Big Giver: London Community Foundation

The grant-maker funds diverse projects across education, health, employment and social inclusion with sums of up to £60,000

Sonal Shah of the London Community Foundation
Sonal Shah of the London Community Foundation

The London Community Foundation draws donations from a patchwork of citizens, local authorities and businesses in the capital, and the projects it funds are just as diverse.

It began as the East London Community Foundation in 1995, covering the boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Greenwich. But after three mergers with other community foundations, it adopted its current name and established a pan-London reach in 2005. Since 1995, it has given more than £40m in grants to 5,000 projects. In the year to March 2013, it gave out 940 grants worth £5.5m - which, it says, benefited 310,000 Londoners.

"We are a broad grant-maker, giving grants in areas such as education, health, employment and social inclusion," says Sonal Shah, chief executive of the foundation. "Our main focus is on smaller charities and community organisations, but about 5 per cent of the grants go to community interest companies and social enterprises."

Grants to individuals can be for as little as £80, but for organisations they start at £1,000 and a typical grant is worth about £6,000. The foundation says it does not give grants to organisations that carry out political activity or propagate religion. But apart from this, the only restriction is that contributors might specify which projects they want to fund and how much they will give from their pot.

The largest grants can be worth up to £60,000, but these are usually spread over several years and the foundation is interested in delivering more multi-year funding. Last year, the fund's largest grant was to Streets of Growth, a skills charity, to deliver a further education programme to young people.

Contributors include London councils such as Lambeth, Westminster and Southwark, and businesses such as Deutsche Bank, the property firm Land Securities and the London Evening Standard newspaper.

"We also receive donations from journalists, media entrepreneurs, people who run tech companies and people from other walks of life," says Shah. "They all want to give money to organisations that make a difference and feel a connection with that cause."

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