Charities can apply now for £16.5m modernisation fund

Futurebuilders England urges applications ahead of official start date

Voluntary organisations can begin applying for money from the Office of the Third Sector's £16.5m modernisation fund.

The fund, which was set up to facilitate mergers and partnerships, was a key strand of February's third sector action plan (Third Sector Online, 8 February).

It is due to start accepting bids officially later this month. But Gill Nunn, market development director at Futurebuilders England, which with Capacitybuilders is delivering the fund on behalf of the OTS, urged organisations to get in touch at once. "The key is to get this money out to where it's most needed as quickly as possible," she said.

Organisations that have incomes above £750,000 can apply for interest-free loans of between £30,000 and £500,000 from Futurebuilders, which is awarding £9.5m.

Non-departmental public body Capacitybuilders will issue the remaining £7m in grants worth either £1,000 or £10,000 in June and October to organisations with turnovers below £1m.

The fund has been limited to organisations working in three areas: wellbeing and health; advice, information and guidance; and loss of income, training and skills.

Nunn said it was necessary to be realistic about what the fund could achieve, and these areas were "seeing the most increased demand for services and help".

A spokeswoman for Capacitybuilders said it would launch a modernisation fund website containing full application details.

The OTS was unable to provide further details of the £15.5m targeted support fund - another of the plan's main strands - other than that it would be administered by local community foundations.

The foundations will distribute grants to small and medium-sized charities in areas worst hit by recession.

The other main strand of the programme is the DWP-run volunteer brokerage scheme, which is designed to create opportunities for 40,000 unemployed people to help their communities and learn skills through volunteering.

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