Top tips on how to get funding for your loneliness project

  • Community groups and small charities across the country spend a lot of time applying for funding
  • Knowing why some charities receive funding, and others don’t can make a real difference to your application success
  • Here, the director of a funder committed to addressing loneliness in one London borough, shares insight into what it looks for in the projects it helps

Many small charities find it difficult to find new sources of funding, and even when they make an application, may not be successful in getting the money they need.

Natasha Friend is the director of Camden Giving, a local funder that supports projects in the London borough of Camden. Each year, it receives hundreds of applications from projects looking for funding. Many of these address issues of loneliness in the borough.

Here, Natasha shares what makes applications stand out, and gives examples of small charities running successful projects.

Loneliness in Camden

We are in the middle of a ‘loneliness epidemic’. Loneliness can affect anyone – old or young, living in the middle of a city or as part of a rural community, with family or without.

The Government recently announced a £20m fund to tackle loneliness. The Campaign to End Loneliness defines it as “a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack, or loss, of companionship,” and lists many research findings showing the impact of the problem.

At Camden Giving, we fund and support projects that aim to overcome isolation in the London borough of Camden. We do this with money donated by local businesses – mostly ones that care about the development of their local area. This gives us a unique funding perspective.

Although Camden has a reputation as a fun place to visit, it can be a lonely place to live. One of the contributing factors to loneliness is a sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’. For example, sufferers might see events at the British Library, King’s Cross or The Roundhouse as being for ‘them’, not ‘us’. This feeling can be isolating. The pace of change in Camden is fast, as big businesses and luxury apartment blocks move in. Older people don’t recognise the area they grew up in, while young people sometimes feel that they don’t benefit from the changes.

Reducing loneliness and isolation is a complex challenge. While these can often be a symptom of poverty, they cannot be solved by money alone. Over the next two years, Camden Giving will award around 60 grants to community groups and charities as they work towards combatting loneliness and isolation in Camden.

Here are some of the things we look for in the projects we fund.

1. A clear outreach plan

We want to see more than a ‘build it and they will come’ plan in the proposals we receive.

Isolation in big cities such as London doesn’t happen because there isn’t enough to do. It is the opposite – it happens because people feel that they don’t belong at the activities that are happening.

One of the projects we fund, ‘The Generator’ at the Skip Garden in King’s Cross, works with young people who might otherwise feel isolated by the development going on in that part of London. The team there found it relatively easy to attract young women, but had to be more proactive in recruiting males. So, they went to local sports clubs and started talking to young men, personally inviting them along and telling them to bring their friends.

Top tip: If you have a plan to reach your isolated beneficiaries, tell your funder about it.

2. Integration in the community

The quickest and most effective way to reach out is to use staff or volunteers who are already part of the community.

Another project we fund is Action Youth Boxing Intervention (AYBI). It runs free boxing and cognitive behavioural therapy sessions in an area of Camden where young people – boys in particular – are at risk of becoming involved in crime, partly because of poverty and partly because of isolation. Every session is packed with children who like boxing or who might be having a difficult time. The project does not rely on formal outreach – the staff and volunteers all live on the local estate and know everyone.

Top tip: Try to ensure that at least one person at your charity has walked in the shoes of your beneficiaries and is well connected in the community you are trying to reach. Tell your potential funders about this.

3. A high-quality service

If you are running a lunch club, host it in a fabulous building with amazing food. If you are running a dance project for isolated young people, provide the facilities needed.

Another project we fund is North London Cares, which organises social activities for older neighbours and young professionals. The activities are of consistently high quality and never patronising. Many of the attendees were teenagers in Camden in the 1960s; they have done some cool stuff, and North London Cares’ social clubs are reflective of that.

Top tip: Work with the budget and other assets available to you, to make sure your project is a special experience to participants.

4. Projects that bring together different demographics

We love to see projects that bring different people together: young and old; refugees and their British-born neighbours; or – as is the case with C4WS – people experiencing homelessness and Londoners who own their own home. The charity has been trialling a hosting programme in which Londoners can give up their spare room to those in need of a place to stay, and Camden Giving’s funding will help it to expand this.

Top tip: Liaise with your beneficiaries to see if there are ways you can support them better by working with other demographics. This way, you will work to overcome personal isolation as well as social isolation.

Funding decisions can seem a little mysterious, but we would be really happy to talk to people and charities about their project ideas at one of our drop-in sessions, or over the phone. Projects addressing loneliness and isolation can apply to the HS2 Camden Fund, which is open until May 2020. Our KX Fund will open for projects reducing isolation in March 2019.