Rosemary Macdonald is the chief executive of the Wiltshire Community Foundation, a charity funder and supporter which has been fighting disadvantage in Swindon and Wiltshire for more than 40 years.
She tells us about the foundation's work:
At a time when there is a growing demand on the charity sector to fill the gap left by increasingly deeper public sector cuts it is vital that money is channelled to the people who use it most effectively. At the Wiltshire Community Foundation, we see our role as being here to ensure that happens.
The community foundation began life in Swindon in 1975 when Lord Joel Joffe decided he wanted to give back something to the community that had given him a home. Initially, the foundation worked with companies in Swindon, building up a reserve of money to fund causes in the town but gradually the foundation’s influence spread across Wiltshire and now we fund hundreds of groups across the whole county. Last year we funded causes in Wiltshire to the tune of £1.2 million, more than £300,000 of which went to Swindon groups and individuals.
We are able to do this because we have gradually built up an endowment of more than £22 million, which generates a yearly income. We also act as a conduit for other charity funders, such as the government’s Tampon Tax for women’s causes or its #iwill fund to empower young people through volunteering and social action to improve their communities.
Four times a year the community foundation awards foundation grants, two of these grant rounds make larger awards of up to £5,000 for a maximum of three years, and two make smaller grants of £1,000, again for up to three years. Each application is carefully assessed by our grants team to ensure that the applicant has made a thorough case for their bid.
Each grant will be considered by an independent panel that decides on which grants to approve using the recommendations of the grants team and its members’ own judgement and experience. Our panellists come from all walks of life and sections of the community, be it business, local government or the charity sector.
The majority of the groups we support are small but very focused on tackling a specific need or issue within their community and our support for them is vital.
Last year the community foundation made more than 300 grants to individuals through two major campaigns, Surviving Winter and One Degree More.
Since 2010 Surviving Winter has specifically tackled fuel poverty, which claims the lives of up to 500 elderly and vulnerable people in Swindon and Wiltshire every year.
WCF make grants of £300 to people referred to us. In 2017/18 265 households received a total of £77,000.
One Degree More, launched in 2008, awards university bursary grants to young people who need financial help to follow their career path. In 2017/18 WCF awarded £184,000 to 39 young people in Swindon and Wiltshire, In 2017/18 WCF awarded 13 grants totalling £10,391.
Because many of the groups WCF works with are so small, they don’t have the time or resources to do the things larger charities do to help them grow. The Funder Plus initiative helps to address that. It uses WCF's experience and know-how to nurture and inspire groups across the county to reach further and higher.
The initiative also features free monthly funding advice sessions held around the county, Meet the Funder events which connect groups directly with funders, and low-cost workshops.
The workshops cover a variety of useful topics to help groups become stronger and more self-sufficient, including strategy, governance, the role of trustees and grant application. Groups can access a database that gives valuable details of funders. They also receive a monthly newsletter full of updates on grants available and charity sector news.
Wiltshire Community Foundation has forged strong relationships with businesses, particularly in Swindon. Businesses trust the WCF to use their money effectively because of the foundation's knowledge of local charities.
TE Connectivity in Dorcan, which has built up a £270,000 endowment over an eighteen-year partnership, is one such firm. The income generated by the fund helps a wide variety of groups, including Patches, a crafts club for lonely and isolated older people, Chiseldon Football Club and Scrappers community boxing gym. Other corporate partners include Nationwide, Zurich, Intel and KPMG.
To find out more about our grants and for details of how to apply, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.