It’s a sad day for charities and community groups in the North East and Cumbria. 7 years ago the Northern Rock Foundation had a grants pot of around £25 million per year, so if you weren’t funded by NRF you knew someone who was. Whilst there is no cause for panic as we understand that all money planned to be given in grants up to March 2015 is still allocated, the loss of the Foundation will be heavily felt by the charity sector.
I’d like to pay tribute to the massive contribution NRF has made to the support and wellbeing of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities across the North East. It has been a much loved institution, not just for its generosity but in its role as a really intelligent funder. The Foundation has never shied away from supporting less attractive causes. They have funded organisations that work with offenders with the aim of reducing reoffending; work that supports the victims of domestic violence; homeless people; asylum seekers and so on. They made large grants that cover salaries and core costs over a prolonged period of time, and if they believe that there is still work to be done and you’re making a good job of it, they would carry on funding you beyond that.
The Northern Rock collapse was probably the first visible sign of the global economic meltdown. The consequences of that have been massive public sector spending cuts. It is this that is having a dramatic affect on Charities and voluntary organisations in the North East, because in this region Charities are more reliant on public sector funding than anywhere else in the country. There has also been a significant move away from deprivation based funding and funding for regeneration projects. Perversely, charities that have a long history of supporting unemployed people back to work struggle to find any funding for what they do. VONNE members reported earlier this year that at a time when 71% are seeing an increased demand for their services 53% have had a decrease in their funding and nearly two thirds are using their reserves. Organisations are losing staff and cutting back on services – some have been forced to close.
It is important that we all pull together now. National funders must look at need and deprivation first, they must fund beyond their comfort zones, and they should learn from NRF and Lloyds Foundation by looking to fund core costs, salaries and multi-year grants. National Government must stop talking about loans and reboot their approach to Big Society.