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Voluntary and Community sector receives £500,000 boost

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Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has joined forces with local philanthropists to invest £500,000 in the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector.

The Department for Communities is providing £250,000 match funding for the pioneering initiative to tackle social issues.

Donations from local philanthropists, matched by the Department, will help to create five new funds aligned with the Programme for Government objective to ‘Improve wellbeing for all by tackling disadvantage and driving growth’.

Announcing the funding, Minister Ní Chuilín said: “I’m very happy to be supporting this pilot, which will encourage innovative and sustainable collaborations, while facilitating learning between the voluntary, private and statutory sectors. I believe the philanthropy fund will be a key driver in social innovation and I look forward to learning about the outcomes gained from this approach.”

The funding will be managed by the Community Foundation through advisory panels made up of public sector representatives, voluntary sector experts, business leaders and philanthropists.

Grants of up to £15,000 will be available to the sector alongside a package of support, mentoring and training to help them with innovation, sustainability and resilience. Training will include online workshops in measuring impact, cyber security, diversifying funding, charitable trading and governance with 30 hours of bespoke mentoring available to voluntary groups.

Síofra Healy, Director of Philanthropy at the Community Foundation explained:

“The new philanthropy funds have been in planning for some time. We have been working closely with the Department and local philanthropists separately for several years however this new fund will give us the opportunity to bring them together and pilot a different way of working to support the sector.

“The Voluntary and Community sector in Northern Ireland is highly dependent on the public sector with approximately 72% of funding currently generated through grants, Service Level Agreements, and contracts. In addition, private philanthropy is often the catalyst and first to invest in social innovations and can react quickly to need. The Coronavirus pandemic is a great example of this, however it has also greatly increased the demands being placed on already overstretched organisations and funding.

“New models of funding for the sector and more collaborative approaches will be needed in future and tested through this fund.”

The themes identified for financial support are social care; young people in care; skills development; helping charities trade, and a learning fund for the economically inactive.

Philanthropist Dr Terry Cross OBE who is working with the Community Foundation for the first time said:

“The culmination of public and VCSE sector expertise alongside funding and mentoring will support recipients to think more like businesses and give them the skills to develop a strategy to build their capacity and make them more sustainable.

“This is an incredible opportunity to break down silos between different sectors and leverage collective learnings and best practice to maximise impact on the VCSE sector.”

Local philanthropists have committed £250k to the fund, which will open for applications on a staggered basis throughout 2020. For further information on the capacity building fund visit www.communityfoundationni.org

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