Charities across the Midlands are to receive support from teams of business people as the Weston Charity Awards expand to the region following its success in the North. The Garfield Weston Foundation says it is determined to help more charities become more effective and resilient as the current economic climate continues to hit front-line charities across the country.  
The Garfield Weston Foundation’s Director, Philippa Charles, explains:
“Charities in the Midlands are facing unprecedented pressures due to public spending cuts and unfortunately we don’t see the situation improving soon. There are many talented charities in the region with people depending on them. We’ve seen the demand for their services grow continuously in the past few years which is why we want to give these organisations every chance to succeed by expanding the Weston Charity Awards to cover the Midlands.”

The Weston Charity Awards will help charities working in Youth, Welfare and Community across the North of England and the Midlands, including cities and rural areas from Coventry to Carlisle, Huddersfield to Hartlepool. In 2016 eighteen winning charities will have access to a team of senior business leaders through Pilotlight, which will help them plan for success.
Sue Allen, Manager of Hope Community Project in Wolverhampton, says she welcomes this type of support in the area:

“I think it is crucial for smaller charities to have access to this type of support in order to move forwards and be sustainable. Having expert advice to identify the gaps will be extremely helpful.”

The present economic landscape in the Midlands places charities at the centre of a ‘perfect storm’, where public spending cuts are met with an increased demand for their services. This indicates that the programme meets a genuine need, as demonstrated by Dr Beth Breeze, Director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, who evaluated the Awards and concluded that they are “clearly an innovative, successful and well-received programme”.
To date, six charities have already completed the year-long Awards Programme and all have reported multiple positive impacts, including improvement to their strategic vision, staff morale and increased confidence in the future. A further twelve organisations are currently participating across the North.
Pilotlight’s Chief Executive, Gillian Murray, says: 

“You’d be surprised to see how many small organisations are delivering services they have no funding for, but people depend on them so they can’t walk away. Of course, this is not sustainable. By harnessing the expertise and strategic vision of a team of senior business executives, charities have the opportunity to look at the bigger picture, operate more effectively and become sustainable as a result.”

Today’s challenges for charities in the Midlands are not only about funding, but include finding the time, headspace and expertise to plan strategically for the future.
Dionne Reid, CEO of Women’s Work Derbyshire questions how to become sustainable when dealing with high demand for their services:

“How do we become sustainable if as the CEO I can’t get my head out of day-to-day activities and think long term? I think strategic support is a necessity for charities that are forward-thinking.”

Charities working in the North and Midlands are invited to apply to receive a year of strategic planning support through Pilotlight and unrestricted funding. A total of eighteen winners will be selected to work with Pilotlight to help them achieve their goals.
Applicants can access the website to find out more – the deadline for applications is 15th January 2016.