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Great Grant Making: Vicar’s Relief Fund

Posted on Wed 12 August 2015
Written by Flexi-Grant Team Special Projects Manager

Co-written by Claire, Marketing Executive at Fluent Technology, research nerd, travel fanatic & coffee-based life form; and by Jackie, Office Manager, proof reader, fan of combining travel, photography and food, novice cocktail maker and mum of three.

Vicar’s Relief Fund (VRF) by St Martin in the Fields.

The VRF raised a staggering £2.3million in their Radio 4 2014 Christmas appeal, have awarded 3,245 grants nationally in 2014 and use a grant management system that has been described by one applicant as “the best of all the charities I’ve used”.

Their Grant Making.

The recipients of VRF’s grants are some of the most vulnerable people in the UK. Often living on the streets or on the verge of being evicted from their homes, getting grants to them as quickly as possible isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ in terms of grant system requirements, it’s a necessity!
Speed and efficiency are key to the success of the VRF; it’s exactly what people need and expect when they apply:

“I often go straight to VRF if the case is urgent and needs an urgent response because your system is, in my opinion, the best of all the charities I’ve used. Other charities can take six to 12 months for a decision on a grant. The VRF has the quickest and most efficient decision-making process”.

Lesley Clifford. Caseworker who applies to the Vicars Relief Fund.

The majority of VRF’s end awardees are unable to apply for grants themselves due to their circumstances, so their ‘applicants’ are usually support workers or other charities who apply on their behalf for urgent grants. Most VRF grants need to have a short turnaround, often within 48 hours, so their main grant system requirements were an application that was simple and a process for awarding them that could be done in as few clicks as possible. Already in 2015 the VRF has awarded 1,108 grants across the UK, including helping Lawrence in Wales to pay off his rent arrears to avoid eviction and Kev in South Yorkshire leave his park bench behind with a deposit for his new flat.

Their Recipients.

Sometimes the phrase ‘life changing’ is overused but not in the case of the work of the VRF. Take Stephen as an example. His life had fallen apart after a series of traumatic events left him homeless and at the same time battling leukaemia. Stephen was homeless for 2 years until a local charity called Street Life applied for a grant from the VRF and he was at last able to get his own flat. Securing a home of his own meant that Stephen has been able to move forward with his life, securing a job and making plans to go to university one day. Life changing help? You bet. Says Stephen, “If I hadn’t got the flat when I did, I don’t think I would be where I am now…..it’s not just about practical support, it gives people a new lease of life”.
There are many others like Stephen whose lives have been turned around by securing crisis grants from the VRF. In fact last year 1,500 rough sleepers were supported away from the street and St Martin’s work will continue in 2015 providing support and help to the vulnerable and homeless.

Their Strategy.

The VRF’s annual appeal strategy is worth highlighting as it’s about more than just raising much-needed funds. The charm of their appeals lies in the changing themes they use each year. Their latest theme for 2015 calls for people to ‘Pay Attention’ and is beautifully geared at getting people to think deeply and open their eyes to those around them. It was inspired by the words of the French philosopher and activist, Simone Weil, who said “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity”. We hope that the attention we have paid to the vital and life-changing work of the VRF will help raise awareness and appreciation for their goal of ‘not abandoning people whose lives have fallen apart”.

For more details on how you can ‘Pay Attention’ click here.

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