Creating a ‘culture of giving at the heart of Derbyshire’ 

Children enjoying themselves at FairPlay in Chesterfield.

Whether we give as individuals or through businesses, we all want our charitable donations to make a real difference to the causes we are passionate about. Through strong links with community groups and an understanding of local need, Foundation Derbyshire certainly makes that happen, as Rebecca Erskine discovers.

FOR some 27 years, Foundation Derbyshire has been offering a vital lifeline to clubs, charities and community organisations across our county. 

The premise is a simple one. Individuals, families and businesses contribute towards the Foundation’s Endowment Fund, by establishing their own named funds that target the issues and causes that matter to them. Proceeds from the endowment’s investment are then provided as grants to the local community. This approach to funding brings together the businesses and individuals who care about improving life in Derbyshire with the grassroots groups that can effect such change.

Organisations applying for funding from the Foundation need not be registered charities and can apply for support at any time. It is enough to demonstrate that they are supporting the people of Derbyshire and can show evidence of a formal structure. Similarly, there is no restriction on group or income level, although the Foundation has a particular interest in helping smaller groups of limited means. 

To date, the Foundation – which is one of Derbyshire’s largest independent funders – has distributed £18.5 million through 7,200 grants and built an endowment worth more than £9 million. It is keen to lend its support to as many groups as possible, and a modest average grant of £2,500 supports that. Added to that, and unlike many others, the funders represented by the Foundation are often happy to contribute towards core costs.

The Foundation currently manages over 70 individually named funds within its endowment, each set up to reflect their donors’ charitable aims and interests. 

As Rachael Grime, chief executive of Foundation Derbyshire, points out, philanthropy is something we can all get involved in: “In these times of challenge, uncertainty and increasing need, our mission to create a culture of giving at the heart of Derbyshire is as important as ever. Foundation Derbyshire is the charity for people with a passion for Derbyshire; the bridge that connects people with the means to give to those that so desperately need their help.  

“Our message is that anyone can be a philanthropist; from starting a named fund, leaving a legacy or becoming a Friend of Foundation Derbyshire. We help donors with a few pounds a month to give, through to managing multi-million-pound funds. There are so many ways that people can support us and every donation, no matter how big or small, is put to work in our local communities.” 

With an unrivalled reach to over 2,000 local groups and charities, the Foundation has the know-how required to reassure funders that their money will be well-spent and on causes that matter to them.  There are certainly many benefits to choosing local when it comes to charitable giving.

As Rachael explains: “An incredible amount of vital, life-changing work is undertaken in our local communities by smaller, grassroots groups and charities that are hidden from view. These projects and organisations understand, and are often created out of, the real needs of local people. Because so much of this work is under the radar, it can be difficult to know where to start if you want to support organisations closer to home.

“Foundation Derbyshire provides that connection by inviting groups to submit applications, which we then assess and present to donors who otherwise may not know about such valuable local projects.” 

The organisation has made thousands of grants on behalf of its donors in this way: grants to local groups and charities meeting a wide range of local needs including homelessness, domestic abuse survival, physical and mental health, sports and the arts, poverty and disadvantage, the environment, and supporting members of the community from young to old.

It has given the organisation a unique insight into what is happening and what is needed in our villages, towns and city, and enables it to help donors to reach beyond national charities and instead find and fund the incredible work happening on their own doorstep.  Donors can enjoy seeing first-hand the difference they are making, in the knowledge they can be involved as little or as much as they like and with confidence that the Foundation will deliver their charitable wishes, in perpetuity.

Local projects

A wide variety of local projects have been supported, and here are a few examples: 

• Dronfield Woodhouse Community Support Hub, which provides a safe meeting place for people to improve their wellbeing and combat loneliness. Funding has been used to purchase community transport, enabling local residents to participate in a range of activities they would otherwise be unable to attend.

• In Chesterfield, Saffron Kitchen has recently received funding from the Foundation’s Volunteer Fund to cover volunteer expenses and rent costs. It began as a Meals-on-Wheels service during lockdown in 2020, providing immediate support by delivering more than 1,485 meals to those who needed them. Four years on, its volunteers continue to provide affordable, home-cooked food to vulnerable members of the community. 

• Residents of Old Whittington and immediate surrounding areas can benefit from Yorkshire Water’s £2,500 annual contribution to community activity. The fund, which was launched in 2016, has a particular focus on addressing environmental issues. It will continue over the twenty-year life of Yorkshire Water’s wind turbine which powers Old Whittington Waste Water Treatment Works, which processes sewage from 100,000 Chesterfield-area customers. 

•Another Chesterfield charity to receive welcome core funding support is Fairplay, set up to support children and young people with disabilities and additional needs, and their families, across north Derbyshire. The Derbyshire High Sheriff Fund contributed to overnight respite care for young people, providing them with the chance to develop skills connected to independent living and spend time away from home, with their friends, in a safe and supportive environment.

Continuing help

Derbyshire communities certainly need this continuing help, with 22 of the county’s 491 small areas falling within the most 10 per cent deprived areas in England. 

As Rachael says:  “The groups and organisations working so tirelessly to support affected communities are themselves facing great uncertainty and challenge.  Financially exhausted from the pandemic and facing increasing demand for their services, many have folded or are struggling to cope with the cost-of-living pressures. For many of these small groups, it is a Foundation Derbyshire grant that enables them to keep their vital services going.”

The role Foundation Derbyshire plays in the wellbeing of our communities is clear to see and, with the support of new and existing donors, it will continue to be at the heart of support for people in Derbyshire for many generations to come.

Editor’s Note: Local people and businesses who wish to donate, and groups interested in applying for funding, can learn more at: