Lottery pilots choose-a-charity

Helen Barrett

Unpopular causes will not miss out when a scheme is under way that will allow the public to vote for which local projects get National Lottery money, according to the chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund.

Stephen Dunmore was responding to concerns among senior policy figures in the sector about the pilot scheme Your Pound, Your Choice, announced by the Government last week.

The scheme will run in August, allowing lottery players in two areas of the UK to choose from up to five specific local charities that will benefit from their money by ticking boxes on voting slips at retailers.

Dunmore told Third Sector that the new scheme would be tightly controlled so that contrasting causes were not pitted against one another.

"The key is to ensure that the public are not asked to choose between very popular causes and less popular proposals," he said.

"All projects up for the vote aim to achieve similar things in local communities, are of a similar scale and have been assessed as fundable.

"This pilot programme represents only a tiny proportion of our overall budget."

Dunmore added that the experience of the first round of the People's Millions public vote showed that people's decisions about charity funding could be just as good as those of a grant-making committee.

Megan Pacey, director of policy and campaigns at the Institute of Fundraising, had cautioned that the scheme could result in a situation in which less popular causes missed out on vitally needed funding.

"The distribution of lottery funding should not be dictated by public opinion," she said.

Mubeen Bhutta, policy officer at the NCVO, echoed Pacey's comments, saying: "It is important that it does not lead to the erosion of funding to good causes working in less well-known or understood areas."

Kevin Curley, chief executive of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action, gave the scheme a cautious welcome. "We think that this is a great initiative, but only at this scale," he said.

"We would have a different view if a significant proportion of lottery funds were given over to crude voting of this sort."

KEY POINTS

- A new pilot scheme, Your Pound, Your Choice, will allow National Lottery players to vote to choose which charity should benefit from the good cause element of the cost of their £1 ticket

- The Institute of Fundraising and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations are concerned that the scheme will mean less popular causes miss out on funding

- Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund, says that the scheme will be tightly controlled so as not to pit popular causes against less popular ones

- The scheme will run in two locations throughout August. Five charities will compete for grants of up to £50,000

- The pilot programme represents only a small proportion of the overall budget.

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