At Work: Fundraising - Funding story - City Parochial Foundation

Radhika Holmstrom

Under its new funding priorities, this long-established grant-maker will focus on fewer areas over a longer period.

"I suspect that as we come up to elections, a number of organisations will be wanting to influence policy and political parties," says Bharat Mehta, chief executive of the City Parochial Foundation. "We want to play our part in retaining the voluntary sector's campaigning and lobbying edge."

The foundation, whose strapline proclaims proudly that it's been "tackling poverty in London since 1891", publishes tomorrow its new funding priorities for the next five years. Although there isn't a major change of direction, there's a definite decision to focus on fewer priorities for a longer period.

The 'open programmes', which take up 80 per cent of City Parochial's grants, will be split between organisations with a range of purposes: employment opportunities for disadvantaged people, inclusion for people recently arrived in the UK, social justice and the strengthening of the sector overall. There'll be a strong focus on supporting policy and campaigning work. Unlike some grant-makers, City Parochial won't be commissioning separate policy work in the open programme areas, but supporting organisations that apply with this in mind. Some of these organisations will, obviously, focus on employment or inclusion. Others, though, might be concerned with other aspects of poverty, social justice and discrimination.

The aim, says Mehta, is to get the first-hand experience of poverty to the people who shape policy and get change under way on a broader scale.

"Many of the groups we fund aren't able to do this independently," he says. "This is partly because they don't have the skills and contacts to do so, partly because they're under increasing pressure to deliver services."

He suggests that one route for getting this message across could be by linking grass-roots organisations to policy groups and think tanks, so that both parties can play to their strengths: "We don't want to be directive, but we do want to be supportive and enabling, so we will help make contacts and links."

He adds: "Yes, we'll always consider getting babies out of the river, but at some point we need to go upstream to find out who's chucking them in and what we can do about that." Given that some London babies still live in conditions that are frighteningly close to those prevalent when the foundation was first set up, it's an important step to take.

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