Making a difference
National Grid’s Community Grant Programme celebrated its first anniversary in December 2016. Formerly known as Bringing Energy to Life, it’s delivering much-needed support to a wide range of charities and community organisations, with grants totaling more than £380,000 to date.
Making a difference
“Our new minibus is amazing and perfect for taking our young people out on challenging adventures. I’d personally like to thank National Grid for contributing towards the cost of our bus and supporting our group”
Jo Quinney, scout leader with the First Menai Bridge Scout Group
Organisations can apply for funding up to a maximum of £20,000 to support a project to be delivered in 12 months timeframe.
Source: National Grid.
Scratch beneath the surface of National Grid’s Community Grant Programme and there are many inspiring stories about how community projects can flourish if they receive a helping hand at just the right moment.
The principle behind the fund is a simple one: to make a positive difference in the communities where the company’s operations or site activities affect local people.
“Within National Grid we’ve always given support to local charities and good causes,” explains Michelle Lester, Community Investment and Engagement Advisor. “The Community Grant Programme has given that work a structure and focus, so we’ve a clearer picture of all the projects we’re supporting and how they fit with our own values.”
When we created the programme back in 2015, we wanted to bring all of National Grid’s UK community investment together under a single umbrella. But why change the name now?
“The programme was originally called ‘Bringing Energy to Life’. This summed up National Grid’s role in connecting people to the energy they use and our commitment to making a difference in the community. However, we decided to take it back to basics and simply call it ‘National Grid’s Community Grant Programme’. This makes it easier for people to understand that the programme is all about supporting projects that are important to local communities.”
In its first year the programme helped 34 community or charity projects of all shapes and sizes. Each has a story to tell – here are just four examples that have been impacted by our electricity transmission projects:
Making a difference to people’s lives
The First Menai Bridge Scout Group was founded in 1909. Based in Llanfairpwll, Anglesey, it now caters for nearly 100 members (boys and girls) aged 6-18 within Beaver, Cubs, Scouts and Explorer groups. They’re an active set of youngsters supported by a willing team of volunteers. The group applied for a grant of £2,000 back in February 2016 to help fund the cost of a second-hand minibus to take the kids on overseas trips and outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, dry-slope skiing and camping. They already had a minibus but needed a newer vehicle, particularly for an upcoming visit to Belgium. In addition, the minibus is often loaned out to other scout groups in the area, so that even more youngsters can benefit from using it.
Groundworks Oldham and Rochdale was awarded a £20,000 community grant for its Green Doctor project, which seeks to educate people about fuel poverty and offer practical support to affected households. The money will go towards supplying items such as energy-saving light bulbs, draught excluders and hot-water-tank jackets. This will help to reduce energy bills for 125 vulnerable households in wards that feature in the bottom 10% of deprivation nationally – and five of which are in the bottom 3%. The target is to install energy efficiency measures in 50% of the homes by June 2017.
The Yew Tree Community Centre in Walsall received a grant of £3,980 to help with refurbishing the building. The improvements led to an increase in private bookings for parties and other events which has generated extra revenue for the centre.
Inspiring Audio is a not-for-profit organisation that helps budding and established radio producers to create audio resources that will educate and inspire children and other listeners. The organisation applied for a grant of £9,400 to deliver an education project to tell children about energy; why it is needed, how it is produced, how to make it safe and what the future for energy looks like.
Applying for a grant
Grants from the programme are targeted at projects that deliver social, economic or environmental benefits for local communities, ranging from gas and electricity safety initiatives through to conservation projects and retraining unemployed people so they can get back in to work.
Organisations can apply for funding up to a maximum of £20,000 for a project to be delivered within a 12-month timeframe.
Michelle explains: “We receive applications all year round and review them on a monthly basis. We also recognise that making a quick decision is really important for many of these projects. Typically we will notify applicants within 48 hours of making our decision. Funds are then paid directly by BACS transfer, and the entire process from application to funding takes six weeks. This is an unusually quick turnaround for these types of applications.
“For each application, we work with Trust CSR who carry out a well-established vetting process so that we can have complete confidence that the projects meet all the necessary criteria. Once the award has been made, we return to each project after six months to carry out a health-check on their progress.”
What the future holds
As the Community Grant Programme moves towards its second year, what are the aspirations for the scheme?
“First of all, we’re all really proud of what’s been achieved so far,” says Michelle. “Many of the applications we receive are for genuinely exciting projects. It’s great to be involved in a programme that gives so much back to communities; it’s what I love most about my role!
“We want to continue raising awareness of the programme so community groups and charities can understand how we can help them and send us a steady stream of applications.”
Inspiring children through robotics
There’s another dimension to the community grants programme, which involves a partnership with VEX Robotics. The aim is to inspire school children towards a career in engineering through practical, hands-on experience of designing, building and operating robots.
The scheme is open to both primary and secondary schools in areas affected by National Grid’s operations. Schools can apply for grants to receive two different packs of robotics equipment suitable for particular age groups.
Students are encouraged to test their robot and follow the same principles as engineers in the ‘real world’ by documenting everything they do and analysing progress.
Since April, 18 schools in areas as far apart as Cardiff, Coventry and Maidstone have received funding through the programme.
It’s all part of our commitment to addressing the chronic shortage of engineers in the UK. The country needs 100,000 graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects every year until 2020 just to maintain current employment numbers. Currently, only 6% of the UK’s engineers are women.
You can find more information about National Grid’s Community Grant Programme here.