Barnet Giving

By Ruth Tosha Mulandi, Barnet Giving Project Lead 


Setting up a local place-based giving scheme was looked into at practically the same time by the two organisations who are now delivering it in partnership: Inclusion Barnet, Barnet’s peer-led disabled and deaf people’s organisation, and CommUNITY Barnet, Barnet’s CVS. Cuts and the changes in the voluntary sector funding and operating landscape were having considerable impact in Barnet – more so than elsewhere – and both organisations felt that place-based giving was the right way of addressing these challenges by putting people in the lead, enabling communities to help themselves and engaging a wider section of local residents and businesses. As one of London’s largest outer London boroughs, Barnet is like a regional town in its overall composition, including in terms of charities, not-for-profit organisations and donor profile; as a relatively affluent borough, it receives less public funding than other areas (and rightly so!); 95% of its businesses are micro businesses and there are no large local funders or high-profile local fundraising initiatives.

Following initial research, both organisations approached each other and started working in partnership on establishing Barnet Giving in Summer 2014. The initial ‘leg’ work was carried out by Inclusion Barnet which serves as lead/ accountable body.

Who are you?

Inclusion Barnet – lead/accountable body, and CommUNITY Barnet are the delivery partners. The partnership and project are overseen by a steering committee, composed of an independent chair, the CEOs and a dedicated trustee from each partner. Grant priorities are set and grant decisions made by an advisory panel of local people, led by our chair. The grant-making process is managed by London Community Foundation. We benefit from the involvement of some hugely experienced people - from the (local) charity sector, from the place-based giving movement, community leaders, local business leaders and long-term, engaged volunteers.

The team consists of a freelance project lead, working for Inclusion Barnet 1 day per week, a two-day/week development worker, employed by Inclusion Barnet, and CommUNITY Barnet’s Head of Strategic Development, dedicating approximately 1 day per week to the project.

The need in the borough

Key challenges are:

·         1 in 4 of Barnet’s children live in poverty, most of them in working households – that’s over 20,000 under-15 year-olds.

·         Unemployment is 8.5% - 3% higher than the national average. 35% of young people are unemployed and 1 in 5 people in Barnet are in a low paid job.

·         Barnet has the highest number of adults with dementia in London, and our older population is already 17% and rising fast.

·         1 in 5 children are obese – a 30% increase compared to 5 years ago.

·         1 in 5 Barnet residents are disabled or living with a chronic health condition, and 50% of them are not in work. Among people with learning disabilities unemployment is 85%.

Overarching issues include social isolation, especially for Barnet’s relatively large older and (learning) disabled population; meeting the needs of rapidly growing numbers of young families with children under 5; a lack of support and opportunities for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those struggling with unemployment (due to cuts affecting voluntary youth services particularly badly and less targeted initiatives being offered in Barnet due to its profile); and the need for more community infrastructure (whether green space facilities, sports, or community centres) – especially to enable Barnet’s very diverse and diversifying population to come together in self-help (Barnet has few large, cohesive ethnic and religious communities, but many small ones). We know this from our ongoing work, ongoing research and the community engagement events we carry out.

How does it work?

In our first year, we have one open grant round, which has just opened. Eligible organisations can apply for a small grant of £1,000 - £5,000 under two priority areas which reflect the needs above. We plan to also develop strategic grant initiatives and in the long-term to award grants twice a year – and to build a legacy fund.

Organisations/groups based in and/or mainly benefitting Barnet residents can apply, and small organisations with a turn-over of less than £150k pa may be favoured in this first grant round.

The money

To date, we have raised sufficient start-up funds to employ a dedicated team of 2, working a total of 3 days per week and to put in place our key infrastructure (website etc). For our first grant round we have raised £30k. A large part of this is from start-up injections by our start-up funders. It also contains a £10k match from an endowment fund which London Community Foundation holds for Barnet. About 25% of the money raised by us comes from our first fundraising initiatives.

Key successes

That we got this far – when Barnet has no significant local philanthropy, no major local funders and no major local businesses – and when the partnership has had no major start-up funds, or major institutional backing. We are truly operating at the grassroots level with tiny resources and we are progressing in small steps.

That those whom we have been engaging so far and in the early days – first local business people, the small local funders we have in Barnet and community leaders – are buying into the concept

That the London Community Foundation offered a close working partnership, not just to manage the grants, but around the Barnet endowment fund

What next?

Having got to opening our first grant round, the next 12 months are about ensuring that Barnet Giving is viable in the long term. We have started our first fundraising initiatives and in 2017 we have to turn these into successes, gain donors and volunteers and raise enough funds through them for a second grant round whilst also securing enough funds to support core running costs.


Ruth Tosha Mulandi, Barnet Giving Project Lead