Early years opportunities grant


Charities in England and Wales that support disadvantaged children and young people can apply for funding through the early years opportunities grant run by the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

The foundation is one of the largest grant-making charities in the country allocating around £5m a year to charitable causes. It has a five-year strategy to support charities that help disadvantaged children and young people overcome the barriers they face to achieve the best start in life.

The focus of the grants is on creating a more positive future for young people by providing physical and mental health support, parenting programmes, pastoral care, and learning and development opportunities.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) is funded through the donations of freemasons, their families and friends.

Who can apply and for how much?

The programme supports charities that help disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people up to the age of 25.

There are two types of grant. Small grants are for charities with an annual income of less than £500,000. They can apply for a grant between £500 and £5,000 per year for up to three years - no more than £15,000 over three years in total. The funding is unrestricted and the total amount requested should not exceed 15 per cent of the charity's income.

For charities with income above £500,000, there is a large grants programme that offers grants of between £10,000 and £80,000 to fund a specific project.

Charities must be registered with the Charity Commission, have at least one year of published accounts and have their beneficiaries in England and Wales.

What projects are funded?

To be eligible for funding, applicants must show that at least half of the charity's beneficiaries fall within the fund's target group of disadvantaged children and young people, under 25.

Key themes the fund is keen to back include mental and physical health support; young people's learning and development, such as language and communication skills; and pastoral and advocacy support.

Examples of initiatives the MCF will support are:

  • Additional educational opportunities such as improving literacy and numeracy
  • Individual interventions such as parent education, home visiting or mentoring
  • Encouraging healthy behaviours with regards to diet, activity and wellbeing
  • Psychological interventions for domestic abuse and behavioural issues
  • Provision of vital adaptive technologies and equipment removing barriers
  • Alternative methods or specialist therapies to help children and young people integrate into the mainstream education system.

What outcomes is it looking for?

The grant programme guide outlines what the foundation hopes applicants will achieve with the funding. This includes:

  • Children and young people receiving continuous support and interventions
  • High-quality provision of well-qualified and well-trained staff
  • Existing services better supporting the physical, psychological and emotional needs of children and young people
  • More children and young people engaged in sports and social clubs in society
  • Age-appropriate skills developed by the time children get to school or young people enter their first jobs
  • Living in a healthy and stable environment
  • Greater knowledge of options and rights for parents
  • Greater awareness of the subject within the Masonic community.

What won't meet the criteria?

Community interest companies, social enterprises, churches nor umbrella organisations are able to apply. Organisations that have received a grant in the last two years are also ineligible.

In addition, charities that promote political or lobbying activities, arts and heritage, or civil liberties and human rights will not be considered.

How do I apply?

The next round of small grants funding closes on 27 September, with bidders being notified of the outcome by February 2020.

The next round of the large grants programme opened on 13 May with the first stage of the process closing on 19 August. Successful applicants will be invited to submit a second stage application by 27 September with bidders being notified of the outcome by February 2020.

Funding roundup

  • Phase two of the £1.14m Safeguarding Training Fund has opened. The deadline for expressions of interest has passed, but the 20-25 shortlisted charities and social enterprises have until September to submit full applications. It is expected that up to 10 bidders will receive a share of £570,000 to distribute the materials, promote and champion safeguarding/safe culture, and enable local networking and self-support.
  • Chester-based project The Care Leaders has received £50,000 through the National Lottery Community Fund's Lived Experience Leaders pilot programme. The Care Leaders will use the award to create a national support network for care-experienced young leaders and offer leadership development opportunities and a forum to connect care-experienced young people with local policymakers.
  • The Damilola Taylor Trust is providing a free three-month career search and skills development programme for young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds thanks to a £25,000 grant from the Co-op. Applications are open until 31 August.
  • Jack Petchey Foundation is investing £450,000 to fund 20 youth charities to appoint paid interns for an entire year. The foundation aims to tackle the difficulty young people have getting into employment while helping charities attract dynamic individuals who could become future leaders. Each successful charity will be given funding to pay the London Living Wage for an entire year and an additional £1,000 personal training budget can be applied for to help young people develop the skills needed to succeed.

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