The charity that can't give its money away

A Hampshire charity that gives grants to local people in need is appealing for beneficiaries because it managed to spend only a quarter of its income in the past year.

The Winchester Villages Trust, which was formed in the 60s as an amalgamation of 17 church-based funds in the Winchester diocese, spent just under £700 in the financial year ending 31 March, but earned more than £3,000 in interest on its endowment.

Charity Commission figures also reveal that the charity’s income has exceeded expenditure in six out of the last eight years. Its total income for the period has reached more than £22,000, compared with an expenditure of less than £14,000.

Sue Lane, chair of the charity, said her organisation was doing better this year, but the trustees were still having to work hard and use their imaginations to make sure the money was spent.

“We have to find the gaps in state provision and give people help they wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else,” she said. “We have done some good things, but it is a little bit of a struggle. People are richer and state services are there in a way they weren’t when the charity was established – but people having a tough time are very proud and find it extraordinarily difficult to ask for or accept help.”

Lane said the charity tried to keep in touch with local Citizens Advice Bureaux, doctors’ surgeries and schools, but was also short of trustees who could “keep their eyes open”. Every parish in the diocese is supposed to provide a trustee, she said, but some had slipped up in recent years.

“This is quite a well-to-do area and some parishes say they don’t have any poor people,” she said. “That depends which way you look, doesn’t it? We are trying to encourage them to take part. They might not always need it, but it is their money and they should participate in formulating policy.”

Lane did not rule out talking to the Charity Commission about broadening the charity’s remit if the appeal for beneficiaries fell on deaf ears, but said there were no plans to do so as yet. “Our remit is only for individual need, but it is drawn quite widely,” she said. “We need to be more active in seeking out people in need.”

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