£200m government fund for smaller charities opens today on first-come-first-served basis

22 May 2020 News

Charities in England can now apply for a grant from £200m of government funding aimed at smaller organisations, with demand expected to exceed available money.  

Grants will be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis via the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF)'s usual process. The funder warns that it expects to be oversubscribed.

‘There will be high demand’

The guidance for applicants warns: “There will be high demand for this funding, and we'll have to make some tough choices. We expect the funding to be heavily oversubscribed and anticipate only being able to support a proportion of applications.

It adds: “We'll assess applications in the order we receive them. We know you need funding quickly.

“We’ll monitor demand closely and update you on any steps we might need to take to help manage the number of applications we get so that we can get funding out to communities as quickly as possible.”

Government funding is being distributed alongside the NLCF’s normal funding, and charities do not need to apply separately for the different pots.

The money is part of the £750m package for charities announced in early April. There has been significant criticism of how long it has taken to launch the application process.

Targeted

NLCF today said that funding would be targeted at those organisations supporting disproportionate challenges, such as the BAME community.

It will also prioritise charities that support vulnerable people and community-building activity.

Criteria and details of how to apply have been published on the NLCF website.

‘Worry’

Debra Allcock-Tyler, the chief executive of the Directory for Social Change, said: “The frustrating thing is that the £200m from government has been merged into an existing Lottery programme. It’s taken the government six weeks to come to a decision that could have been implemented within hours, if they had just given the Lottery the money and trusted them to get on with what they do best.

“The ‘ongoing’ deadline is also a worry. We understand the pressure to get money out quickly, but it puts pressure on applicants to apply as quickly as possible, rather than as well as possible.

"It’s also another Friday announcement that is going to force already stretched charity staff and trustees to decide between applying quickly over the weekend, or waiting until next week when there could already be thousands of applications in front of them.”

Holding money back

NLCF has £200m to distribute now, while £110m is being held back by the government and will be used to address emerging priorities.

Rita Chadha, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition, said: “It is good news that there are now additional monies available to support small charities affected by and responding to Covid-19, and that the Lottery are now open to administer the government's commitment to funding small charities.

“In the absence of ring-fenced funding for BAME and disability groups specifically, it is right that some monies are held back. I hope that the Lottery will use the learning from the first tranche to inform its work and commitment to equality.

“We need a serious step change in how funders think and behave. Warm words are no longer enough when the structure of grant making remains exclusive rather than inclusive." 

Vicky Browning, the chief executive at ACEVO, said: “Our understanding is that this funding is primarily targeted at small and medium-sized organisations and has been designed with them in mind.

“There are some positives in a rolling deadline, as long as provision is being made for those organisations with less resource to pull bids together. On that front it’s good to see specific reference in the application criteria for support for capacity and infrastructure building for BAME and other marginalised communities, to ensure they are in a stronger position as we move past the emergency phase.”

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