Big Giver: John Lyon's Charity

Cathryn Pender, grants director at the trust, talks to Jenna Pudelek about funding organisations that improve the lives of children through education

Cathryn Pender
Cathryn Pender

John Lyon's Charity has a clear mission to improve through education the lives of children and young people living in nine London boroughs.

Cathryn Pender, grants director at the trust, which has a funding pot of about £6m a year, says the charity considers education in a broad context and funds organisations that range from local youth groups to art institutions such as the Tate.

As part of the Harrow School Foundation, which includes the two independent institutions Harrow School and the John Lyon School, "our history is steeped in education", she says.

The trust funds registered charities and voluntary organisations working in the London boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Kensington & Chelsea and the cities of London and Westminster. Programme areas include arts in education, children and families, education and learning, emotional wellbeing, special needs and disabilities, sport, training and youth clubs, and youth issues such as bullying and homelessness.

"We tend not to fund bigger charities - we are much more grass-roots oriented," says Pender. "We look for organisations that are responding to need on the ground.

"We look for need and the quality of delivery and experience for the beneficiaries. We are not necessarily about reinventing the wheel and we are not really looking for new and innovative things - there is room for that, but not for the sake of it."

Pender says the trust likes organisations to be honest about what they do and it will fund core costs.

The trust funds schools, usually in partnership with voluntary sector organisations. It has also worked with Beanstalk, which provides volunteers to help primary school children with reading. It receives a lot of applications to fund emotional support, counselling and psychological therapies, she says.

The trust also supports arts organisations. One of its aims is to get children in its beneficiary areas out of the classroom and into world-renowned art institutions. One example of this was providing funding for the Tate project for young people in care to work with artists. Another was providing a capital grant to the Globe Theatre's education space.

Grants are awarded over three years and include smaller grants of up to £5,000. There is a main grants programme with no maximum grant but an average payout of about £20,000.

"People should apply for what they need," Pender says. "We like to work closely with organisations."

Examples of recent grants include £20,000 towards the Shepherds Bush Families Project & Children's Centre's children and young people's service, which provides after-school and holiday activities for those with difficult living conditions.

A grant of £25,000 was given to Bang, a community organisation in north-west London founded by young people who design and develop activities and alternative education programmes. It also runs an award-winning community radio station called Bang FM.

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