The Season of Goodwill

It’s that time of year – system overload! Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Should sprouts be stir fried? Did the Grinch steal Christmas? And how did Cameron Diaz fit all those coats in her suitcase for The Holiday?

I love working with the team at Wiltshire Community Foundation, especially at this time of year. We are all hardworking and we love what we do, but the addition of a sparkly Christmas tree, advent calendars, baubles, mince pies, Christmas jumpers and a mountain of stollen lift us all up and keep us going as we work to hit our deadlines before the Christmas break.

At this time of year everyone loves opening the post in our office. Along with the Christmas cards, there are donations arriving for our Surviving Winter Campaign. As always, we are humbled by the support we receive. The accompanying messages are heartfelt ‘Please help someone stay warm this winter’ and ‘Sent with love and best wishes to anyone worried about the cold this winter’. On behalf of everyone at Wiltshire Community Foundation, thank you all for supporting our Surviving Winter Campaign and for changing the lives of local people who are facing significant hardship this year.

As we race towards the end of the year, our brilliant grants team, supported so well by our trustees and volunteers, have just delivered our final grants round of 2023. Our Community Grants programme is one of my absolute favourites. This programme supports people and communities in need in Wiltshire and Swindon. Grants of up to £5,000 per year for up to three years are available to voluntary organisations for projects and activities that improve people’s lives. In this latest community grants round, we awarded £155,395 to 19 community groups, helping over 5,000 local people. As ever, we had more applications than we could fund which makes for very tough decision making. I wish we could fund them all.

There is a golden thread that runs between the groups funded as they will all change the lives of local people. At a time when watching or reading the news is desperately sad, diving into the wonders of the voluntary sector and all the good they do has helped to restore my faith in human nature. There are so many stories of delivering simple but very real change.

The furniture that Group Five delivers to the care leaver who is trying to make a home for himself, the young disabled person joining the Swindon Shock Wheelchair Basketball team, the bicycle delivered by Swindon Bicycle Users Group that will help a young person get to work, the neuro diverse young woman who will grow in confidence and make friends as she learns to sail with West Wilts Sailing Association (in a landlocked county!) and the lonely older person who finds company and comfort at the Highworth Forget-Me-Not Café. Each story reminds us of the good that exists in our county.

So where does the community foundation magic the funding from to support our community grants programme? Do we have a golden goose like Jack? We have something even better. We have an endowment fund which was first established in 1975. Over the last 48 years, many people have added to this community asset, some setting up their own named funds and others adding to thematic or geographic restricted funds.

Over 160 endowment fundholders have set up their funds with us because they believe in the importance of having a long-term source of funding for Wiltshire and Swindon. We work with donors who want to help us to grow this vital long-term community asset, to nurture and care for it whilst it continues to work hard to help those in need.

Our endowment is professionally invested with Sarasin and CCLA and our grants programmes are supported through these investments and through additional funding from our flow-through donors. Currently our endowment enables us to fund approximately £1million of grants each year across different grant programmes. It is safe to say that without it we would support far fewer groups and individuals in the county each year, and as it is a long-term investment, we will be able to keep supporting the county for decades to come.

The beauty of a community foundation is that we can tailor our services to meet the needs and wishes of our donors and change local lives for the better. We are at our happiest when we connect people who care with causes that matter.

Sending best wishes to you and yours for Christmas and the New Year from all at Wiltshire Community Foundation.

P.S. Die Hard is not a Christmas movie!

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