Chris Gull, Chair of the Rainbow Fund, explains the difficulties in deciding which LGBT/HIV groups receive grants to provide effective front-line services to LGBT people in Brighton & Hove.
Until the advent of the Rainbow Fund local fundraising was somewhat haphazard, with fundraisers having to choose a specific charity to support, without knowledge of the bigger picture of need, and often responding to the strongest lobbying which came from larger organisations with paid fundraisers. Smaller and newer ‘grassroots’ organisations were often left out in the cold.
The Rainbow Fund allows fundraisers to donate to a central fund, safe in the knowledge that the money will be distributed fairly to get the best value in supporting members of the local LGBT+ and HIV communities.
Local organisations providing that support can also trust that their projects will get fair consideration on a clear and transparent playing field. So far, so good…
Many grant giving organisations have very rigid criteria for what they will fund. When it was created, the Rainbow Fund decided not to go down that route. We have evolved a system where we try to assess the ‘bigger picture’ each time we announce a grants round and take into consideration the likely amount we have to give as grants and the factors that have changed (evidence of need, cuts in council funding, and how much has been donated for us to distribute, for example).
Each time we announce a funding round we announce what we will give preference to. This year, for instance, preference was given to local, LGBT+-led, volunteer-led groups. To encourage groups to work together we also gave preference to those who attended and contributed to the networking opportunities provided by the LGBT+ Small Groups Network and the quarterly public meetings of the LGBT+ Community Safety Forum.
Once we have received the applications tough decisions are made. Each application is carefully considered. We try to get the best ‘bang for your buck’ on behalf of those who choose to donate to the Rainbow Fund, with the aim of supporting the local LGBT+ and HIV communities in the best possible and most effective way.
Ultimately we have to have at the back of our minds, what it is about living with, or being affected by, HIV, or identifying as LGBT+ that needs support from our communities. The answer, judging by the projects which come to us for funding, is often ‘the consequences of stigma and social isolation’.
This has been particularly evident this year. A number of projects included social events, sports and outings, including taking groups to Pride or the Golden Handbags, theatre trips, swimming and ten pin bowling. We absolutely understand and recognise the importance and value of such projects, but a number of factors have meant that we have had to decline the funding of these events this year.
I’ll be honest – we’re wary of setting a precedent. We currently have a significant amount of funding, particularly from Brighton Pride and the Brighton Bears Weekend for instance, but the amount left after funding the projects we have funded, means there is not enough to ‘cross this line’ yet to approve all the applications for social inclusion projects, and we don’t think it’s fair to fund some and not others.
We also believe that there is scope for many of these projects to be almost entirely self funded. Not everyone is in a difficult financial situation that precludes them from contributing towards the cost of an event. Whether this is achieved by voluntary donations, or a bursary scheme involving fundraising within the organisation (raffles etc) is up to each group. We are looking to discuss this in more detail over the next few months with the groups and we want to make sure that those who really need financial support are able to join activities to reduce isolation and stigma.
Feedback from our surveys this year show that there is some perception that funds we give as grants pay for social activities for people who are well able to afford to contribute. Our job is to ensure that we support those who are really in need and demonstrate to the general public, fundraisers and donors, that every penny is used to give the best possible support right across all our communities, and we will continue to work with groups and organisations to achieve that.
For more information about the Rainbow Fund, click here: