Introduction

The Keystone Fund focuses on small, local or specialist charities working towards social equity in the UK.

The purpose of the Fund is to enable these charities to become more resilient, so that they will be able to provide support into the future as keystones in their communities. In particular, we are looking for charitable organisations who create long-term change with and for their communities, as well as provide in-depth practical support.

The Keystone Fund provides a programme of unrestricted grants, networking and access to advice webinars. As part of this, we introduce CAF’s Resilience Framework to help charities map out and prioritise activities that are designed to build their resilience.

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. Our grantmaking is underpinned by principles of collaboration, so that together we give more.

Grants and further support available

  • Unrestricted grants, intended to enable charitable organisations in the UK to build their organisational resilience, according to identified needs.
  • Approximately 80 grants will be awarded between £10,000 and £50,000.
  • 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.
  • All grant holders will gain access to resources to understand, utilise and embed a resilience-based impact framework.
  • Online networking provides opportunities to get additional support with their resilience building and share good practice with other grant holders.

Who can apply

In order to provide clear guidance to charities considering an application, there are more specific eligibility criteria than in the previous round of this programme. We received more than 1,200 applications for the previous round of the Keystone Fund, of which 77% were screened out at Stage 1 as ineligible or not securely aligned with the Fund priorities. We have reviewed the type of applications received in previous rounds and refined the eligibility criteria for this programme accordingly; we believe that this will support charities to make a decision on whether to apply and for what.

Your organisation must fulfil all the eligibility criteria in order to apply. Your organisation must:

  • Be registered in the UK as a charitable organisation. This includes registered charities and other registered non-profit organisations eg Community Interest Companies, Community Benefit Societies, Company limited by guarantee
  • Have a clear purpose or mission to improve social equity for one or more of these social groups in the UK 
    o Refugees and asylum seekers in the UK 
    o People experiencing racial inequity
    o People at risk of homelessness
    o Deaf and disabled people
    o LGBTQIA+ people
    o Care leavers
    o Women and girls (specifically focused on health, safety or economic empowerment)
  • Provide advocacy which may lead to systemic change, as well as in-depth practical support with and for at least one of these groups
  • Be led by and/or majority-staffed by people with lived experience of the issues you address
  • Have a total income between £250,000 and £1.5m in your last filed accounts
  • Have a level of unrestricted reserves within your last filed accounts which are in line with your published financial reserves policy
  • Not have received a previous Keystone Fund grant, nor other resilience funding from CAF (eg CAF Resilience Fund phase 2 which was awarded autumn 2021, or Playtech Resilience Fund)

We appreciate that organisations may be working to remove barriers for people at the intersection of more than one of these areas.

The Fund is not designed to support direct service provision, capital projects, or to fill urgent financial gaps caused by inflationary or service delivery pressures.
 

Priorities for the Keystone Fund

The Keystone Fund focuses on small, local or specialist charities working towards social equity in the UK.

The purpose of the Fund is to enable these charities to become more resilient, so that they will be able to provide support into the future as keystones in their communities. In particular, we are looking for charitable organisations who create long-term change with and for their communities, as well as provide in-depth practical support.

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

  • A clear understanding of the needs and challenges of the communities you serve
  • Most of your work is with and for at least one of the social groups listed above, rather than being a peripheral or incidental focus
  • An excellent track record of at least 3 years of creating better outcomes for these marginalised communities through a range of activities and/or advocacy
  • In-depth local or regional knowledge and networks
  • An operational or governance structure which provides opportunities for people with lived experience to have a voice in the design or delivery of your services, or to significantly influence your organisational or advocacy strategy
  • A reasonably clear idea of what you need to do next to build your organisational resilience
  • Annual accounts which illustrate the social impact of your organisation as well as a reasonable level of financial sustainability
  • Staffing capacity to engage with and maximise the wider opportunities of the Fund in a collaborative way

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

What can you apply for?

Through the Keystone Fund, we will support you to build the resilience of your organisation.

We ask you to tell us about what you have identified that you need to work on to build the resilience of your organisation. This might include:

  • leadership time or additional external expertise to develop strategy,  organisational capacity or evidencing your impact
  • increasing the capacity for user involvement or for people with lived experience to directly influence services or strategy
  • developing and testing operational policies and procedures
  • researching, training for or embedding technological or digital capabilities

Costs to enable any of these activities might include staff, equipment, training, marketing or overhead costs. Your total request should also provide sufficient time to enable you to engage with and maximise the wider opportunities of the Fund.

You may find it helpful to find out more about CAF’s definition of resilience and read about our research into the six characteristics of a resilient charity through our work with the CAF Resilience Fund. This may help you focus your ideas for your application to the Keystone Fund. Find out more here.

Please read the FAQs for further information on how much you should apply for.

Grants will not normally be restricted to specific projects, but we will ask you to tell us how you intend to use the funds, and will ask you to report on the impact that the Keystone Fund support has had on your organisation and your community.

What we cannot fund

Individuals or Organisations that:

  • Are not fully registered as charitable in the UK
  • Established or registered as charitable after 1 January 2020
  • 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

The Fund is not designed to support direct service provision, capital projects, or to fill urgent financial gaps caused by inflationary or service delivery pressures.
Grants awarded to Community Interest Companies, and other non-registered charities, will be subject to some restriction of the use of the grant towards specific charitable activities, services or outcomes. In particular, funds must not be used to generate profit for activities not deemed as charitable under the guidelines set out by the Charities Act 2011, nor should funds or profits from funds be used to pay any bonuses or dividends to directors of your company.

How and when can we apply?

Application process

A two-stage online application process aims to provide an efficient, fair and transparent process. In the last round, over 1,200 organisations applied, and 250 were invited to apply for Stage 2, from which 43 grants were awarded.

  • Stage 1: you will complete a 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

Please watch this short recording which outlines the priorities of the fund. Further information for applicants invited to apply for stage 2 can also be seen here.

The application form can be saved and revisited on an ongoing basis. It does not need to be completed at one time.

Click the button below to log in and complete your Stage 2 application.
Return to an existing application

Timescale

The planned timescale which we aim to work towards is:

1. Application

  • Stage 1 applications open: 3-22 January
  • Stage 2 invitations and webinar: early February
  • Stage 2 applications open: February

2. Acceptance

  • Grant offer: End March 2024
  • Grant acceptance and due diligence: April 2024
  • Introductory webinar: April 2024
  • Grant payment: May 2024

3. Impact/Reporting

  • Building resilience webinar: May 2024
  • Progress report: December 2024
  • End of Grant impact report: Within 24 months of grant payment

We will offer a short webinar for organisations invited to Stage 2 to ask questions about the grant programme and application process.

Helpful resources

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

CAF Resilience Fund report 2023

Read our new report that shares learnings on how donors can help charities achieve long-term impact.

Read the key findings

Getting a grant

Get guidance on how best to apply for grants and our open grant programmes for charities

Read more

How to write a great grant application

Succeed in your application and you could gain the funding you need for critical projects, however large-scale or focused they are.

Watch the videos

Frequently asked questions

  • What do you mean by social equity?
    The Keystone Fund is looking to support small, local or specialist charities working towards social equity in the UK. We are looking for charitable organisations who create long-term change with and for their communities, as well as provide in-depth practical support.

    Social equity work promotes fairness and strives to ensure that everyone has access to opportunities and resources that they uniquely need to thrive, considering their different starting points. It also looks to remove barriers to opportunities that can lead to unequal outcomes, across different backgrounds and identities. Importantly it recognises deeply rooted advantages and disadvantages that get attached to different groups across every society. It ensures these aren’t reinforced or replicated, whilst working to create long term changes that will eradicate these underlying and systemic inequalities.

    We expect that you will have a clear understanding of the needs and challenges of the communities you serve. It’s important that the main focus of your work is with and for at least one of the social groups listed in our guidance, rather than this being a peripheral or incidental focus. We expect you to have an operational or governance structure which provides opportunities for people with lived experience to have a voice in the design and/or delivery of your services, or to influence your organisational or advocacy strategy.

  • How much should we apply for?

    You should choose to apply for one of 3 tiers of funding.

    • Tier 1: £10,000-£20,000
    • Tier 2: £20,001-£35,000
    • Tier 3: £35,001-£50,000

    The minimum grant has increased from £5,000 last year to £10,000 this year to reflect the significant costs and time needed to prioritise resilience work for your organisation. The tiers have also adjusted to take this into account.

    The tiers are designed to help us compare similarly-sized organisations. You can apply for any amount within that tier. A Keystone grant can provide a contribution towards the impact you seek, rather than the whole amount, but please be sure to explain how and whether other funding is in place to provide other contributions if needed.

    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.  We want to hear about what long-term change you have enabled with and for your communities, as well as the impact of your in-depth practical support. 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?

  • Our charity provides support to refugees and internally displaced people outside the UK. Can we apply?

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

  • 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?

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

  • 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 grantmaking. 

    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 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. We provide a resilience roadmap framework and ask you to complete it to track your progress towards your goals.

    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 with whom you work 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 build your organisation's resilience.
  • What resources and networking opportunities will be available to grant holders?

    All grant holders will gain access to resources to understand, utilise and embed a resilience-based impact framework. We will also provide online networking opportunities for Keystone Fund grant holders for additional support with the planning and implementation of their resilience building, as well as to discuss and share good practice with other grant holders.

  • 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.

  • 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 networking and access to advice, is a core method through which CAF can support its mission to accelerate progress towards a fair and sustainable future for all.

  • Will there be a further round of the Keystone Fund?
    This is the final round of the Keystone Fund. However, if we are able to attract further donors to this model, we will be able to reopen in the future.
  • 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 might include improved efficiency from the new digital infrastructure, freeing up additional resources that can be redeployed to support ongoing resilience building work into the long term. The fundraising work might result in improved financial sustainability enabling longer term planning for the benefit of all the refugees they support. Finally the improvements in advocacy might ensure that the organisation is better able to research needs, influence policy makers and meet its aim of delivering systemic change that can reduce the inequalities refugees experience.

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

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 Grantmaking team on 03000 123334 or email keystone@cafonline.org