in mid and west Wales.

      Business Supporting Communities is on my radar as a model that I’m interested in exploring further. to that end, I’d welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss some of the issues you raise here, as well as the work of the project. You may want to follow up on my piece by writing a post about the project for Big Blog Wales? I’ll drop you a line to set something up.

      • Thanks Rob. I will wait to hear from you.
        One of the interesting points I think that needs to be debated and that is when endowments are set up and managed by say a merchant bank or similar why is it that a charge is made for the service by the bank as I would have thought the bank given it would have millions or even billions under management would surely offer the management of the endowment in terms of the investment issue as a pro bono as the amounts would be that much smaller – significantly less if the Big Lottery model of £2million is seen as the template. This would then just leave an organisation to distribute the moneys accruing from the investment and would mean more money to distribute because if there are costs associated with investment management and distribution the cake will be a lot smaller. I am sure there must be merchant banks out there who not only have a hugely successful track record in investment but also would come forward under the CSR principles and do it for free.
        Finally philanthropy and endowments are to be welcomed and I believe for the investment to reach those most in need then having a local delivery body would ,I argue, be the preferred route such as local CVC’s as they have the local networks and intelligence in terms of need allied to the local, regional and national strategic plans. This is why the small grants scheme funded by Welsh Government until 31.3.13 was so successful in terms of securing robust outcomes.

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