The Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO) is holding its first awareness campaign for benevolent funds and grant-giving charities on 22 January. One Day Changes Lives aims to show there are many charities people can turn to when facing a crisis. ACO communications officer Hannah Page outlines the campaign.
What are benevolent funds?
Most benevolent funds were established hundreds of years ago, before the welfare state existed. Each charity would represent a different occupation or group in society to support people who fell on hard times.
They award financial grants when someone faces a sudden unexpected or life-changing crisis. This could include someone, or a family member, suffering an unforeseen illness or disability, or redundancy, leaving them unable to work or facing additional costs. Or a sudden household repair, an unexpected bill or redundancy may ruin a family already struggling. This is where grant-giving charities can help.
How are these charities used today?
Many benevolent funds are taking a more holistic approach to the services they offer and are adding more services to respond to problems people commonly face today.
Most no longer just award financial grants but have expanded their services to include running mental health, wellbeing and counselling services, offering career or legal support, and operating befriending services to combat loneliness. This enables these charities to tackle the root of the cause as to why someone might be approaching them for support.
Some charities have even moved away from the word “benevolent”, removing it from their charity’s name, to reflect that they no longer just award grants.
Do we still need these charities?
Despite their centuries-old heritage, these charities are used more than ever today to help people facing life’s challenges.
Since the 2008 financial crash, the welfare state’s provision for those in need has shrunk. In 2013 the Social Fund, a discretionary welfare benefit that provided financial support in exceptional circumstances, was abolished. There have also been cuts to local services as they faced tighter budgets during the period of austerity. Charities have since been filling the gaps in support.
There may also be times when benefits cannot help. They could be a student, apprentice or lower-paid person in a profession. On a zero-hours contract or part-time employee struggling to make ends meet. They could be someone facing long waiting times getting on to Universal Credit, facing benefits sanctions or waiting for their first paycheque in a new job. These are some of the circumstances where grant-giving charities can step in.
Why do we need an awareness campaign?
People know the big-name charities but many are not aware that there are charities to help those and their families who have ever worked in certain occupations. Nurses, accountants, retail staff, veterans and entertainers all have their own charities. Being a part of a membership organisation, or simply part of a certain group, such as a child or older person, may make someone eligible for support. There are hundreds of charities that most have not heard of.
We want the public to know there are places they can turn to in a crisis. The support offered by these charities could be the lifeline someone needs to get through a difficult time. The campaign will also tackle misconceptions about the sector, including that grant-giving charities only give out financial support without helping in other ways to get someone out of a crisis.
Why One Day Changes Lives?
We chose One Day Changes Lives for our campaign’s name as in any one day in our member charities’ offices they are changing lives. On that day when a beneficiary is informed an application for support has been approved, their lives are significantly improved.
We decided to hold this campaign in January as we know this is a time where people often find they struggle most financially and emotionally post-Christmas. We want to send a clear message that our member charities are there to support anyone that might be going through difficult times.
We want to make the loudest noise possible on 22 January about the good work charities are doing every day to transform lives. ACO is asking its 120 charity members to share stories, videos, case studies and examples of where their support has changed lives on social media on 22 January.
Please let others know about One Day Changes Lives and follow the conversation on social media (@acobenevolence). We also encourage other grant-giving charities or members of the public ever helped by a benevolent fund to share their stories using the hashtag #OneDayChangesLives.
About the ACO: ACO brings together 120 charities to encourage collaboration, learning and best practice in the sector, while also representing member interests. We run regular networking events, attended by sector speakers, and offer training, resources and a monthly member newsletter. For more information visit www.aco.uk.net/page/One-Day-Changes-Lives or contact Hannah Page firstname.lastname@example.org.