Revitalising trusts in Wales

The announcement from the Charity Commission last week that the Revitalising Trusts project is to be rolled out in Wales is great news.

Following on from a highly successful project in England, the partnership project, funded by Welsh Government, will aim to unlock £25m of unused charitable funds which are just sitting in bank accounts in Wales.

The charity regulator quite rightly takes an interest in this as this is money donated for a charitable cause and not used for its original purpose.

There are often good reasons for this such as charities being unable to find trustees to carry out work, or that the original charitable purpose is no longer fit for these times. In these circumstances the Charity Commission letter arriving to tell trustees about this new project will be a godsend. The trustees will have the option to transfer their trust fund across to Community Foundation Wales, where we will bring it back to life.

We will reinvest the trust fund for better returns and to generate more charitable income. This is one of our unique strengths – we are experts at charitable investment and work alongside our professional fund managers to bring the best returns for community groups in Wales.

We’ll also start using the fund for its original charitable purpose, ensuring communities in Wales get the benefit that the fund founders had initially sought.

One of our funds, the Stanley Bligh Fund, is a great example of how this works.

Stanley Bligh was a Welsh thinker, writer and landowner. He died in 1949 and the proceeds of his estate established the Stanley Bligh Memorial Fund to provide bursaries for students studying agriculture and technical subjects in the arts and sciences. In more recent years the Fund was managed by Powys County Council, who stewarded the endowment and distributed grants in accordance with the Fund’s aims.

In 2008, Community Foundation Wales, working in partnership with the Charity Commission, approached Powys County Council and proposed transferring the assets of the Stanley Bligh Memorial Fund to create a fund at the Community Foundation. Over time, the costs and burden of administration had become difficult for the council to bear – managing charitable trusts understandably is well outside the core business of a local authority.

In 2009, the Council agreed to transfer the Stanley Bligh Memorial Fund, valued at £722k.

The Stanley Bligh Fund is now valued at over £1.2m. In that time the Fund has produced grants to more than 300 groups and individuals, carrying out activities which include studies in medicine, sheep farming and forestry management.

The new Revitalising Trusts project provides an opportunity to help similar trust funds across Wales and the communities they serve. The sustainable funding released through this will  provide a timely boost for the sector as it emerges from the pandemic.

I’m already being asked about when this funding will be available and what areas will receive support. It’s far too early to identify this as it depends entirely on what trusts are identified and the nature of those trusts but we are aware of the interest around this and will provide updates as we progress.

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