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About charitable funds and grants - Who can apply for help from a charitable fund?

In this section, you can learn more about how charitable funds work and the support, including grants, that they give to people in financial need.

Who can apply for help from a charitable fund?

All charitable funds have:

  • Aims and objectives in their constitutions that must clearly define who they support
  • Specific qualifying rules (or eligibility criteria) that an individual has to meet in order to get help from them.

Each charitable fund's qualifying rules (eligibility criteria) will be specific to them. However, in most cases they will assist people in financial need/low incomes who:

  • Have particular disabilities or illnesses - for example, Macmillan Cancer Support helps people affected by cancer

  • Worked or previously worked in specific jobs or industries - for example, the Bank Workers Charity helps people who have worked in banks

  • Belong to a particular faith group - for example, there are several Jewish and Christian charities listed on the Grants Search

  • Nationalities - for example, the Netherlands Benevolent Society helps Dutch nationals in need who are living in the UK

  • Living in a particular area of the UK, such as a village, town, city, local council area, county, parish (past or present)

  • Trying to manage on a low income

  • A specific age group, e.g. ‘older people’ or ‘children and ‘young people aged under 18’.

Many funds also help the dependants of people their fund supports – e.g. their partners, dependent children, widows/widowers. Sometimes, they also help ex-partners of someone who meets their eligibility criteria depending on the circumstances.

How is financial need (hardship) defined?

Although you usually have to be in financial need (hardship) to qualify for a grant, this does not mean you have to be destitute.

Most charitable funds would follow the guidelines of the Charity Commission (England and Wales) or the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that you are in financial need if you do not have ‘access to the normal things of life that most people take for granted’, such as adequate housing, heating, food and clothing.

Most charities will set income and savings levels that an individual or family have to be at or below in order to receive their help. This will often be based on minimum income standards, which use detailed research with groups of members of the public specifying what items need to be included in a minimum household budget. The results show how much households need in a weekly budget and how much they need to earn in order to achieve the minimum income standard.

The research organisation Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has published Minimum Income Standard updates every year since 2008. The University of Loughbrough, who does the research for JRF, has more information about Minimum Income Standard and how they work on its website.

Why do people experience financial hardship?

The reasons why people experience financial hardship are complex.

Stressful life situations, such as bereavement, job loss, family breakdown, ill health, disability and caring for someone, are often significant factors, especially if these changes mean someone is no longer able to work. The mounting costs of living and the effects of the UK’s current economic situation have also had enormous effects on personal finances, causing many people to struggle to make ends meet.

Can I get a grant if I am working?

You do not have to be out of work to qualify for a grant. Charitable funds also help individuals who do not qualify for welfare benefits or who are working if they need support because of life changes, stressful family situations or they are struggling to manage on a low income.

Can I apply to the same fund more than once?

If you receive help from a charitable fund and need further support at a later date, you may be able to apply to the same organisation more than once – it depends on their rules.

For instance, if you qualify for a regular grant from an organisation, they may also be willing to help with a one-off grant to buy a particular piece of equipment or furniture you need.

However, most charitable funds will only give one-off grants to a particular individual once a year.

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