Funding story: The Nationwide Foundation

Building society's grant-giving scheme celebrates its 10th anniversary, and its future seems to be guaranteed.

"Telling someone they've got a grant is like telling them they've won the lottery," says Lisa Parker, chief executive of the Nationwide Foundation.

The foundation has been running for 10 years and in that time has approved 2,500 grants - worth more than £22m - in the UK. For the first few years, this meant one-off grants of £10,000 or less to domestic organisations supporting people in need.

Since 2000, however, the Nationwide Building Society donated an extra £5m (on top of its usual annual donation of £2m), which the foundation used to run its New Generation Initiative, supporting five parenting charities for up to five years.

"We'd evolved over the years," Parker explains. "Charities were telling us they wanted more than one-off funding, so we decided to use the additional money to try a new approach to grant making, focusing on an area that wasn't very high on the agenda at that time."

The foundation also supports work on domestic violence, prisoners' families and young offenders. Its Small Grants Programme makes awards of up to £5,000 to smaller charities. The Investor Programme - which takes up the majority of the foundation's budget - is funding 18 UK charities with about £150,000 over three years.

The charities also get quarterly visits from a dedicated member of the foundation's four staff. "This isn't just to monitor - it's to support them," Parker says. "It's good to get to know them. These are medium-sized charities that need to look at issues such as policies and governance: and, of course, at other sources of funding. Sometimes the staff are dealing with quite gritty issues - it's interesting to see how they're doing that and to explore the additional support they might need, such as counselling."

Corporate foundations are under the spotlight after the crisis at Northern Rock. The Nationwide Foundation insists that a takeover is highly unlikely and that the foundation is set up in a different way to Northern Rock. In addition, everyone who has joined the building society since November has assigned any potential windfall payment to the foundation - and a further 5.5 million members have volunteered to join them. So if the worst did happen, at least there'd be a cushion to support future funding.

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