Our fundraising journey

02 October 2015

Five years ago, when describing what People’s Health Trust does as a charity, I would usually start with “we address health inequalities”. It wasn’t pithy then and it’s not now. Add in the fact that you want to raise money to give it away to local groups and you have a double dose of the un-fundable. So started our fundraising journey. How do you fund the un-fundable? Says John Hume, Chief Executive of People’s Health Trust.

The term ‘health inequalities’ describes the gap which exists between the health of those who live in the poorest neighbourhoods and those who live in the richest. Where we are born, where we grow up, live, work and age are important influences on our health. People living in more disadvantaged neighbourhoods will die on average 7 years younger than people living in wealthier ones. They will also spend 17 years more of their life with additional life-limiting disabilities.

Health inequalities are often referred to as the ‘causes of the causes’, which means that the real cause of early mortality amongst poorer communities is not physical but social: underemployment, low-pay-no-pay cycles, poor housing, lack of natural environments, prevalence of crime, poor local economies, dwindling social connections… the list could go on.

Health inequalities is an area of critical importance for millions of people in Great Britain today: addressing these inequalities has the ability to save millions of years of life, improve quality of life and potentially save the public purse a small fortune and yet, it is never going to be the poster-child of any major charity fundraising campaign.

Why? Because the distance between the ‘cause’ and people’s understanding of and therefore ability to empathise with it, is just too great. Five years ago, we knew this and we knew that we needed money to support people who experience the sharp end of health inequalities. We knew we needed a source of money which would allow us to really achieve scale and fairly rapidly and yet push money to those people who experience the most severe disadvantage.

In some ways, the lack of fundraising options helped greatly with our fundraising decision (donors, HNW individuals, trusts and foundations weren’t exactly knocking down our door!). What we needed was to create a platform for raising money: something which could achieve the scale and something which would allow us to start to address health inequalities at a local level across Great Britain.

Society lotteries were already in use by a number of charities across the sector to raise much-needed funds – most notably and successfully by hospices. A move was already a-foot to try to launch a number of society lotteries which would operate under a single cause-led brand but which would also raise money for specific geographic areas.

Fast forward to 2015 and there are 51 society lotteries, each owned by 51 community interest companies, each operating under The Health Lottery brand. The good causes raised through The Health Lottery are donated to People’s Health Trust to address local health inequalities. To-date, in just 3½ years we have received over £66m, a massive figure which has enabled us to support over 1,700 small local charities in each of the 51 areas across Great Britain and has meant that more than 300,000 people have benefited. And the beauty of it is the funding pipeline continues, which means we can support thousands more.

Having lots of society lotteries operating under a single brand, was a revolutionary way to raise money for good causes. By combining the society lotteries, significant savings in back-office costs were achieved but the more important achievement was the traction achieved with the public: A lesser-known cause went from having no real prospect of funding to having £25m within the first year alone.

The huge benefit and attraction of this model is that each of the society lotteries takes it in turn to open for sales across the whole of Great Britain once a year, but the good causes raised must go back into that society lottery’s specific geographic location. This means that society lotteries operating under The Health Lottery are one of the most locally focused and successful lotteries operating with a national reach.

The downside to all of this? It requires investment to get the society lotteries off the ground – lots of it. Creating games which are available online and through retailers is an expensive business not for the faint-hearted: as a business model, it’s not a huge winner; as a way to make large sums for lesser-known good causes, it’s a fantastic opportunity. The plus side is that this model for raising money for good causes complements rather than competes with other forms of fundraising, including other lotteries.

Working locally

Localism is the zeitgeist and society lotteries play well to this. We believe that one important way to reduce health inequalities is by working at the local level by giving more control to local communities and investing in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

As the 2008 recession took hold, charities braced themselves for the aftershock which hit other sectors. By 2011, the impact was well and truly being felt. Raising money for local charities meant that we were able to support thousands of tiny local charities and community groups; the groups which in hard times local people turn to for help, support and to volunteer their time. We have heard first-hand the stories of many critical local groups and charities which would not have survived these last few years without the money raised by the society lotteries through The Health Lottery.

Supporting change to happen  

We know People’s Health Trust is the only grant-making trust to be distributing funds directly to support locally-led actions on health inequalities and local people are responding well to an approach which naturally empowers them.

People on the Naylorsfield Estate are one such example, as Mark explains:

 “Cyril’s Square used to be seen as a no go area by the residents of Naylorsfield community. It’s a square that sits in the heart of the Naylorsfield estate and it had become a honey-pot for anti-social behaviour. This drove a wedge through the heart of Naylorsfield as people were too frightened to cross the square to shop or attend their social club. Residents all agreed that something needed to be done and with this funding the locals took control over a project which helped them to realise their aspirations for the estate. They transformed their square into a memorial garden to honour deceased loved ones – some had been community activists or volunteers and all were local people. Through this project residents felt they began to have a stronger voice – local councillors, local MPs and local authority officers all supported the project but also listened to their wider concerns about issues on the estate such as safety. This has given them a real legacy in terms of community participation, local democracy and active citizenship.” Mark, Active Communities project, Naylorfield Estate, HealthFit

People in Penparcau, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Aberystwyth in Wales are engaging thousands of local people to determine how their local money should be spent.

“Gathering needs and views on a daily basis by word of mouth is very important in helping the community raise concerns and issues, and this is where our Local Conversation started. Penparcau has not really enjoyed a good reputation as a place to live and work in. But the area is made up of good people who want to make a difference to their community, and our Local Conversation is seen by many as a way to make change happen.” Bryn, Local Conversation, Penparcau, HealthExpect.

To support people to make change happen we have developed different funding programmes including Active communities and Local Conversations. Active Communities is an open programme – designed to respond rapidly to neighbourhood action – to get money into communities where it can be used effectively and quickly.

Local Conversations takes a neighbourhood approach to funding and critically, allows the residents to use their wisdom acquired through daily experiences to decide how money should be spent with their neighbourhood.

A valuable role

The partnership between 51 society lotteries, The Health Lottery and People’s Health Trust allows us to use limited resources to greatest effect, to enable us to bring our health inequalities and local empowerment expertise to create an innovative model which would have the greatest chance of both impact and sustainability.

This income stream has showcased the innovative use of society lotteries to provide sustainable sources of funding for local projects over the short and long term.

As the most recent edition of the UK Civil Society Almanac shows, the voluntary sector’s income has remained stagnant over the last few years. In creating a steady stream of revenue that can support local organisations to help address the rising level of local needs, this innovative partnership between 51 society lotteries, The Health Lottery and People’s Health Trust plays a valuable and essential role in the funding ecosystem of small local initiatives.


Source - Civil Society Fundraising Magazine - July 2015

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