As the leading community funder, we distribute money raised by the National Lottery to community groups and charities in Wales. This year, thanks to National Lottery players we will distribute £34 million to communities across Wales who enable people to improve their lives by drawing upon the skills, assets and energy in their communities. We know that our communities are ever changing and therefore it’s important that we respond to the issues that matters most to the communities.
Here, John Rose, Director of The National Lottery Community Fund explains how we set about involving communities in a meaningful conversation about how we best allocate our funding this year to support communities in Wales to thrive.
We know our work is regarded by some as simply getting the money out of the door to communities, and of course that is the bread and butter of what we do. Our customer feedback shows us that our responsive programmes: National Lottery Awards for All (awarding grants between £300 to £10,000) and People and Places (£10,001 to £500,000) are greatly valued for being open all year around and funding projects that are people led, connected and strength based. We awarded £25 million through these programmes in Wales in the last year alone and will fund a similar amount this year and beyond.
At times we also take a more focused or thematic approach where we identify and support a specific issue. This is what we call our ‘thematic funding’, – a current example being our £4 million Rural Programme which awards funding to projects that will have a positive impact on the lives of people and communities living in poverty in rural Wales.
In 2018 we ran our most extensive consultation with the public and stakeholders to date to help us decide our future thematic funding priorities. We worked with ‘Hopkins van Mill’ to run a series of focus groups that involved the wider public in Wrexham, Neath and Cardiff. The groups were asked to identify what was strong, and what could be better in their communities, and to create a visual story of their area.
As well as engaging the public, we also met with our stakeholders to draw on the collective knowledge and experience of what they’re observing in their areas. We held roundtable events in Pwllheli, Llanelli and Cardiff to hear their views. We also carried out research to identify what others had already found out about the issues and gaps in communities across Wales.
We also ran an online survey and invited people to share their views at our summer events, too.
As you can imagine, there was a lot of discussion and many themes emerged including homelessness, substance misuse; addressing loneliness and isolation, supporting community facilities, volunteering, inter-generational activities, and supporting young people with learning and training.
It is always a tough job to identify thematic priorities from such a long list, which is why it’s so important for us to have responsive funding through our National Lottery Awards for All and People and Places programmes to enable communities to address what matters to them. Following a rigorous discussion and selection process, we used the knowledge we had gathered to draw out our final two areas: support for tackling homelessness and supporting youth resilience.
Alongside homelessness and youth resilience we will also be considering how we can support the delivery of our UK strategy to support civil society. This is about ensuring that the third sector is resilient and strong enough to meet the needs of the communities that is serves. In doing so we are developing a new modest fund to support third sector resilience.
But we also know our work as a funder is much more than being just a “cash machine”. We will continue to bring people and communities together to share knowledge, learning and ideas. By linking practitioners and policy makers, we help community organisations inform policy and practice – which in turn creates stronger and more connected communities.
So, where are we now?
Placing lived in experience at the heart of our funding development is important to us; and that is exactly how we’re developing our fund to address homelessness.
In doing so we recently, brought together our Wales Committee and colleagues at The Wallich Centre. We were also joined by members of The Wallich’s Shadow Service User Board to hear first-hand experiences of being homelessness as well as hearing from The Wallich and Cymorth Cymru.
We aim to launch the £10 million programme this Autumn, and in tandem we will be developing our youth resilience fund and fund to support third sector resilience. National Lottery Awards for All and People and Places continue to be open all year and you can apply on our website.
For more information about The National Lottery Community Fund in Wales visit our website www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/wales, call us on 0300 123 0735, email firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us @TNLComFundWales or talk to us on Facebook facebook.com/tnlcommunityfundwales