3 May 2019
It’s always been the role of the Community Foundation as an independent funder in Northern Ireland to be looking out for what’s coming next, what’s up ahead and where the gaps that we should be stepping into are, that others can’t (or won’t?) fill.
It’s been more than 4 years since I started as CEO and we’ve come to the end of one cycle of strategic thinking, about to start a new one. Looking back over the last chapter, 2016-2019, we’ve achieved a lot, including enabling substantial new funding for Northern Ireland and using that funding to surpass our target to support 2,000 communities. This month, we’re launching our plan for the next few years, and along with that, a refreshed look for the Foundation.
Many of you will be aware of our history; We were established in 1979 as the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust, with an initial government investment and began life as a grant giving organisation. Against the background of a divided society and the existence of a huge number of community groups, we used our expertise to build relationships within communities and make funding available where we knew we could make an impact. As the funding environment has changed, we’ve stayed true to that DNA, but focused more on how we bring new streams of funding into the third sector in Northern Ireland; ‘Connecting people who care to causes that matter’. Our 2019-2024 strategy maintains that core focus and we frame it into two key focus areas; ‘achieving impact’, which refers to our grant making and other direct work; and ‘inspiring generosity’ where we help people and organisations to give more and more effectively.
In thinking about that impact we want to achieve in the next 5 years, these are the themes where we see the need to step up:
Building Sustainable Communities – we so often see that local communities are way ahead in the innovative, cohesive and positive changes they are making. We will work to support more sustainable, entrepreneurial, innovative work by small organisations in local communities.
Community Voice – increasingly, people feel like their voice isn’t being heard; democracy at a global and local level needs support and re-vitalising. We will work to help communities find their voice and use it.Thriving after the conflict – we believe that some of the communities still struggling with the effects of the conflict have the potential to thrive and we will work to support groups, leaders and potential leaders in those communities to make that happen
People on the edges – we always look out for those who are caught at the margins of society, in particular the refugee and asylum seeking community, the more vulnerable of the LGBT community, and the travelling community and we will work to support organisations who build capacity in these communities.
Of course, the Community Foundation can’t achieve these impacts without our diverse network of donors, funders, grantee partners and ambassadors, so we hope you’ll work alongside us in delivering these priorities. It’s in our nature to be an organisation of quiet, powerful conversations and we look forward to more of those with you.
2019 promises to be a very exciting year for the Foundation, with the announcements of new funds due imminently, Philanthropy Fortnight happening on May 13th-26th and an official 40th celebration in September. In the meantime, keep following the conversation on our social media platforms, sign up for our newsletter and where you can, get involved.