UKCF Chief Executive welcomes the Civil Society Strategy
Fabian French, Chief Executive at UK Community Foundations
The Government’s long awaited Civil Society Strategy was published last week. As one of the organisations that inputted into the consultation I’d like to welcome the strategy that sets out a positive relationship between charities, government and businesses.
I am pleased to see the announcements about recommitting to the Compact, establishing a new cross-government group to ensure better involvement in policy-making, and the greater recognition of the importance of grant funding; these are all positive new initiatives.
The Civil Society Strategy touches on philanthropy which is a much needed force in society. I’m excited by the Government’s ambition to become the global centre for philanthropy practice. We’ve seen the power of local philanthropy and the difference it can make to local communities. At UK Community Foundations we’ve run match funding programmes where philanthropists match Government money to make it go significantly further. With more initiatives like this, philanthropists can really make a difference, whether it’s lifting people out of poverty, helping disadvantaged people to get back into education, or building community relations.
I am, of course, delighted that UK Community Foundations is working with the Government and the Charity Commission on the Revitalising Trusts initiative. This will provide a huge boost to local charities by distributing funds from inactive trusts to good causes. Unfortunately, there are many charitable trust funds in England and Wales that are inactive. The original founders and trustees may have passed away and many of the funds are now struggling to meet their original founders’ charitable objectives. Collectively these trusts amount to a significant pot which will make a huge difference to local communities.
Let’s take a transfer that has already taken place in Northamptonshire for example. The original objectives of the Northampton Queen’s Institute Relief in Sickness Fund were to support the health and wellbeing of people in Northamptonshire but they were no longer able to do this. The trust has been transferred over to the Northamptonshire Community Foundation which now funds projects such as Baby Basics, which provides Moses baskets full of essential items to expectant mums in the county who can’t afford to buy the basic items for their babies.
Community Foundations are the best vehicles to distribute funds to local communities in a strategic way and I’m really pleased that the Government has recognised that Community Foundations are the best way to revitalise these dormant or inactive trusts. We reach every postcode in the country, understand local need and to date have distributed over £1billion to local communities.
But the real game changer for local communities is the money that will come from dormant assets. Along with many in the sector, I would have liked to see more detail in the strategy about what the next steps are and how soon charities can benefit. I urge the Government to speed up the legislative process so that communities can benefit as quickly as possible. We know that small and local charities are crying out for more support having been hit hard by public sector funding cuts.
Finally, and at the risk of repeating myself, I really welcome the Government’s recognition that grants continue to have an important place in funding local charities. Like many in the sector, it’s music to my ears and certainly will be to the small, local organisations that we support.