Fifteen years of grant funding

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Rye Fund award winners at the pre-Covid 2020 presentation in Rye town hall

Applications are now invited for local voluntary organisations to apply for grants from the Rye Fund. The Fund website (which records the last pre-Covid awards presentation in 2020), contains information about the fund and how to apply. Grants are available up to £2000 with smaller organisations receiving preference. The closing date for applications this year is September 9.

This year will see the 15th round of grant awards from the Rye Fund. It all started in 2008, when a group of friends decided to help build an endowment fund to provide grants for local community projects. There were two strands to our thinking: firstly the long-term need to support voluntary organisations which were struggling to find funding; and
secondly, to establish a sinking fund which might be used for projects relating to the conservation of buildings valued by the community. This was in part influenced by the history of Rye assets having been transferred to Rother District Council under the 1974 Local Government Act, and the resulting disempowerment of Rye people. The Rye Fund has since taken an active role in the acquisition of the former library complex in Lion Street (now the Kino) and latterly in offering support for the conservation of the Landgate.

We explored setting up a separate charity, but quickly realised that this would involve a great deal of administration and responsibility, beyond our resources. We spoke with the Sussex Community Foundation (SCF) which was well established as an endowment trust, with charitable status, and investment management expertise. It already managed substantial funds on behalf of philanthropic individuals and organisations and was prepared to recognise and hold our fund-raising as a separately designated fund, meeting our objectives for the benefit of Rye and District.

We would be spared the costs and burden of financial management, charity law compliance and administration. We would establish our own local panel of volunteers who would encourage and assess funding requests from voluntary organisations in the area. What might appear as a drawback was the fact that all the fund donations became the legally-owned assets of the Sussex Community Foundation. However, this was more than outweighed by the advantages, and in particular the ability of the Foundation to secure government matched funding and charity tax reliefs.

Four of us formed a steering group, each pledging an initial donation to raise the minimum amount specified by SCF for the purposes of a designated fund. In 2008, a formal contract was signed, recognising the respective roles of the steering group and the SCF. Other donors offered contributions and we were fortunate to receive government matched funding, channelled through SCF, so our endowment sum invested rose within six years to £100,000. At last valuation, it stands at more than £170,000.

This has enabled us to continue our annual rounds of grant-making, now running at £10,000 per annum. We are proud to have assisted so many local voluntary organisations with grants totalling over £75,000.

Where do we go from here? We would like to have two grant periods each year, in April as well as in November. That would mean building the endowment fund to its next target of £225,000. This can be done with the help of a few legacies or gifts from generous donors. The need is there, the fund at Sussex Community Foundation is well established with charity status, and this is an excellent way of giving something back to the community in which we all benefit.

To find out more about the Rye Fund, email info@ryefund.org.uk

Image Credits: Sussex Community Foundation .

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