I'm making £1.9m available to fund urgent small-charity coronavirus poverty relief

I'm making £1.9m available to fund urgent small-charity coronavirus poverty relief

Update 26 May 2020: All the funds have now been distributed. For how we decided and who got what see my new Martin Lewis: Coronavirus Poverty Fund Blog.  

We face an unprecedented challenge to our health, economy, businesses, personal finance and way of life. And many of those who normally help society – our charities – are going to face similar pressures right now too. 

To try and help I'm going to release £1,000,000 from my personal charity fund to provide grants of £5,000 to £20,000 to small registered charities, or local arms of bigger charities, across the UK – to help with specific UK coronavirus-related poverty relief projects. [Update: We also accept applications from organisations with charitable status including charitable interest companies (CICs), churches, schools, NHS trusts and social enterprises.]

Examples could include foodbanks, charities engaged in community aid, financial advice help and more. My hope is to get the money distributed within the next couple of weeks, and I'm looking for projects that are up and running, or are in the process of being set up – as we want to deliver help at speed. 

To make this happen – as I'm tied up with TV and MSE work providing direct coronavirus help information – I have recruited Archna, a trusted former senior member of the MSE team, and Jonathan, a charity specialist, to review and approve the applications and ensure help is spread across the UK as best as possible.

How to apply

If you are an appropriate official of a registered charity then we've arranged a simple

Thu 26 Mar 2020 – APPLICATIONS NOW CLOSED

As this is all about speedy delivery APPLICATIONS CLOSE AT 11.59pm ON WED 25 MAR 2020 – I'll extend it in the unlikely event we don't get enough applications. If you've questions about the charity grant applications, contact Archna/Jonathan, but please keep them short and sweet – we want to keep this a nimble process.

Two important quick points...

  • Please don't use these contacts for anything else, it won't go to me or the MSE team, they are purely for the grant applications.

  • Please ONLY apply for funds for specific coronavirus projects; there's no point chancing your arm for other charity projects, no matter how good, it will just slow us down in making grants where needed. 

Any very high net worth individuals reading this? 

As I'm setting up an administration process to do this, and filter applications, if any other high net worth individuals or organisations would like to add to this fund (min £10,000 pls, max £100bn – well, I can hope), please get in touch. [Update Thu 26 Mar: While applications have closed, we would still accept more donations.]

I'd be more than happy for the team I've set up to facilitate the distribution of your donation too (and can ensure it's Gift-Aided) – and we can bespoke it if you have a particular area you want to focus on.

That isn't for a second to snub donations that are smaller than that, charities really do need them, but we don't have the infrastructure to deal with them, so please do give directly to the charities yourself.

Update: Last night, after I'd put this together and written this blog, I heard Prince William is launching a National Emergencies Trust coronavirus appeal, which will work across a similar area to what I've planned.

Though I think there are some differences and this may give some charities another bite of the cherry, so I've decided to keep it separate, but PLEASE DONATE TO IT IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT.

Update – we've had £50m+ of applications

The response to this has been incredible – we ended with nearly 7,000 applications requesting well over £50 million. The work for the team I've hastily arranged is staggering, though we still hope to get the first tranche of £250,000 of donations out to charities this week, and the rest within weeks. 

I've had contacts from other big givers (and before you ask: no, they're not names you'd know) and, subject to due diligence, it looks like they may together be adding £1.1 million [UPDATED: Sadly the biggest donation of £1 million is now only 50-50; we're working on it]. I'm so inspired by that, and by the outrageous need out there, that I aim to add a further £900,000 [UPDATED: I'll do this regardless] – bringing the total pot to £3 million.

Of course, that still means £50+ million of applications for £3 million. So frustratingly, while we'll give somewhere between 150 and 600 grants out, that still means we'll be turning down most of them. Based on my briefing, Archna and Jonathan have come up with criteria, and will be applying them based on a formula. Some quick notes to help:

  • This is only for UK coronavirus poverty relief, not international.
  • It's only for UK charities with turnover under £10 million (though local standalone branches of larger charities may be accepted).
  • We are focusing on immediate poverty relief needs – so sadly that means hugely important issues such as mental health (which I already support via MMHPI) and community cohesion won't be included. We have to draw lines somewhere.