How to help shape future Lottery grants

30 Jun 2022 Nick Garbutt    Last updated: 30 Jun 2022

Paul Sweeney

Paul Sweeney, Chair of The National Lottery Community Fund’s Northern Ireland Committee and UK Board member talks about the organisation’s plans to develop their grant making in the future and how you can get involved.

Last month we launched our review into how we can best support communities through our grant making in Northern Ireland and across the UK from 2023 to 2030.

It has been eight years since we reviewed how we work both locally and across the UK and had been in the process of starting the review when the pandemic hit.

Thanks to National Lottery players, our grant-holders and partners, we have made a significant difference to people’s lives, including providing support throughout COVID-19.

I’m proud of the part we play in supporting local communities across the UK, and in particular the relationship we have with all communities throughout Northern Ireland.

Talking to communities we can see how our local Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector has responded to the challenges thrown up by the pandemic with leadership, resilience and compassion.

We are proud to have been there to offer support to projects and communities who stepped up to support those most affected by COVID-19 and look forward to working with them as they rebuild and reconnect.

Our focus now is on what our grant making portfolio should look like between now and 2030. We want to ensure communities across Northern Ireland help shape the future of how we invest National Lottery funding here and across the UK. We intend to do this by listening, learning and responding to ideas and suggestions.

Communities are facing fresh challenges because of the cost of living crisis so we want to ensure that we involve a wide range of organisations in these conversations, not just those who have benefitted from National Lottery funding in the past.

We want you to help us better understand what these are and how we might support communities better.

And there is a set of key questions that we want people to respond to:

As a community funder where have we – and where can we – make the most difference in your community?

With limited resources, what should we focus on?

How do you see us working - and partnering - together on the issues that really matter to you?

Where can we make the most impact with our funding and how can we get better at demonstrating the difference our funding makes in communities?

So what are we considering?

It is important that we continue to embed and advance fairness and inclusion in everything we do, such as identifying opportunities to bring new voices and lived experience into our work.

We were delighted with the response to our Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities pilot fund, which is helping us identify potential barriers these organisations face when applying to us.

We recruited three people from ethnic minority communities onto the decision-making panel and funded 18 projects to the value of £587,358. As part of the pilot, we have developed good relationships with people and organisations from ethnic minority backgrounds. It is important that we collate the learning from this so it can inform our future grant making. 

We also recruited eight young people from across Northern Ireland to sit on our new Youth Voice Team. Some of the young people have already been involved in decision making and the group will be part of the external conversations we are having to improve our grant making. This will help us understand Northern Ireland communities better and explore and showcase the impact of our funding to young people in particular across Northern Ireland.

Another key area for us to consider is how we respond to the current climate crisis. We are supporting our grant holders to take environmental action, reducing our own environmental impact as an employer and acting as a catalyst sharing our learning and practice.

We were also able to support some of our existing grant holders to mitigate increasing electricity costs of their community buildings through a combination of solar PV and/or battery energy storage systems, while making significant reductions to their carbon footprints. 

How we demonstrate impact in our grant making in the future is also a key issue for us. It is more important than ever that we can demonstrate to Government and wider funders that our approach works.

Our role is to support local communities and projects we fund many of which complement Government and statutory agencies work - a good example of this in relation to community health.

How do we continue to make a difference to communities by supporting preventative health activity that can have a positive impact on mental health?

Future sustainability of the sector

We are more than one year into delivering the Dormant Accounts Fund NI, supporting the long-term sustainability of the VCSE. Demand is steady for this programme and we made 85 awards to a range of organisations in the past year.

This funding is helping organisations in the sector to look beyond day-to-day delivery and focus on the long-term sustainability of their organisations. We want to learn from this first year of delivery and identify how best we support the sector as we rebuild from the pandemic.

What’s up for review and what is not?

We expect that our current local grant making approach in local communities will remain however we want to know if there are changes we can make to our current programmes People and Communities Empowering Young People and National Lottery Awards for All.

And we want to explore our commitment to long-term funding – do we continue to offer grants of up to five years? Should that be more?

We also want to consider how we can support groups to be sustainable beyond the life of our grant making.

How you can get involved

· Complete our survey which remains open until July 8th: · Email us at [email protected] or call us on 028 90551455 if you want to speak to us directly · Sign up to our newsletters for up-to-date news and progress.

We are keen that you join us in this conversation over the coming year that will shape how we work with you and support communities into the future both in Northern Ireland and across the UK.

Join the Conversation...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Join us on Twitter and join the conversation today.

Join Our Newsletter

Get the latest edition of ScopeNI delivered to your inbox.