Our Infrastructure Programme

Caroline Howe

Small and local charities have played a phenomenal role on the frontline, continuing to support people throughout the pandemic. Behind the scenes, much of this work has been supported by infrastructure organisations, helping charities to adapt, connecting them to each other, local government, businesses and volunteers among a myriad of other activities. Infrastructure is important at the best of times, but the crisis that has unfolded over the last year has cemented the role of infrastructure organisations in making sure charities can continue to support people who need them, particularly through their work to raise the voice of small and local charities.

At the same time, many of these organisations, like front line delivery charities themselves, have seen their expected income streams dry up, with much less access to emergency grant schemes. We developed our infrastructure programme because we, alongside a growing number of other funders, want to provide some support to these important organisations; to provide some breathing space as they look to adapt their own organisations so that they can be in the strongest position to support their local charity sector.


We focused our programme on specific geographies, for example using Multiple Deprivation and Community Needs Index to help us identify areas with high levels of need in England. By focusing on these areas we could ensure that competition and number of applications was kept low so charities didn’t spend unnecessary time applying for funding they wouldn’t be awarded.


Through this funding programme, we were targeting organisations which were:

  • local / regional in one of the listed areas
  • already providing infrastructure support in this area
  • combining capacity building support and advocating on behalf of small and local charities in the area


We received 48 applications, 15 of these charities have now been awarded funding. The grants we’ve awarded highlight the breadth of infrastructure organisations out there. From small, more emergent organisations like HartlePower and Triangular in the North East to more established or bigger organisations like Voluntary Sector North West or C3SC in Cardiff. By bringing together organisations adopting different approaches, with different ideas and levels of experience, we hope we can increase the chance of cross-fertilisation, with grant holders finding new inspiration and learning from each other.


Within the programme, we were aiming to award at least 25% of the funding to infrastructure organisations specifically focused on supporting Black, Asian and minority ethnic-led charities. Three of the 15 charities awarded grants support Black, Asian and minority ethnic-led charities, 20% of the total programme funding. While we did receive more applications, they did not meet the eligibility criteria we set for this programme. For example, they were national organisations looking to developing new local work or they were front line delivery charities looking to start providing infrastructure support for the first time.  


Acknowledging we did not meet the target we set, we looked at what we could do differently next time. Before the final funding decisions were made, we consulted with other key stakeholders from Black Asian and minority ethnic-led national infrastructure organisations about the programme. We talked about the need to support the development of more local and regional Black, Asian and minority ethnic-led infrastructure, look to different geographies and think more deeply about how we could have a more positive impact on an emergent part of the sector and the resources that might be needed to achieve that.


While in the short term this means we awarded one less grant, in the long term we hope it has opened the door to looking at what else we can do to support Black, Asian and minority ethnic-led infrastructure. It’s one of the areas we will be looking into in more depth this year.


For those organisations that have received funding, we’ve awarded a core grant of £30,000 alongside in-kind support. This year, we’re working with an Infrastructure Development Partner, Tom Watson who previously worked at NAVCA, the national infrastructure organisation for local and regional infrastructure. Tom will be working with grant holders to help them identify and address how we can support them to become stronger. They’ll have access to our Enhance programme, providing additional tailored, non-financial support and we’ll also be bringing them together to build connections and learn from each other. We’re keen to share what we learn from this programme too and will be exploring how we can best work alongside other funders and national infrastructure organisations to do that.


This is the first time we’ve run a programme specifically for local and regional infrastructure. By the time the grants come to a close, we hope that those organisations in the programme are in a stronger position and are well placed to continue supporting and speaking up with and for small and local charities. We hope we will have helped them to adapt and been able to share learning from that to help other infrastructure charities too. We hope we’ll have a better understanding of local and regional infrastructure more broadly. And alongside this, we hope that we will have identified how to ensure Black, Asian and minority ethnic-led charities get the tailored infrastructure support they need.

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