By April Armstrong, Local Community Fund Manager 

As a Co-op, we’ve always put local communities at the heart of what we do, but after the challenges of the last year and the social inequalities that have come to the fore, there’s never been a more important time to continue this work as part of our vision of ‘Co-operating for a fairer world’. 

One of the ways we do this is through our Local Community Fund, enabling Co-op members to support local grassroots projects that they care about. Since 2016 our members have raised more than £70m for over 21,000 community projects supported by the fund. 

The fund is now open for applications, so we can support even more local causes across the UK – and you can play your part too. 

The  challenges of the  pandemic aren’t over

Last month we reached out to the current causes being supported by the fund to understand how they’re responding to the challenges they’re facing. Over 3,000 small charities, social enterprises, community groups and voluntary organisations responded, making it one of the biggest surveys of its kind. 

We got really some interesting insights from our causes   about the difficulties they’ve faced during the pandemic, with more than half seeing available funding decline. However, not surprisingly, three quarters are expecting to see demand for their services increase as lockdown eases. This included a huge  94% of groups  working to support mental wellbeing,  96% of  groups supporting young people and  83% of those tackling food poverty – all areas of focus for our Co-op community plan.

Sadly, less than 20% of these causes expect available funding to increase to help them meet this demand. That’s why the support of Co-op members is more important than ever. 

The Local Community Fund supports community projects that:  

  • enable people to access food and co-operate together to feed everyone   
  • help improve people’s mental wellbeing  
  • offer young people opportunities to develop new skills and make a difference in their community 

Please encourage local groups to apply at coop.co.uk/causes.  

More support for causes on Co-operate 

When causes apply to the Local Community Fund this year, they’ll also be able to benefit from Co-operate, our online community centre. They’ll be able to come together, gain help and support from like-minded  people and  causes regardless of whether their Local Community Fund application is successful. This is an exciting development which  shows  the power of co-operation  beyond funding. 

Rosa Trelfa, Director of Operations at Peer Talk, which is a current Co-op Local Community Fund cause, used Co-operate to encourage Co-op members to select them. 

“The site is straightforward and so easy to use. Our local Member Pioneer supports us and the Local Community Fund is helping us financially. Now Co-operate is raising our profile in the community.” 

Share the opportunity 

Do you know a family member or a friend who volunteers at a local group? You can help us by letting them know that we’re open for applications for the Local Community Fund. Spread the word on social media via the social hub

You can also add a sign off to your email signature or share our digital leaflet – these can be found here along with other materials to help you promote.