The John Ellerman Foundation and the Nationwide Foundation

Funding for core costs may not be glamorous but it is essential

Charity core costs
Charity core costs

Many grant-makers are concerned with innovation, often to the extent that they are prepared to fund only new projects - rejecting established ones that have proven effective. However, some funding bodies do try to address this imbalance, stating explicitly that they are willing to offer core funding for established projects.

"Two-thirds of the grants we've made in the past year have been for core costs," says Tim Glass, director of the John Ellerman Foundation. The foundation makes grants totalling about £5m a year to about 180 different charities. "We know that's what charities most need, so it seems sensible to respond to that."

Importantly, obtaining grants for core costs can make it easier for charities to gain funding for other aspects of their work. "Charities exist because of urgent need - and that urgent need continues," says Lisa Parker, chief executive of the Nationwide Foundation, the registered charity set up and funded by the Nationwide Building Society. The foundation has seen applications for core funding more than double over the past 12 months.

Giving grant-makers a sense of the bigger picture is vital to successful core funding applications, according to Glass. "We prefer to get a picture of what the charity is doing overall, rather than focus on a specific project," he says. "We're happy to support bread-and-butter work if the charity has already demonstrated that it can do the job."

Grants for core funding are all the more important because charities are struggling to fund their core functions through other sources. Research by the Charities Aid Foundation published in December 2008 found that more than two-thirds of charities do not believe companies are willing to offer it.

And at the moment, a lot of grant-makers are still reluctant to step into that gap.


Counsel and Care is a national charity that offers help and advice to older people and their carers. The charity has a long-standing relationship with the John Ellerman Foundation. In June last year it received a £90,000 grant to fund the salary of a senior policy and communications officer over two years. The post-holder will research and write key policy papers and ensure they reflect the concerns reported to Counsel and Care's advice service.

The organisation applies regularly for core cost funding from a number of different sources. This is particularly important in order to support its advice line, a fundamental part of its work.

"Many other charities run well-established, successful services that need this kind of funding," says Helen Dunkerley, fundraising manager at the charity. "More funders should be more open to awarding core funding grants and supporting existing work that is already having an impact," she says. "Many of us need three to five-year funding to sustain our futures."

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