The Julia and Hans Rausing Trust launched its first open applications window earlier this month, offering a total of £10m to help smaller charities survive the coronavirus crisis.
It is the first time in its 25-year history that the charity has run an open call for applications, and grant manager Simon Fourmy says it is a direct response to the scale of the damage wrought by the pandemic.
The charity, established by the philanthropists Julia and Hans Rausing, offered £16.5m to a selection of charities at the beginning of the crisis to enable them to expand services to meet the increased demand created by the pandemic.
But, Fourmy says: “We were always acutely aware of the other impact beyond health that was going to come, and of course now we’re seeing the economic impact and there’s a real concern about how charities will manage.
“The ones that have been hit hardest in terms of income loss were the ones that were doing everything right in terms of what funders have always told them to do - diversifying income or generating it themselves.”
The fund is expected to give out grants ranging between £1,000 and £250,000, with the aim of supporting about 200 charities.
Previously, while the charity has offered some core funding, much of its support has been project-based - but Fourmy says, now is the time for core funding.
“This fund is about offering the core funding charities need to be able to continue - it’s very much not about projects, new initiatives or expanding,” he says.
“We wanted to find those charities that did have a really solid financial base and strong model prior to this and which could be sustainable again, but which have been hit by the pandemic.”
Normally, the Rausings are keen for the charity to seek out causes to donate to, Fourmy says.
“But we know there are so many great charities out there that we couldn’t hope to find all of them through our own research, especially in a very condensed period of time.”
The window for applications opened on 7 July, and Fourmy compares the experience to throwing an event when you don’t know how many people will turn up.
“So the first morning of waiting was very tense - but the first application rolled in within hours of launch,” he says.
“It’s really sped up now and we’re getting lots of applications from really great exciting charities.”
But, he says, there is still room for more applicants, and he urges charities to get their applications in before the deadline of 27 July.
The fund is open to charities with an income of up to £5m, and the trust is keen to see applications from organisations of all sizes within that category, and from all parts of the country.
When designing the process, Fourmy says, “one of the really important things to my mind was that as many charities as possible grasped the opportunity”.
He says: “It’s all been something we’ve had to work on quickly so I won't pretend it hasn’t been challenging, but we’ve tried to create something that is accessible and relatively light touch but hits upon the due diligence that we need.”
In particular, he says, charities applying for funding should give plenty of attention to the cover letter of their application, using it to make the case for what they do and why it is so important.
The open application process came out of the “unprecedented circumstances” of the pandemic, and so is unlikely to happen again any time soon, he says, so it’s important that charities make the most of the opportunity while it’s available.
And, he says, the charity will be looking to learn from the experience to inform its future donations.
“We will have some really interesting and useful data to look at going forward,” he says.
“Which should help us understand better what’s out there and who we might want to work with in future.”
The deadline for applications to the fund is 5pm on 27 July.
More information about the fund can be found here.