Big Giver: Children in Need

Sheila Jane Malley says the grant-maker has a fresh strategy

Sheila Jane Malley
Sheila Jane Malley

Children in Need, which has awarded £18m in grants to UK projects that benefit children and young people so far this year and expects that to rise to more than £40m by the end of 2013, has a new strategy to make it more accessible to applicants.

Sheila Jane Malley, director of grants and policy at the BBC charity, says changes include more opportunities to apply and a quicker response time for its small grants scheme, which provides grants of less than £10,000. Last year, the charity awarded 660 small grants and is hoping to make about 100 more than that this year. Malley says Children in Need is keen to receive more applications for small grants.

A two-stage application process has been introduced for the main grants programme, which covers grants of more than £10,000.

Malley says the average main grant awarded is £37,000. She says the charity is a "flexible funder" and, while it has three proactive programmes, responsive grant-making makes up the vast majority of its work.

"We look at what organisations are going to do to make a difference and the impact of their plans," she says.

For applications from new organisations, she says, Children in Need looks at the quality of their planning and systems.

"We try to give organisations the chance to explain their projects to us, so that the decision is not just based on their application forms," she says.

Asked whether the grant-maker looks for innovation in the projects it funds, Malley says: "We are always interested in innovation, but not at the cost of good stuff that is already happening. We do not want to penalise organisations that are doing very good work that is not new or innovative but we know makes a difference."

She says that since the recession began, there has been an increase in the number of applications for funding to provide youth services such as activities that help build young people's skills and confidence. "There is a particular squeeze on such funding at local authorities," she says.

She believes the downturn has also changed the sector: "From speaking to grantees, their reserves are lower. We see that difference in applications to us; the financial position is often not sustainable."

The charity is funded by an annual appeal night on BBC One, which in 2012 raised a record £26.7m on the night, with the overall total expected to be more than £40m.

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