Action call from Leeds Community Foundation as gap in available funds hits 70%

Kate Hainsworth

Leeds Community Foundation, which distributes grants and gives trusted advice to tackle social issues and inequalities in Leeds and Bradford, is reporting a 70% gap between demand and available funds.

Between January and October 2023, the foundation says it was only able to award 30% of grants that were applied for because needs in the communities have risen sharply against a backdrop of diminishing philanthropic appetite fundraising activities and statutory funding.

Over 700 different grant applications have been received already this year.

Kate Hainsworth, CEO of Leeds Community Foundation, said deciding on which grants to award was underpinned by strict governance procedures and it was extremely difficult knowing that demand was outstripping funds.

She encouraged businesses and individuals from Leeds to give directly to the The Leeds Fund – which ploughs money into community and voluntary groups to help thousands of people with support including skills, education, housing and employment.

Launched in 2016, The Leeds Fund has channelled £3m into grassroot community groups to date. Hainsworth said: “The Leeds Fund is the perfect vehicle to provide long-term support for Leeds.

“Not only is it a vital resource trusted by the community and donors to invest money in the right places, but collectively it makes a truly lasting positive impact.

“We have this year been inundated, with a much higher rate of grant applications for different programmes.

“Demand always has peaks and troughs, but we’ve noticed how particularly anxious groups are this year to secure crucial core funds.

“When we’re unable to help, we work closely with the community organisations to signpost to other appropriate funding sources but we will always go above and beyond to help community groups.

“But the really worrying thing is that because of societal issues and cost pressures, people and organisations are running out of options and don’t know where to turn.”

Cleveland Henry, chair of Leeds Community Foundation, said: “Leeds is a typical doughnut city – there is affluence in the centre, challenges around the areas circling the centre like a doughnut and affluence outside of it.

“It feels too much like ‘the have’ and ‘the have-nots’ and that can’t be the case in 2023.

“Leeds Community Foundation has helped so many people but the demand is still outstripping supply; whenever I’m involved in a grant application meeting it’s frightening just how many people need our help.

“Individuals and businesses can help by investing cash into The Leeds Fund to make a positive and direct impact for those living in Leeds and Bradford who are struggling with issues like hunger, loneliness and digital exclusion every single day.

“Membership is £1k a year and every contribution makes a difference. The supporters we have are making a meaningful impact for people struggling in their neighbourhood.”

Tim Hodgson, managing director of Westcourt Group, has supported Leeds Community Foundation for 18 years.

He said: “Leeds Community Foundation is a powerful conduit which helps so many organisations doing great work to help thousands of individuals across the region.

“There are large swathes of the city where people are living in extreme poverty and the difference in life expectancy can be as much as 12 years depending on postcodes. That’s stark.

“Supporting the foundation is about ‘looking after your own’ – helping neighbours in the place we all call home.”

As well as giving to the Foundation via Membership annually, Hodgson and his family have also donated to The Leeds Fund, which specifically deals with issues close to their hearts.

Hodgson added: “We have a young family and the money that we’ve given over the years has gone towards children needing help; whether that’s with food or wellbeing initiatives for example.”