Big changes start locally

The Power of Small Grants

West End Women and Girls Gardening

I have realised recently the extraordinary power of small grants.

Running a grant making Foundation it can be easy to assume that the grants that make the biggest, lasting difference are the large ones or the ones that provide multi-year core funding to charities. Of course, this is vital. Having run a charity for many years I know that core funding, over multiple years, is the Holy Grail, the gift extraordinaire.

In 2018 we launched a new fund, the Heart of The Community Fund. It awarded grants of between £250 and £1,000 to small local charities that are glue in their community, meeting local need, supporting local people. I have realised through this experience that a little goes a long way, and that small grants are not tag on grants that you mutter under your breath, giving maximum attention to your large grants. Quite the contrary, they are often the things that bring the biggest smile. Grants that pay for ‘baby essential packs’ for new mums who can’t afford the high priced essentials you need when the baby arrives; activities for newly arrived refugees to help them orientate and build relationships in their new community; bus passes for homeless young people so that they can get to college; the missing essentials that the food bank always runs out of – pasta, milk, sanitary products. This week we have announced some changes to The Heart of the Community Fund with grants of up to £2,000 now available.

As a former Chief Executive of a large charity and now, running a grant making Foundation, these grants have reminded me that at the heart of all the extraordinary community activity we support are people, volunteering their time, building welcoming communities, meeting vital needs. They put in the time, the care, the effort and when we meet them all that is needed is a small grant, to make this activity sing.

As Foundations our task is to support big social businesses to bring strategic change but also to back the small community initiatives that make all the difference to the people they work with. Both are needed. Both require support.


Nancy Doyle-Hall

Executive Director

Virgin Money Foundation

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