THE BLOG

From Acorns, Mighty Oaks Grow

16/12/2016 08:27 GMT | Updated 16/12/2016 08:27 GMT

Local charities rarely get the recognition they deserve. They may be small, but they do great work and make a huge difference in the communities they serve, bringing meaningful change to the lives of thousands of people across Britain every day.

That's why having Local Charities Day on 16 December is so important - to celebrate and recognise those on our doorstep. As the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson said when announcing the day earlier this year it gives us the opportunity to "shout from the rooftops about small, local charities: their energy, commitment, expertise and the benefits they bring to their communities".

The day is also about acknowledging that there is more to do to support local charities. Campaigns like Grow Your Tenner and #GiveMe5 are part of this. New research by People's Postcode Lottery shows that of the people who do give to charity, nearly two in three (62%) regularly support national charities, while just over two in five (41%) give to charities tied to their local areas. Part of this is an awareness issue, with respondents saying not knowing about local charities in their area was the biggest barrier to them donating.

Local Charities Day is also about acknowledging that despite the great work they do, these are difficult times for small charities. Since the start of the Great Recession in the late 2000s small charities have seen a significant decline in income from both central and local government. As research from NCVO recently showed, this has led to smaller charities experiencing higher income volatility, making them less resilient to changes in circumstances. According to research by Localgiving, who support local charities, just 47 percent of the local charities questioned felt confident that they would be able to stay afloat over the next five years.

Given the positive impact we know local charities have, we must look seriously at what steps can be taken to help nurture them to grow and maximise their impact. One of those is the public taking action on Local Charities Day by finding out more about local charities in their area and looking at how they can support them - whether that be by volunteering, donating or other means of support.

Another way local charities can be helped is through funding. People's Postcode Lottery is a proud supporter of local charities and helping them grow. Our players have so far raised £161 million for good causes, including amazing local charities such as the Emmaus Merseyside, London-based Magic Me and the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust is a powerful example of how boosts in funding can have a huge impact on small charities. The charity was launched in 2002 and takes young people who are recovering from cancer, and aged between 8 and 24, sailing, helping them regain their confidence. Despite the organisation's short history it has been able to grow fast, with grants playing a huge part in that. That started with small grant from People's Postcode Trust funded by players of People's Postcode Lottery and later became a more significant, regular funding award.

Similarly the artist-run gallery G39 & Warp in Cardiff was supported with funding in 2015 via small grants from Postcode Community Trust - funded by players of People's Postcode Lottery. This allowed them to deliver an innovative new project called Encounter, which is a volunteer-led programme of skills workshops, artist talks, presentations & discussions, social events, film screenings and library events.

That's why I'm pleased to say that in the New Year even more funds from our players will support a new round of small grants funding for local charities and community projects. This funding will allow local charities to use the money to develop their work in the ways that are best for them and the people they exist to serve. Details of how to apply for small grants can be found on the People's Postcode Lottery website.

We should always be proud of the work that local charities do and the impact they have. Local Charities Day is a great opportunity to show that local charities are not on their own - they have the whole country behind them and supporting the changes that will help them grow. You can easily show that support with the hashtag #LocalCharitiesDay or by adding a Local Charities Day Twibbon to your social media account. There are many more acorns out there that deserve to become mighty oaks.