Daniel Ferrell-Schweppenstedde

Former Policy and Public Affairs Manager

Charities Aid Foundation


Place-based Giving has enhanced local resilience

The pandemic stress test helped prove the value of these initiatives and make the case for investment  

Place-Based Giving (PBG) has gained some prominence as a topic in recent years and PBG schemes saw a proliferation across the UK before the pandemic.

The Government defines place-based giving as "a partnership between communities, philanthropists, corporate donors and local organisations, local authorities and national funders that bring together resources in a collaborative way to benefit the community in a defined geographic location". And schemes predominantly are set up and work “with the intention of tackling local issues in a new way”.

In 2018, the Government funded a mapping and categorisation of various schemes for England, as well as the Growing Place-Based Giving programme, which CAF helped deliver. Other initiatives, such as London Funders, have provided deep insights into the development of the field and many of its members are giving schemes, which also took part in the London Community Response. This is an unprecedented funder collaboration tackling the impact of Covid-19 on local communities.

Many private and public funders, including government, have invested in this space and helped to set up and grow schemes. But the case is building  to revisit PBG more broadly, to build on its strengths (which have become even more visible during Covid-19) and explore the links with wider policy agendas, not least of which is the Government’s  Levelling Up ambitions.

Underlying assumptions have been truly tested

While the model has been tested and tried, there were also a set of underlying assumptions around what PBG can achieve, including:

  • Galvanise communities and other local (and even national) groups around a shared agenda, bringing together new partners which might have been peripheral to local renewal processes.
  • Generate activity that is marked by additionality (i.e. delivering some extra goods), in particular when compared to the existing private and public service delivery.
  • Increase individual giving and philanthropy from various sources (locally and even nationally), potentially tying in public funding as well.
  • Centre around community voices, enhance participation in shared projects between communities and other local stakeholders, and democratise decision-making processes on the use of local resources.
  • Increases community ownership of projects and outcomes and address local needs and priorities.
  • Increase local resilience, with schemes pivoting along emerging and changing community needs and priorities.

‘Proof of concept’ was already available by the giving generated and impact achieved, but there is also a need  for more information on how PBG works in practice. Covid-19 created a large ‘stress test’ for all of society, including PBG schemes.

Schemes have adapted and underpinned local resilience

Schemes included in the initial Growing Place-Based Giving programme pivoted in the early stages of the crisis, enabling citizens to have a more effective local response to Covid-19. A year on, we have more examples of how PBG played a crucial role making communities safer and more resilient. And they are also increasing community preparedness for future challenges. Examples include:

  • Step Up Manchester, one of the schemes included in the Growing Place-Based Giving programme, focussed on diversifying income to form strong partner networks and bring communities together during lockdown. They began hosting an Advisory Panel consisting of residents, partners (the local council, housing providers, other anchor organisations) and businesses who decide how funding is spent in the community. Through this, they were able to support a number of community projects through the pandemic. Help was provided for residents to establish a food hub that very quickly began feeding 350 people per week. A fundraiser enabled a community-led health and wellbeing hub to secure funds for a hub manager. Using Arts Council funding Step Up distributed three community newspapers to 11,000 households giving those who were digitally isolated a better sense of community. They also commissioned a local theatre company to produce an immersive walking experience bringing people closer to their neighbourhoods. Their Project Champion programme matches a partner organisation or business with a community-led project to offer support and connect it with Step Up’s offer.
  • Yorkshire Coast Catalyst, which was also included in the Growing Place-Based Giving programme, conducted successful fundraising campaigns for local causes and distributed over £280,000 during the pandemic. They also secured £160k in new endowment funds and £200k in revenue funds for the local community from various sources (individual donors, the local council and another trust).

Should we invest more in a proven approach?

Those involved in PBG already know its importance to building resilient communities, but the way many PBG schemes have been essential to the local response to Covid-19 has enhanced the case for more investment and made the case to grow this approach.

Schemes are still at different parts of their journey. Some had to park their strategic work, to be resumed once the worst of the pandemic is over. Schemes will also have to define what their post-Covid-19 agenda might look like. This includes assessing which activities undertaken during the crisis can stop, and which can be continued.

Many PBG schemes are already self-reliant and represent essential drivers of local giving. But there are also lingering long-term socio-economic impacts from the crisis. Existing and new PBG schemes will play a role in addressing those, but they might need additional resources and support for doing so. Further future investment to strengthen them might be still required and a national network of schemes which could broaden opportunities to exchange lessons learned and best practice would be welcome.

PBG schemes can lead to raising levels of local income and resources for communities, stimulate and consolidate new partnerships and collaboration across and between sectors to improve communities and address inequalities. They can be a vehicle for embedding a feeling of shared place, ownership of decision-making processes by local communities, and support new projects and initiatives through giving. All of which can also contribute significantly to long-term policy goals of widespread community renewal and local empowerment – seen by some as the very definition of levelling up.