Lloyds Bank Foundation launch new national Infrastructure Fund

Lloyds Bank Foundation For England and Wales launch their new Infrastructure Fund as part of COVID-19 Response. Here, Caroline Howe, Policy and National Programme Manager, discusses the approach and thinking behind the fund.

Caroline Howe

Plenty has been written about the incredible work front line charities have delivered during the pandemic, adapting their services and supporting more people. Less publicly recognised has been the important and dedicated work of infrastructure charities and their efforts to support, speak up for and coordinate their members.

Behind the scenes in many areas, these infrastructure charities have been central to effective responses to the pandemic. Alongside national level organisations making the case to Government for support for the charity sector as a whole, at a local level an unsung army of charitable infrastructure charities have been coordinating activity, providing essential services, mobilising volunteers and others who wanted to help, and linking charities directly with local councils, the NHS and other statutory bodies to ensure people got the help they need and minimising gaps and duplication. 

These same infrastructure charities, however, have been hit hard by the pandemic and they’re seeing their own income stream shrink. They also have fewer avenues for funding and are at risk of significantly reducing their services.

In recognition of both the vital role of infrastructure and the impact they’re seeing on their own finances and ways of working during the crisis, we have launched a one-off grants programme to provide core funding to local and regional infrastructure charities as part of our response to COVID-19.

We want to support those local and regional infrastructure charities which are helping charities to adapt and develop and, importantly, speaking up for small and local charities to influence better systems. We need local and regional infrastructure charities to be advocating for small and local charities to be at the heart of recovering from COVID-19 and a core part of local areas building back better.

Grants of £30,000 are available. We’ll be providing opportunities for grant holders to learn from each other and access additional non-financial organisational development support. We hope that this funding and wider support will provide the breathing space infrastructure charities need to look at how they can adapt and recover from the crisis. This funding isn’t about filling ongoing black holes in balance sheets – but is about providing some one-off support to those organisations that can identify the key organisational challenges they will face over the next 12 months and have a plan about how to overcome them.

 

The focus for our funding

Through this grant programme, we are looking to make 16 grants, with 25% of those grants ring-fenced to support local/regional infrastructure charities that are specifically supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic-led charities. As with our new COVID Recovery Fund, this ring-fencing recognises the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities alongside years of underinvestment in these infrastructure charities.

Given the number of grants we will make, we’re strictly limiting the number of charities that can apply. Charities are already facing huge pressures and we want to reduce the number of charities who spend limited time on applications that can’t be funded.

 

Funding is focused on charities in specific geographies

Only charities operating in specific geographic areas are eligible to apply. The areas selected are those areas that face particularly acute challenges. In England, we’ve combined data from the Community Needs Index (which brings together data looking at civic assets, connectedness and active and engaged communities) and Indices of Multiple Deprivation to identify the 25 local authority areas facing the greatest challenges on these measures.* In Wales, the same data sets aren’t available.

Instead, we have identified counties where we fund clusters of small and local charities. This is because a key focus for this work is to ensure that infrastructure charities can advocate for small and local charities and push for changes to local systems – we have a particular interest in where this can support our grant holders in Wales. 

Our focus on local and regional infrastructure recognises the particularly important role these organisations play in the local charity ecosystem - where the small and local service delivery charities we fund operate - and how these organisations can help to feed information into national level influencing.

We know that many charities will be disappointed with this criteria – and we understand that our funding could have a significant impact in so many more areas than we have identified. We have taken this difficult decision because we can only award funding to 16 charities.

 

Infrastructure charities need much more support

We’ve been working with and supporting various work led by infrastructure organisations for a number of years, but we know much more is needed.

The crisis has only amplified the importance of charity infrastructure. Those areas with strong local infrastructure are the sources of some of the best-coordinated responses to the crisis while the ongoing work of national infrastructure has helped to highlight rises in demand and already helped to secure £750m of funding from Government.

Anyone who has an interest in charities and their ability to effect positive change cannot afford to overlook the importance of investing in infrastructure too. Charity infrastructure might not always be immediately visible, but it’s charity infrastructure’s ongoing work behind the scenes that enhances so much of what frontline charities can deliver. Through this new funding, we’re making a contribution to this important work and hope that more funders will join us in supporting infrastructure charities whether at a local, regional or national level.

 

*This list excludes Great Yarmouth, Bolsover and Halton because in these locations we are already working closely with local infrastructure organisations through our People and Communities work.