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Funding ways to Wellbeing

During a 12 month period in which grave health, economic, climate, and political crises have been mounting, the VCSE sector has become more stretched than ever. Organisations have struggled to stay afloat, services have been streamlined, people have left the sector, while all the time, the need for these services is greater and more pressing than ever. 

As funders, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to respond to changing circumstances in the most effective way that we can, above and beyond ensuring that funds are directed towards the most impactful work. At the OCT, we have always been aware of the challenges faced by charities, but the particularly difficult recent conditions led us to focus further on individual and organisational wellbeing. 

Towards the end of 2022, we trialled a staff and volunteer wellbeing grant programme. Discretionary grants were made to small, frontline charities that already held a grant with us, whose budgets were most stretched. These grants were ringfenced to any staff and volunteer wellbeing activity of the organisations’ choice, which in turn, would support their charitable work. A time limit was set for the activity to be completed, and we asked for feedback once concluded.

The feedback from this activity was hugely positive, with those involved thinking deeply about how best to use the opportunity, and whilst the range of choices was diverse (e.g. team meals out, gift hampers, group supervision time) feedback suggested people felt valued and ‘seen’. For more, see here.

We have now built on this pilot phase, which means that alongside every new grant made from 1st October 2023 – 30th September 2024 we will award a discretionary wellbeing grant. (Wellbeing grants will not be applied to grants made to second-tier organisations or to any payments made to organisations whose purpose is not entirely charitable. In certain other cases, we may also be required to exercise discretion and will communicate this to the grantholder.) The grant must be ring-fenced for wellbeing activity, and organisations will be required to let us know how they used the grant. They will not be required to apply for the funding, which can be used at any time during the funding period. 

Although an imperfect gesture, we hope that alongside financing support to people and organisations, the activity contributes to the overall health and resilience of those organisations and the effectiveness in which charitable purposes can be achieved. We also hope – most importantly perhaps – that it helps increase the visibility of this often hidden need, and that more financial support of this kind becomes available for and within our sector (see here the Tudor Trusts larger scale pilot of wellbeing support grants).

Our interpretation of wellbeing is broad, including both ‘organisational wellbeing’, and ‘personal wellbeing’, although categorising support along these lines can feel quite arbitrary. Therefore, alongside wellbeing grants, we have also been: ‘Cost-of- living-proofing’ applicant budgets; funding Leadership training and support programmes for young non-profit leaders; offering free, bespoke Fundraising clinics; and trialling a new Green Grants programme for non-environmental grantholders to engage in environmental action.

We are grateful to all colleagues who have collaborated with our trials of wellbeing grants, plus green grants and fundraising clinics: your feedback is sincerely appreciated.


Louise Magill
October 2023