The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland was established in May 1988, originally as the Tyne & Wear Foundation. It was set up to fund a variety of local community projects and began building its endowment following a grant from the Charities Aid Foundation and US-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The endowment quickly rose to £3m.
The first grant panel met in 1989 when £120,000 of grants were made. In 2000, our work expanded to include Northumberland and we now have over 300 funds and an endowment of £95m.
The amount we award can depend on a range of factors. In recent years, we have awarded between £6m and £7m annually. Last year, we awarded £7.2m via 1,328 grants to 619 organisations and 80 individuals. Our 2020-21 figures included nearly £3m we raised and distributed as part of our Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund. We are on target to award more than that this year despite much less coronavirus funding. Our aim is to get to £10m a year by 2025, while increasing the number of larger, multi-year core grants.
In March 2022, we hit the milestone of having given out £150m since we were founded. That has been spread over 40,000 grants to nearly 10,000 organisations and 4,000 individuals.
We mainly make grants of around £1,000 to £10,000 for a year. The average grant is around £6,000. We don’t accept applications for less than £750. Some of our funds make larger or longer-term grants. In those cases, we will have a call for applications stating the amounts available.
Once we have made a grant we tend to leave the charity to get on with its work. At the end of the period of work we fund, the charity needs to complete an online monitoring form. It asks how it has done against the results agreed with us. We also ask for stories, photos or other evidence to describe the difference the charity has made. We may want to visit to learn more, sometimes with one of our donors or fundholders. For larger grants, we may split payments and sometimes we ask for interim monitoring if a grant is being paid in more than one instalment or over more than a year.
We have two main routes to apply. Organisations can apply to a specific call from one of our funds, or make a general application at any time where we match the application to available funds.
Ideally, applications are made online, although we do have paper applications for those that need them. The first time an organisation applies they need to tell us about their governance and work, and how they safeguard beneficiaries, among other things. They must provide us with the right paperwork, including a constitution, accounts and safeguarding policy. That information is used by us to autofill the sections the next time the organisation applies. We then ask questions relating to the application, what it is for, who will benefit and some outcomes by which we can measure success.
Once the application is submitted, it either goes to the fund to which it was sent or we see if it matches one of our available funds. One of our team will assess the organisation and funding request, looking at the strengths and any weaknesses. We shortlist assessments for the funds they have been matched with. In many, cases a donor or advisory panel is involved in recommending which shortlisted applications should be funded.
We aim to give a decision within 12 weeks of receiving all the information we need. If we think an application will take longer, we will contact the charity.
Before applying, read the guidance and check your eligibility. If you’re not sure, call or attend one of our Time to Talk sessions. We fund a wide range of issues but there are still guidelines on who and what we fund. It has been frustrating over the last year to see how many requests we get in the post from organisations we cannot fund. The time, effort and cost of some of the bulky, glossy packs we have received is worrying.
Adam Lopardo is director of community relations at The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland