'We had prepared for floods and terrorist attacks, we didn't see a pandemic coming' : Head of Scotland's only community foundation on how it supported small charities through 2020

The next year will be a turbulent one for non-profit organisations in Scotland, the head of the country’s only community foundation, Foundation Scotland, has warned.

Activities from Edible Estates, Beechbrae and Circle Edinburgh during the pandemic.
Activities from Edible Estates, Beechbrae and Circle Edinburgh during the pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic will have a long-term impact on the sector, with unprecedented demand for services and funding in 2021, said Helen Wray, head of programmes at Foundation Scotland.

Reflecting on their work to support small organisations and charities in Scotland throughout the year, Ms Wray said leaders at the foundation “could see the crisis coming”.

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"As Scotland’s only community foundation, we knew that charities and grassroots groups would be turning to us,” she said.

Helen Wray, Foundation Scotland Head of Programmes.

"We understood we had to be able to quickly distribute emergency funding to meet the immediate needs of the most vulnerable.”

Foundation Scotland had been in discussions before the Covid-19 outbreak with the National Emergencies Trust, about being their lead partner in Scotland.

The two organisations had discussed possible disasters and unforseen events, but there had been no mention of a viral pandemic.

Ms Wray said: "Together we could be ready to respond to any domestic disaster that might trigger a fundraising response and require funding distribution; be that potential flooding or terrorist acts. Little did we know that within weeks we’d be helping to tackle the effects of a pandemic together.”

Beechbrae, which runs outdoor programmes in West Lothian, was given funding.

Foundation Scotland supplied £6 million in grants to organisations in Scotland by October, prioritising an easy application process and quick, 72-hour turn around to deliver funding.

"We challenged ourselves internally so that we could deliver the support communities truly needed. In addition to National Emergencies Trust we managed significant donations from other organisations, including Scottish Gas Networks, Rockstar and Queensberry Trust,” said Ms Wray.

One organisation to receive support from Foundation Scotland was Edinburgh Women’s Aid, which used £5,000 in funding to support women and children in refuges in the Scottish capital and maintain a confidential helpline.

The charity said it was particularly grateful to receive the support as demand for its services increased during lockdown.

Edible Estates supports community gardening projects.

Circle Edinburgh, which supports vulnerable families and children facing issues including domestic violence, substance use and poverty, also received £5,000.

Chief executive Mark Kennedy said the crisis funding had been “vital” to continuing the work of the charity, which had also seen increased demand for support during lockdown.

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Beechbrae, a woodland social enterprise based in West Lothian, which runs programmes to support mental health and environmental education, was given £4,500.

Almost £4,000 was given in funding to Edible Estates, a partnership of several organisations working with communities in Edinburgh to promote community food growing projects.

The organisation works in particular in areas of Edinburgh which do not contain larges green spaces, and with those who do not have access to private gardens.

Edinburgh-based Fischy Music, which streamed online assemblies through the crisis in a bit to support child mental health, received £1,388.

Ms Wray said she remained “engaged and positive” in the face of challenges as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

"We will continue to search for new funding partners, so we continue to enable,” she said.

"We have now moved our fund to the resilience phase. While we will continue to provide emergency support for those who need it, we are prioritising support for long-term planning, helping to encourage sustainability, despite the continued uncertainty.”

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