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What one funder learned when it listened to charities

Howard Lake | 21 January 2020 | Blogs

As a major London funder, listening to what organisations really need is extremely important to us. Hearing what would help them the most, and ensuring they have the right support to make the biggest impact matters.

City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable arm, is the capital’s biggest independent grant giver, and we make grants of £20 million a year to reduce inequality across the city. At any one time, we support over 500 organisations tackling disadvantage in London.

We try to offer a great degree of flexibility in our funding, with our grants varying in size and length. But we’ve decided to take things one step further after listening to what charities say they really need.


Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.

Multi-year funding

From 1 January, organisations applying to us through the City Bride Trust Small Grants Programme have been eligible for three-year funding, rather than one. We are doing this because we have heard what smaller organisations had to say, and we recognise that, especially for small, community led projects, reapplying every year can take up a lot of resources.

Hard to plan ahead

Charities said it can also be harder to plan ahead, or predict future funding. With our new programme we are now offering grants of between £1,000 to £10,000 per year for up to three years.

Funding to reflect a range of needs

We are open to what the needs are for; they can be towards a capital cost such as spades for a gardening project, or instruments for a project. They can go towards staff costs – or it can be a mixture of the two.  In order to apply, an organisation’s income needs to be no greater than £100,000.
City of London crest

One charity’s experience

Jane Glitre is Director of The Spitz – an organisation which is a recipient of one of our small grants. The Spitz Charitable Trust creates enriching musical performances and activities for people living in care homes, acknowledging that live music is good for health and happiness, improving everything from memory and mood, to heart health and dementia.

Jane welcomes the move from one to three-year funding. She said: “It can be extremely challenging. And frustrating; we want to do the work, the transformative work that changes people’s lives, but we spend so much time fundraising.”

“This year we applied for 48 applications, with 16 of them successful so far.  If we had longer term grants, we could forge much deeper connections, and be experimental, jump on opportunities as they arise.”

“So often we see great potential. For example, watching a stroke victim transform with joy on feeling the vibrations from a Double Bass. But we don’t have the margins to act on that – to invite the musician to come back, regularly, seeing what a great affect it had. Great ideas often dim with time if they are not acted on.”

“And for our staff, there would be a sense of permanence. It would also give us time to reflect. This work can be emotionally draining, at times traumatic, and having the space to contemplate would enrich both the programmes and all of the individuals involved.”

More collaboration

City Bridge Trust is coupling this new longer-term funding with a more collaborative effort to join up with Councils for Voluntary Services, Local Authorities, networks and coalitions to identify and engage with those organisations sometimes deemed as “hard-to-reach”. But these organisations work in the front-line and really understand the needs of their communities, and we need to connect with them.

This would in turn make us more accessible: smaller community-based organisations often say that they find larger Trusts and Foundations difficult to approach.  Working with these networks, we are aiming to reach these organisations and provide them with better support for longer. 

We want our support to be as accessible as possible and to ease some of the burdens that smaller organisations may face to ensure the charities can focus on their core work and services – changing lives and transforming communities. We hope this move towards three year funding is a huge step towards that.

Dhruv Patel
Dhruv Patel

Dhruv Patel is Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust Committee.
The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally successful UK.  

City Bridge Trust is the funding arm of the City of London Corporation’s charity Bridge House Estates, with its primary aim the maintenance and support of five Thames bridges: Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Southwark, Blackfriars and the Millennium footbridge. It is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of £20 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital.  The Trust has awarded around 8,000 grants totalling over £400 million since it first began in 1995. It helps achieve the City Corporation’s aim of changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners.