Welcome to 2022 – a New Year message from David Knott, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund
As we start a new year, and look ahead to 2022, I reflect too on the year that has been. 2021 – another year defined by a global pandemic – proved to be full of pace, change and challenge, but also moments of pride.
Throughout 2021, our mission - helping people and communities to prosper and thrive – felt more needed than ever before. As the country adjusted to living with COVID and all its uncertainties, we responded by focussing our funding to support communities across the UK to where it was most needed.
£30 million a week for good causes
Thanks to National Lottery players, who raise an astonishing £30 million a week for good causes, we were able to fund a vast array of community groups and projects last year.
Their work is incredible, whether bringing people together to tackle loneliness and isolation, providing support to families dealing with domestic abuse, providing upskilling opportunities to help young people into work or assisting entrepreneurialism within communities needing support, such as refugees, National Lottery-funded projects are at the forefront of improving lives and helping communities across the UK prosper and thrive.
The resilience of the groups we fund and their dedication to supporting communities was a personal bright spot for me last year, including visits to projects like Empire Fighting Change in Bristol, Welsh House Farm Community Grafters in Birmingham, Green Squirrel in Cardiff and Bolster Community in Belfast. In 2022 I am looking forward to meeting even more of them. Not only is this uplifting and motivational, it helps me connect with our purpose and what we here at the Fund can do to best support their endeavours.
Impact of our funding and our renewed commitment to communities
Last year, aside from our funding, there were two organisational achievements of which I am particularly proud: the publication of Putting Communities First, which set out the impact National Lottery funding has had on communities across the UK over the last 5 years, and our renewed Commitment to Communities.
I cannot tell you how it made me feel to learn that over the last 5 years we distributed £3.4 billion to communities across the UK. £1 billion was paid out in 2020 alone, as charities and grassroots groups rushed to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdowns (our latest numbers show that in the last 12 months we gave out nearly £600m to 12,500 organisations reaching every local authority and constituency in the UK.)
Our funded community projects supported well over 5 million people across the country each year – with 97% of grant holders reporting improvements in their participants’ mental health and self-esteem as well as increased social contact.
Over the last three years over half (51%) or £568 million of our funding went to the most deprived neighbourhoods in England.
These are just some of the highlights and being able to unpick and tell the story of this impact is incredibly important to me. Both of these activities – the report and our Commitment – were about demonstrating how we are putting communities first. Building on this will be a priority as I lead this incredible organisation into 2022, in ways I set out in November.
So what does the year ahead bring?
We, along with the other National Lottery distributors, are looking forward to supporting #Celebrate2022 – a momentous year of celebration and national pride spanning the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the Commonwealth Games and Unboxed, a celebration of the UK’s creativity.
This spring, we’ll be awarding a total of £3.5million from our Platinum Jubilee Fund to 70 impactful community projects across the UK. Focusing on intergenerational activity, community renewal, and our shared natural world, successful projects will deliver activity to help celebrate Her Majesty’s 70 years of public service.
In addition, grants of up to £10,000 from The National Lottery Awards For All programme – which gives out almost £80million of National Lottery funding in all parts of the UK each year - will be available for community-led events.
The Platinum Jubilee weekend will also be celebrated with The Big Jubilee Lunch from 2-5 June. Part of a 2-year programme of activities supported by £2.3million of National Lottery funding, this Jubilee-focused version of the annual Big Lunch event will bring thousands of communities together and help people celebrate the Jubilee while getting to know their neighbours.
Research reveals greater connection to our communities
We’re really excited to be supporting all the above, but there is also a real sense that #Celebrate2022 is coming at the right time for the UK. Next week we will be revealing the findings of our latest Community Research Index – an annual survey of over 8,000 adults across the UK designed to track how people are feeling about their communities and their ambitions for their local area in the year ahead.
Without giving too much away, the findings tell us that people are feeling increasingly connected and part of their local community, and that young people are leading the way. This spells a positive future for the strength of the UK’s communities and the crucial role they play in all our lives.
As well as being of wider interest, the data also helps us as a funder to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the people and communities we serve – it is just one of the many ways in which we will continue to ensure our work is evidence-based and grounded in what is demonstrably wanted, needed and works.
I’m also looking forward to the first grants being awarded in 2022 from an exciting new £50 million programme we announced in summer last year to boost funding and support to black and minority ethnic community-led organisations over the next five years.
The Phoenix Way is designed as a partnership and we've been working hard to develop the framework, systems and processes to enable this to happen and we expect to be able to announce details of the first round of funding this year.
Like so many public organisations, the last two years have been among our busiest ever. Just as our communities are looking to rebuild, 2022 will also see us start our own strategy renewal process – this will be about learning from our past, taking forward the best bits and building upon this bedrock to ensure we’re fit and ready for the future.
A big focus will be to ensure that fairness and inclusion runs through our grant making and becomes part of our organisational DNA. You can expect us to continue putting communities first in all we do, and prioritising ensuring we have a fair, inclusive and consistent culture for all at The National Lottery Community Fund.
These efforts are important - I am committed to ensuring this organisation is a great grant maker and a great place to work. This will ensure we are able to attract and retain the talent we need in order to support communities and for our funding to continue to have a positive impact on people’s lives.
As we head into 2022, I want to take this moment to say a big thank you to all our staff, our committee members and our thousands of grant holders, who collectively do so much to ensure people and communities in the UK are better able to prosper and thrive. And of course, National Lottery players, without whom our funding would not be possible and without whose support the UK would be a very different place.
Thank you all and I wish you a happy, prosperous and thriving New Year!