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Donor Advised Funds: A Family Affair

Betty, a Furzedown Project beneficiary, enjoying an activity
Betty, a Furzedown Project beneficiary, enjoying an activity

Community Foundations across the UK work with a vast range of donors through Donor Advised Funds. Rather like your own charitable trust, the Donor Advised Fund allows individuals, families and companies a simple and tailored way of making a difference to an area that interests them.

One family decided to take the plunge, handing out their first grants in 2010. The three family members concentrate their funding on groups and charities tackling isolation and poverty amongst London’s elderly population, an area traditionally receiving very little funding.

We had the opportunity to speak to them about their experience setting up a fund with The London Community Foundation and why they focus on an 'unpopular' cause.

1.)    Why did your family decide to start this fund?

We've been supporters of The London Community Foundation for many years, love its local approach and connection with grassroots organisations - so decided to take advantage of match funding on offer from the government to set up our own endowment.

2.)    You focus on funding older people’s projects, particularly around tackling economic disadvantage, elderly rights and elderly isolation, something that isn’t widely funded. Why did you choose this theme and why is it so important to you?

Much has been written about the growing problem of social isolation among the elderly, an issue we felt was particularly acute in the context of a huge and fast-moving city, where communities are constantly shifting and families often separated. Though some government support is available, those suffering from isolation and immobility may lack the means to access it. In addition, we felt that while there are many organisations in London working to tackle the issue of isolation and its associated ills, there is relatively little in terms of funding available for those working in this field. We decided therefore to focus on organisations working to tackle isolation and uphold the rights of the elderly.

3.)    Tell us a bit about the experience of the decision making process as a family.

The London Community Foundation approaches organisations which fit our criteria who are then invited to apply to the fund.  We meet, then, to discuss the proposals and allocate our annual funding pot from the endowment- although it can be challenging saying no to things! While there are approaches we are more drawn to as a family, having The London Community Foundation's wealth of knowledge on hand when making the decisions is really helpful. We find it interesting to read about the organisations and we generally agree on what we are most keen on supporting. The thing we enjoy most as a family and find very insightful, is to visit some of the organisations we have funded and to learn from those doing the work and more about the issues they face and the effects of their activities.

4.)    What are your plans for the fund over the following years?

We're going to carry on as before, funding a mix of approaches such as social activities, befriending services, advocacy and legal assistance. We aim to increasingly give multi-year grants where appropriate, to help organisations have a little more stability and be able to plan for the future. 

One of the organisations this family has funded is the Furzedown Project, a self-help, user led organisation which aims to prevent and overcome social isolation amongst older people through the provision of a variety of activities. Click here to read more about the organisation.

Published on 04 February 2016

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