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Developing funding

17 January 2014

How can we get access to, or apply for, regeneration funding, such as when developers are working on large projects?

IN THE past three years, there has been a significant decline in any regeneration funding that might come to the charity sector, whether from central government to regeneration boards or from local developers through what was called "Section 106". Only the latter exists, but access to it is nearly impossible.

Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is the arrangement whereby developers have to provide fair rent or modestly priced houses in proportion to their overall building project. In the early days, Section 106 money often found its way to charities. But, once local authorities began to feel the financial pinch, from both the recession and central-government changes in policy, they began to look for new funding themselves.

Local authorities have to make "statutory" provision for certain areas: schools and roads, for example. But other provision, from pre-school to care for the elderly, has not been statutory. As cuts have happened, local authorities have diverted a great deal of Section 106 into these local services, for which they themselves no longer have the money. So less and less has been available to other service providers.

If there are developments near the church that might result in Section 106 funding for your project, then contact your local council, through both councillors and officers of relevant departments. You may have to kiss a few frogs to find out, as department names vary, and few know what the others are doing.

We are in a time of recession in funding for good causes - it seems to be only the Lottery that is not short of cash. Many large charities, including Oxfam, are cutting staff as their income has been dropping. A new, small government initiative from the Department for Communities and Local Government is currently offering small grants of either £2000 or £5000 for faith-groups that are undertaking new volunteering projects. Your initiative must be led by more than one faith group, and involve working together by individuals or groups - not for profit, but for the good of others, and to bring about social change. The total fund will be about £100,000 per year; so it is a small splash in the pond.

If you are seeking a large amount of funding - tens of thousands - then be prepared to fund-raise over a longish period: years, not months. There can be money available, but nothing happens quickly; many documents, reports, and research elements will be involved before any agency will release large grants. That is fair, because each grant-giver will want to ensure that the money is spent wisely and effectively.

Churches are, on the whole, jacks-of-all-trades in the way in which they develop and manage social initiatives, and are almost always unused to the rigours of application and reporting which are part of the voluntary sector as a whole. Also, we have little succession planning that would enable an outside funder to see that a brilliant but expensive initiative will survive past the arrival of the new incumbent.

So, for very large grants, expectto set up a legal and management structure robust enough to last long enough to justify the initial investment, and show how you are doing it.

Questions and issues to maggiedurran@virginmedia.com

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