In 2010, more than 3,200 organisations gave around £632m directly to individuals in financial crisis, or without the means to pursue education and training opportunities (Understanding the benevolent sector, Turn2Us,2011). Comprehensive figures on how many charities exist that give to individuals in need are hard to come by, so it’s difficult to get a sense of the trends in demand and supply.
In Jan 2019 in the West Midlands, WM Funders Network brought together some members and non-members, to discuss approaches to giving to individuals in need, facilitated by Fred Rattley, Trustee, Grantham York Charitable Trust and Commissioner of the Birmingham Poverty Truth Commission.
Personal grants to individuals in need can be a life line for people experiencing impacts of poverty though we can’t easily identify the scale of giving to individuals or the demand for support. Many of the smaller to medium sized trusts and foundations continue to give some of their funds to individuals. Generally the support is small, local and varied in terms of what individuals need. Several of the participating trusts focus on a particular geographical area, as well as particular groups of people in need. Criteria and priorities vary across different funders and the approach to the application process, measuring outcomes or impact is mixed.
For most of the funders participating there were not sufficient suitable applications coming forward. Several put this down to the reduction in the number of agencies supporting individuals on a daily basis and their lack of capacity due to limited funding to employ support workers to help individuals apply for funds. There was a discussion on the dangers of identifying applicants as ‘deserving’ or ‘non deserving’ in how funders prioritise the allocation of limited resources.
The potential to aggregate the evidence of grants given to individuals in need to help better understand the scale, gaps and causes was raised. It was noted that there are some national organisations that have developed online platforms to help to co-ordinate and match funders with individuals in need, such as Turn2Us.
Participants also began to explore whether tackling the underlying causes of poverty rather than short term relief might be a better use of funds. For some this might mean a change in their Trust deeds. Participants also explored the potential of a collective voice with those with the lived experience of poverty highlighting more effective measures to tackle the root causes.
In conclusion, the following areas were felt to be worth exploring further
- Developing a simple ‘map’ of identified funders in Birmingham/West Midlands who give grants to individuals along with their priorities and criteria possibly linking this with a map of support agencies
- The pros and cons of a universal application form that funders can all use to identify potential applicants and cross refer to each other so increasing appropriate applications.
• Looking at a particular issue such as costs of school uniforms for families or providing household goods to furnish homes where evidence could be gathered to identify scale, gaps and root causes of financial vulnerability that give voice to changing public policy.
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