We’re delighted to share the news that one of our charity clients has recently been honoured for their activities at the 2022 Charity Awards. The Smallwood Trust, who we’ve been working with since 2006, has rightfully earned the award for grantmaking and funding for their incredible work helping women across the UK.

The motto of the Investec Charities team is “helping you help others.” We feel privileged to continue helping the Smallwood Trust to achieve its mission. We’d like to take this opportunity to share their story with our audience in the charitable sector.

About the Smallwood Trust

The Smallwood Trust exists to help women overcome financial difficulties and improve their social and emotional wellbeing. The charity offers targeted financial support and through its funding, supports partners to end gendered poverty.

Emma Crump, Head of Programmes, told us, “Data shows that the women's sector in the UK is chronically underfunded. We are one of the only funders to solely focus on funding for women's support services and providing cash grants to the women they support. It’s vital that funders like us exist to be a specialist channel for funding, which is often lifesaving, into the women’s sector.”

Nicola Toyer, Head of Charities at Investec, says, “I am really proud to work with the Smallwood Trust. As one of the few national grant-making charities supporting women who may end up in poverty, I feel that the work that they do is essential.”

Surviving COVID-19

The last few years have not been easy for any charitable organisation. Emma explained that the women’s sector has felt extra pressure. “Even before COVID, funding for the women’s sector was already at a real low, and then COVID increased demand for services exponentially,” she said.

“A lot of the organisations we support started to deliver online during COVID for the first time. This is great because they're now able to reach women that might not feel confident or able to engage in-person, but they have also told us about the extra demand this has created, with no increase in resource.” This has meant that Smallwood has had to find innovative ways to make its money go further.

Facing the cost of living crisis

Now, Smallwood is gearing up to face the new challenges brought on by the cost of living crisis. Emma told us, “The evidence shows us that women are more adversely affected by the cost of living crisis than men. Certain groups of women, including single parents or women with no recourse to public funds, are even more adversely affected.”

Plans are already in motion to support women through this difficult time. Emma shared, “At Smallwood, one thing we do is offer multi-year grants wherever possible and most recently, we increased our funding for networks of women’s organisations and services to help them to work together. We know that organsiations working with women in local areas are very aware of how local systems can make women’s poverty worse, but that they often do not have the time or capacity to push for change. We recognised the need to support these networks to stimulate ideas and approaches that will tackle the root causes of, and help reduce, gendered poverty in their area.”

Investec will be working closely with the Smallwood board of trustees to help work continue uninterrupted. Nicola says, “Now, more than ever, it is important that local communities are empowered to help women in challenging circumstances. Our primary objective is to help the Smallwood Trust maximise its financial return to support their grantmaking priorities, which will allow them to continue to meet their mission of helping women facing financial adversity.”

Smallwood’s innovative approach to grantmaking

One of the core elements of Smallwood’s work is its Community Grant Partnerships programme, which aims to shift power for grant decisions to local community groups, most of which are led by and for women. Organisations are able to use the funds to provide small cash grants to individual women to help them overcome personal and financial barriers, helping them to make changes in their lives. Emma describes it as a “complementary service that organisations that support women can provide on top of the incredible work they're already doing.”

Through this programme, Smallwood Trust maximises the impact of its grants in several important ways:

1. Combining funding and support

Smallwood’s 29 partners across the UK offer women’s services related to housing, domestic abuse, mental health, criminal justice, employability, and many other issues.

As well as proving grants, Smallwood works closely with these partner organisations, offering an operational toolkit and evaluation support so that they can deliver the grants in parallel to their existing work. This might be 121 advice, advocacy, workshops, guidance and signposting. Emma explained, “Financial support is really important, but evidence shows that grants plus support combined helps women to have the best long-term outcomes.”

2. Including overhead costs

While some funders demand that 100% of the grants they provide are delivered directly to those in need, Smallwood takes a different view, knowing how stretched the budgets are for organisations in its sector. 

“As well as providing funding for individual grants we also provide a contribution towards overhead or administration costs which organisations can use as they see fit and to cover additional time or resource needed to award the grants,” said Emma.

3. Giving partners autonomy

Often, the restrictions that funders place on how grants can be spent make life difficult for the recipients. So, Smallwood takes a different approach to give them more freedom. Emma told us, “Our community grant partners are used to applying for grant funds for individual women. Having the money themselves and the autonomy and trust to spend that money offers the flexibility needed to best meet individual women’s needs.”

Smallwood can do this because they have carefully chosen their partners and can trust that they know they know their communities better than anyone. Emma said, “We partner with organisations that are embedded within their communities often reaching the most disadvantaged women where a grant or a series of grants coupled with the support can help unlock barriers.”

Celebrating the impact of the Smallwood Trust

It is for this Community Grant Partnerships programme that Smallwood won the award for grantmaking and funding at the 2022 Charity Awards. These awards recognise and reward organisations that do exceptional charitable work and are judged by a panel with significant experience in the voluntary sector.

The team at the Smallwood Trust is humbly delighted with their win. Emma said, “What’s so good about winning the award is that, really, it has been won not just by Smallwood, but by the partner organisations that we're working with. Without them delivering and shaping the programme, it simply wouldn’t exist.”

Nicola adds, “We were thrilled that the Smallwood Trust won this award, which highlights all the incredible work they have been doing to help women across the UK. We wish to congratulate the whole team for their hard work and dedication to the sector.”