New strategy for Comic Relief grants

Charity will distribute 'bigger and fewer' grants overseas in the next four years

Kenyan education charity Hovic supported by Comic Relief
Kenyan education charity Hovic supported by Comic Relief

Comic Relief this week unveils a new grants strategy for the next four years following Red Nose Day, which raised a record £78m this year.

Charities and other non-profit groups are being invited to apply for funding for overseas projects, which will receive 60 per cent of distributions, and for causes in the UK.

The strategy involves bigger and fewer overseas grants of an average of £500,000, but in the UK a greater number of organisations will benefit from an expansion of small grants.

A partnership with the Community Foundation Network involves distributing £6.1m to 53 community foundations in the UK for grants to benefit disadvantaged communities. Of this funding, £5m will be set aside for grants of up to £10,000.

Judith McNeill, director of grants at Comic Relief, said applicants did not have to be registered charities, but had to have constitutions and management committees.

"They could, for example, be a local group working with older people who want to set up some activities to overcome isolation and social exclusion," she said in an interview with Third Sector.

Comic Relief is also providing some UK funding for distribution to social enterprises and social entrepreneurs through the charity UnLtd.

It is also giving an additional £2m over two years to the Time to Change campaign, which is working to change public attitudes to mental health.

On the international front, it is making more than £20m available to fund "small and diaspora-led" organisations based in the UK, but working, frequently through partners, in Africa. An example is Widows and Orphans International, set up by an NHS worker from Kenya, which funds projects to help street children in the west of the country.

"These people have different perspectives and a different knowledge," said McNeill. "It's often more informal, more of a tacit knowledge about culture and social circumstances."

There were still funding opportunities for large development NGOs such as Oxfam and Save the Children, she said. Because many charities were suffering from the recession, she added, Comic Relief was prepared for a sharp upturn in applications.

One in six bids for funding for causes in the UK and one in seven bids for international grants are currently successful.

"We would urge people not to try desperately to bash square pegs into round holes, but some organisations will try to be creative, and that's often a good thing," said McNeill.

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