Shaftesbury Youth Projects Are Being Offered Grants But You Need To Be Quick

If you have a community project that helps young people in the Shaftesbury area you’re being invited to apply for cash.

Grant Robson, Director of Dorset Community Foundation, told Alfred that some worthwhile initiatives have benefited from the legacy of Toby’s, the Shaftesbury Young People’s Project. And he wants to fund more good causes.

Many Shaftesbury residents speak fondly of Toby’s project. It was established in 1999 to offer advice, counselling, social activities and music studio recording opportunities for young people aged between 12 and 25. The charity ceased operations in 2016, but since then the Dorset Community Foundation has invested Toby’s assets so annual grants can be awarded.

“The remaining trustees were able to set up a fund to follow the charitable objectives of the original charity,” said Grant. He wants Shaftesbury area projects seeking funds to submit applications by midday on 11th September.

The former Toby’s base on Bimport

He says any grant money awarded would need to be spent in specified areas. “To support young people who may be experiencing mental health problems, bereavement or to encourage healthy lifestyles, problems with antisocial behaviour and also to raise their aspirations,” said Grant.

There are national, well-funded organisations that tick one or more of those boxes, which might want a slice of this cash, but Toby’s was a Shaftesbury initiative and Grant says there are location restrictions and rules about the sort of bodies that can receive money from this fund. “As a rule, the Dorset Community Foundation concentrates on small community groups. The larger national charities would not be eligible for our funding. Toby’s Fund is concentrated on the area of Shaftesbury. Groups that are not in that area are just simply not eligible,” he said.

That means that if you called up seeking cash for a project centred on Blandford or Gillingham you could not access Toby’s Fund. Only Shaftesbury, Bedchester, Compton Abbas, East Stour, Fontmell Magna, Hartgrove, Margaret Marsh, Melbury Abbas and Cann, Motcombe, Stour Row, Sutton Waldron, East and West Orchard and Twyford are eligible locations.

Grant explained that the Motcombe Youth Club received a grant for a musical project. “There was a production DVD. It was videoed. We funded Dorset Mind within Shaftesbury School with their ‘Mind Your Head’ project. They created a group called ‘Ambassadors Within the School’. They were students themselves. If a child or pupil was experiencing mental health issues, they could approach this ambassador for signposting for more professional help. The Shaftesbury District Carers Association had a project about increasing competence and employability amongst young people. Again, it focused on mental health,” said Grant.

Grant had spoken about charities being eligible. People can use the term charity to mean that they’re not benefiting personally financially, rather than the correct legal definition of a body registered with the Charity Commission. There is some flexibility with the funding.

“We do fund registered charities, but we also fund community groups that are currently constituted. There needs to be adequate governance in place. There is a high level of due diligence that we undertake on groups that apply to us, to make sure they’re fit for funding.”

Toby’s Fund money has been invested, so it keeps growing even though annual grants are awarded. “That’s the model that community foundations across the country use a great deal. The money is invested and the return on that investment is used in grant making. This is something that’s going to be around, hopefully, forever,” he said.

Grant outlined the level of funding on offer. “The maximum that people can apply for on Toby’s fund is £2,000. For some of the groups we fund, that can actually last them the whole year or can significantly have an impact on the projects or the activity that they are undertaking.”

Grant says the true aims of the project can be more important than a beautifully written funding bid. “It’s not about the best application or the cleverest. We take a lot of pride and effort in understanding applications to make sure that the money is given out those that need it most. We are very aware that bid writing is not necessarily the skill that everyone has, particularly in the kinds of groups that we fund because they’re busy doing their charitable activities.”

Even though the Foundation operates from Poole, connections with Shaftesbury have been retained through Toby’s fund. “There are still members of the original Toby’s trustees involved in the decision-making process. We need people to think about what’s happening in their communities. If there’s something that could be of interest to the fund, ring us up and ask the question,” said Grant.

“We’re happy to take telephone calls and enquiries about the fund,” he added. “It will close at noon on the 11th of September. Our application process is not onerous. It’s not too time-consuming. We are very happy for people to phone up and we can talk you through it.”

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