Stage 1 is now closed. You cannot start a new application.


Sharply increased demand for services, economic pressures and an ongoing decline in public donations is putting many smaller charities across the UK under heavy strain.  

The Keystone Fund aims to enable locally and regionally-focused charities working towards social equity to become more agile in their support for their communities. It provides a programme of unrestricted grants, networking and access to advice webinars and toolkits. 

The legacy of the fund will be greater opportunities for those who need it most, along with charities that are in a stronger position to continue to support them, thereby accelerating progress in society towards a fair and sustainable future for all. 

CAF intends that through these grants and access to additional resilience building resources, small charities will be better positioned now and for the future as keystones in their communities.

Grants available

  • Unrestricted grants, intended to enable charitable organisations in the UK to adapt ways of working, strengthen capacity or build resilience, according to identified needs.
  • Grants will be awarded between £5,000 and £50,000
  • Approximately 120 grants will be awarded over 2-3 rounds during 2022-23.
  • Grant funds must begin to be spent within 6 months of grant payment, but can be carried forward into the following financial year if required to enable flexibility. They should be fully spent within 24 months of grant payment.

Grants will not normally be restricted to specific projects, but we will ask you to tell us how you would like to use the funds. We intend that charitable organisations can use a grant to become more agile in their support for their communities. This might include the costs of leadership time to develop strategy or organisational capacity, or to access additional external expertise, support and advice to develop their resilience plans. Grants might also be used for staff costs, digital costs, overheads, delivery costs or equipment, according to your identified longer-term needs.

In addition, building on CAF’s advisory opportunities for charities across the UK, all grant holders will gain access to webinars, toolkits, and networking opportunities to accelerate their impact.  

    Who can apply

    • UK registered charitable organisations (including registered charities and other registered non-profit organisations eg Community Interest Companies, Community Benefit Societies, company limited by guarantee)
    • Addressing social injustice or working towards social equity to build a fairer society for all. These might be organisations which primarily support:
      o Refugees in the UK 
      o People experiencing racial inequity
      o People experiencing digital poverty
      o People at risk of homelessness
      o Deaf and disabled people
      o LGBQT+ people
    • Responding to increased need among their local or regional communities

    We are also interested in hearing from charities which address other social inequities.  We appreciate that organisations may be working to remove barriers for people at the intersection of more than one of these areas.  

    We will focus approximately 50% of the Fund towards organisations supporting refugees in the UK.

    Priorities for the Keystone Fund

    We will support eligible charitable organisations to:

    • Adapt their ways of working (eg digital capability, staff and volunteer training, operational challenges)
    • Bolster their core building blocks (eg governance, strategic planning, capacity building)

    This fund is not designed to support direct service provision or capital projects.

    To be selected for the Keystone Fund, charitable organisations will be asked to demonstrate:

    • A clear understanding of the needs and challenges of the communities they serve
    • An excellent track record of at least 3 years of creating better outcomes for marginalised communities through a range of activities and/or advocacy
    • In-depth local or regional knowledge and networks
    • How they have responded to a significantly increased demand for services
    • An operational or governance structure which provides opportunities for people with lived experience to have a voice or to influence strategy
    • A reasonably clear idea of what they need to do next to transform or adapt their ways of working and strengthen their building blocks for the future

    What we cannot fund

    Organisations that:

    • Are not fully registered as charitable in the UK
    • Established or registered as charitable after 1 January 2020
    • Discriminate or primarily promote political or religious viewpoints to the people they support
    • Primarily focus on animals
    • Are unable to supply appropriate documents including charitable registration, governance and financial documents and personal details of trustees/directors if required

    The fund cannot be used for:

    • Expenditure which will have already taken place when the grant is offered
    • Any grants, bursaries, sponsorship or financial donations to other organisations or individuals
    • Capital projects or significant items to hire or purchase

    Grants awarded to Community Interest Companies, and other non-registered charities, will be subject to some restriction of the grant use towards specific charitable activities, services or outcomes. 

    How and when can we apply?

    Stage 1 is now closed. Invitations to complete a Stage 2 application will be emailed by 7 December.

    A two-stage online application process aims to provide the smoothest possible process for small charities to apply:
    • Stage 1: You will complete a small number of eligibility questions, and provide a short overview of your work
    • Stage 2: Selected organisations will then be invited to complete a more detailed application


    • Stage 1 applications open: 9 November – 23 November
    • Stage 2 applications open: 16 December – 1 February
    • Decisions communicated: March 2023

    How to apply

    Stage 1 is now closed. You cannot start a new application.

    The Stage 2 application form is now open and available to organisations which have been selected for Stage 2 via the CAF grant making portal.

    Return to CAF grant making portal

    What might a Keystone Fund grant look like?

    A Keystone Fund grant could be provided to a small and effective charity which responds to the needs of young refugees in its city. Its normal activities might include supporting people to fulfil their potential (through access to education or youth leadership), intensive one-to-one casework, or crucial local hubs which provide creative or sporting activities, English language mentoring, therapeutic or legal advice. The organisation’s governance allows for the voice of the refugees to be at the heart of its planning and it will have a good understanding of the risks for its future and what it might do to mitigate these.

    The grant might underpin IT or staffing costs to strengthen its digital infrastructure, or to support staff time to develop a new fundraising approach, or seed-funding to create and test accessible ways of raising the voices of the people they work with in advocacy. Outcomes from this could mean that the refugees they work with may benefit from access to lifechanging support, or the charity may be able to properly research new strategies to remove barriers for people at a particularly vulnerable part of their lives.

    As a result of the grant the charity will be better able to support refugees in the city and their transition to a more comfortable and settled life for the longer term. Additionally the organisation will have greater capacity to flex and respond effectively to the needs of refugees as demands change.

    These are examples and of course many other needs and solutions will be funded.

    Helpful resources

    If you have questions, check the FAQs below. If you need a more detailed answer, please email us via in the first instance.

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    Keystone Fund application webinar

    Frequently asked questions

    • How much should we apply for?

      At stage 1, we ask what your organisation’s expenditure on core staff and overheads was in your last annual financial accounts, and what you expect it to be in the current financial year. We will also ask how much you would like to apply for.

      If you are invited to apply to Stage 2, you will be invited to apply for one of 3 tiers of funding.

      • Tier 1: £5,000-£10,000
      • Tier 2: £10,001-£25,000
      • Tier 3: £25,001-£50,000

      You can apply for any amount within that tier. In order to balance the Fund across a wide range of selected organisations, if a grant is awarded we may offer less than the amount that you have applied for, but it will be within the range of the tier.

    • What do you mean by an ‘excellent track record’?

      We want to hear about the ways that you have responded to the challenges facing your community over the last 3 years. Tell us about breadth or depth of your work and the positive differences that it has made for the people you serve. What are you most proud of having achieved?

    • What do you mean by local and regional?

      We would like to support organisations which are deeply embedded within their local (eg towns/district) or regional (eg county or 2-3 county areas) geographic area and have a strong understanding of needs and solutions for the community they serve.

    • Our charity provides support to refugees and internally displaced people in Ukraine and surrounding countries. Can we apply?

      This fund will support charities in the UK which work with refugees who are already in the UK. We are not able to fund organisations whose focus is primarily overseas.

    • Are there restrictions on the size of organisation that can apply?

      The standard characterisation of a small charity is one with annual income of £1 million or less. We do not have a hard cut off, but will prioritise smaller charities for this fund.

    • Our local charity is part of a larger national charity. Can we apply?

      We would prefer to hear from single non-federated charities which do not have organisational support from a national head office.

    • Can I apply as an individual or do I need an organisation?

      You need to apply through an organisation which has been registered as charitable before 1 January 2020. We will not provide funding to individuals.

    • Our charity has only just registered but had an excellent track record throughout Covid restrictions. Why can’t we apply?

      We recognise the powerful wave of community activity which supported people throughout the pandemic and that in many situations is continuing now. However, we wish to prioritise those organisations which have already taken some steps to build their governance and structure over a longer time period and can articulate their future needs.

    • Can you help me complete my application?

      There will be an online webinar open to organisations which are invited to Stage 2. This will be recorded and available after the event if you cannot join at the time of the webinar.

      We will also be able to answer queries related to the Fund, the online application portal, and reporting requirements via the contact details below. 

    • Must I apply in English?

      Applications, along with supporting documentation and reporting, must be in English. Online translation tools can be used if needed to prepare your application and documentation.

      Please be reassured that your application is not assessed on your English fluency.

    • How will you decide which organisations to fund?

      The Keystone Fund decision making is structured over two stages, with the intention of reducing the time and costs involved for small charities to apply for funds. We will select charitable organisations that most clearly meet the aims and priorities of the Fund. The decision making process draws on expertise in social equity and grant making. 

      We anticipate high numbers of applications and regret that not all eligible organisations will be able to be supported. 

    • Our organisation is not a UK registered charity. What documents will I need to provide for due diligence if we are selected?

      If your organisation is selected, we will then ask you for documentation to complete our due diligence and verification checks. This is to ensure the grants meet legal requirements on charitable donations. You must complete this stage before funds can be confirmed. Documents may include a copy of your organisation’s governing document, your most recent annual financial accounts, a transactional bank statement from the last 3 months as proof of your organisation’s bank account, and details of your Trustees/Directors’ full names, residential addresses and dates of birth. Further information or restriction on the use of the grant may be required in some cases.

    • What is a governing document?

      Your governing document is the document that sets out the rules of your organisation. It could be your constitution, articles of association, bylaws, statutes, trust deed, articles of incorporation, or other legal document explaining the purpose of your organisation and how it works. It must include a charitable dissolution clause (ie, what would happen to your assets if your organisation closes down).

    • What do you mean by unrestricted grants? Can we really spend it on anything?

      CAF understands that charities are best placed to decide on how funds can be utilised to strengthen support their communities. Funds must be spent on your charitable purpose, but an unrestricted grant allows you to be flexible and agile, to adapt to new realities and to develop greater resilience.

      As part of the application process we will ask you how you intend to use the grant. We will select organisations which can articulate how they want to adapt their ways of working and/or bolster your core building blocks, rather than organisations which are seeking funds towards direct service provision or capital projects.

      Grants awarded to Community Interest Companies, and other non-registered charities, will be subject to some restriction of the grant use towards specific charitable activities, services or outcomes.

    • What will we need to report on?

      We seek to provide trust-based grantmaking and to hear from our grant holders about the challenges they face and solutions that they build.

      After the funds have been spent, we will ask you to send us your annual report or a general report which describes how your organisation has developed. We will ask you about the challenges and successes during the grant period, what you have learned and what steps you hope to take in the future. We will ask you to provide an image of your work, and a quote from somebody from the community you work with describing the impact that your organisation has had on them. We would like to use the information to help share the story of your work more widely.

    • We need support for our digital work. What can we include?
      We recognise that charities frequently have unmet funding needs for researching and developing a digital strategy, upskilling or levelling the skills-base for volunteers, staff or trustees, and for updated equipment, software and licences. This fund can offer support for any of these areas if you have identified that this is an important part of what is needed to make your organisation more agile. 
    • What webinars, toolkits and networking opportunities will be available to grant holders?

      We aim to provide useful resources for the charities that we support, and we have expertise to share in strategic planning, diversifying income and charity governance, as well as opportunities for online networking. As part of the application form, we ask you what webinars, toolkits or online networking would be most useful to you, to help us prepare.

    • Why ‘Keystone’?

      A ‘Keystone’ is the ‘central principle or part of a system on which all else depends’. It is considered essential to maintaining optimum structure and is a hallmark of strength. Social equity is at the heart of solutions to the challenges facing society today. Unrestricted grant making, backed up by advice webinars and toolkits, is a core method through which CAF can support its mission to accelerate progress towards a fair and sustainable future for all.

    • Where has this fund originated from?

      CAF is able to open the Keystone Fund thanks to a generous donation from a corporate donor in the communications sector.

    How your data is used

    If you apply for this grant programme, you will be directed to CAF’s carefully selected service provider (Blackbaud) to enter the details of your grant application. Your data will only be used for the purposes of this programme. CAF will act as a data controller for the purposes of your data. Please refer to CAF’s privacy policy for more information on how your data will be used.

    How to contact us

    If you have any questions on the application process, please contact the CAF Grant Making team on 03000 123334 or email