COVID 19 Charities Fund Live Event

16 Jun 2020 Sandra Bailie    Last updated: 6 Jan 2021

On 15 June The Department for Communities opened £15.5M COVID-19 Charities Fund will provide grant awards to meet unavoidable costs for charities which have exhausted all other avenues of support and are facing imminent closure.

NICVA and The National Lottery Community Fund held a live event to give our sector more information and answer questions about the Charity Fund on 17 June. 383 people logged on making it not only our first Microsoft teams "Live event" but also our largest to date.

Kate Beggs, Director gave an overview of how the fund had evolved, what principles were applied to the criteria and process and how applications would be prioritised. Jenny Fitzgerald, Programmes Manager then gave more detail about the application process and what information that needs to be provided. They both pointed people to their website that has a short video on completing the financial form as well as comprehensive information about the essential criteria and what organisations need to provide.

We asked people to send in any questions they had in advance and we collated these and asked them to Kate and Jenny at the event. There is a short summary of the replies below or you could watch the event here.



Questions and Answers

Can you tell us how you will treat restricted and unrestricted reserves as part of the selection process?

Having reserves does not exclude an organisation from applying for this fund. We do not expect organisations to exhaust their reserves before applying. There is a section on the proforma where we ask for details on reserves, on designated and restricted reserves. What we do expect is that charities will spend down to the limit of reserves that they have stated in their reserves policy. What we cannot do is help organisations build up reserves. But if you have to start spending reserves to cover costs, that is something we would take into account and potentially cover the essential costs.

Can loss of income be claimed for?

Yes when completing the proforma, the charity outlines their expected income and how this has been affected by COVID19. The Fund will consider any expected loss of public donation and trading income and how this has impacted on the charity’s ability to meet necessary expenditure

Can the fund be used to pay for salaries and other ongoing expenses?

Yes, if it is unavoidable expenditure and charities cannot access other forms of support. Each organisation needs to think about what its unavoidable costs are. These will look different for each organisation. They need to demonstrate why the costs are unavoidable and what plans they have put in place to mitigate their losses. This programme can only provide some financial support and we do expect people to have taken all reasonable steps to secure other funding. This could include speaking to other funders. But if they have unavoidable expenditure they can apply.

Some organisations have not been able to operate due to COVID19, can the fund pay for their expenses?

Absolutely, that is part of the overall aim of the fund. We know many organisations have had to hibernate. We still want those organisations to exist and to be ready to provide services when they can.

Do you have to be a registered Charity?

You must be registered with the Commission or called forward for registration or have submitted an expression of intent form prior to March 2020. Full details on eligibility criteria are on the COVID-19 Charities Fund programme webpage. If you are still unsure you can contact the Department for Communities by email at [email protected]

Is funding dependent on type of organisation or nature of work?

If anybody is unsure, they can look at details of eligibility criteria listed on the website. An eligibility checker is also built into the online form. The Department for Communities can be contacted if you have any further questions around eligibility criteria.

How will applications be prioritised?

We will need to prioritise applications. We will look at the urgency and extent of financial need. More details are available on The National Lottery Community Fund website and Department for Communities website. We will look at how communities look to charities for support. It is not just about the size and type of activities, it is also about the impact that an organisation makes. The fund is not directed at one type of organisation. That is why we did not create this to be a flat rate scheme. We want to be able to award the amount of money that organisation needs. We don’t want people to think that it is not worth their while applying, the idea is to help as many charities as we can. The overall aim is ensure that there is a balanced and diverse sector when crisis passes.

Can those in receipt of government funding apply?

It will depend on size of government funding. You may be eligible if you have small amounts of government funding. It is about proportionality. The only restrictions are the funds that were set up specifically for Covid-19. There should not be too much cross over between those in receipt of those funds and this fund. The Department want to be sure that there is no duplication of payments. The funds which are excluded are outlined on the TNL Community Fund website.

Can existing TNL Community Fund grant holders apply?

Our existing grant holders can apply but they should talk to us first as we may be able to offer additional funding to support them. I advise organisations to get in touch with their funding officer to discuss.

Can you give us some more detail on the grant size and timeframe?

The max grant size is £75,000. There is no minimum grant size. We expect to award different sizes of grants. It will be necessary to provide the most recent set of accounts. We will accept year end 2019 as we know 2020 may not be available yet. We hope to make decisions within 4 weeks of applications being received. We plan to release funding within 7 days of signed offer letter. We are not operating on first come first served basis, we want to operate a rolling basis. Some applications may be deferred.

What about organisations that are part of larger national charities?

An organisation must be operating as a charity in Northern Ireland because these funds are from the NI Executive. Other funds are available in other parts of the UK. An organisation would need to be registered or in the process of being registered or acting lawfully as a charity in Northern Ireland to be eligible.

Can costs of adapting to comply with government regulations re infection control be included in order to open again?

Yes absolutely – any costs that an organisation considers essential to reopen can be applied for within the fund. However, we cannot fund extensive capital projects. Minor structural projects such as the installation of Perspex screens- any minor modifications considered essential to operate can be applied for. But we would have to hesitate over major capital expenditure or system changes as the amount of grant is limited.

What about funding for future needs beyond 30 September?

The criteria were determined by The Department for Communities to ensure that charities in difficulties can get their immediate needs met. The fund is available up to 30th September 2020. I am not in a position to speak for Executive on what further funding may be available. It will be up to the Executive to decide on further funding. This fund is to provide assistance to organisations facing imminent closure. Other funders are also thinking how to support the sector. Funders such as the National Lottery distributors and other Trusts and Foundations can potentially support some of those longer term costs in the sector. For example we have already adapted our current funding programmes to support the sector during this difficult time. Visit the TNL Community Fund website to find out more about other sources of funding. There is also the Dormant Accounts Fund which is worth £20 million. This fund will be used to help the sector to adapt and recover from the pandemic. We will need to look at the development of this fund in line with new circumstances. The things we heard about the fragility of the sector will only gave been exacerbated by the pandemic. The Dormant Accounts Fund will be launching later in the year.

If you have further questions

Please read all of the information available on the DfC website and TNLCommunity Fund website. Also watch the recording of live event if you did not attend it.

If you still have questions or require any more information please complete The Charities Fund Enquiry Form . Staff from the Department for Communities are responding to these by phone or email. They are working 9am-5pm Monday to Friday from home.

More about the Charity Fund

The Fund is limited. It will only be able to provide funding for costs that are unavoidable, so it is important to think about what you can do or have already done to reduce your expenditure. It will not be able to fund new programme activity or costs associated with on-going activity that could be suspended. If demand is high, priority will be given to those charities that communities rely on the most to deliver essential services and to ensuring equitable distribution.

Eligibility Criteria

Charities applying must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:

  1. Have been formed prior to 31 March 2020 and be a lawfully operating charity as defined by the Charities Act (NI) 2008
  2. Have at least two unrelated people on its board or committee
  3. Have a UK bank or building society account in the legal name of the charity with at least two unrelated people who can manage the account
  4. Have been financially stable prior to the impact of COVID-19 and where The National Lottery Community Fund have no concerns regarding fraud or financial mismanagement
  5. Be able to demonstrate that their fundraising or trading income has reduced due to the impact of COVID-19 and they have unavoidable costs to cover up to 30 September 2020
  6. Have unavoidable costs that cannot be covered by existing grants or public funding and are therefore at imminent risk
  7. Have not received other COVID-19 financial support from NI Executive departments:Department for the Economy Small Business Support;Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant, Microbusiness Hardship Fund, £6.5m fund for charities released by the Department of Finance for Hospices and charities 

Who won't be able to apply?

Your charity is not eligible if it is a:

  • Community Amateur Sports Club
  • Community Interest Company
  • Non charitable social enterprise
  • Non charitable trading arm

Your charity is not eligible if it:

  • Was formed after 31 March 2020
  • Submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) after 31 March 2020
  • Was called forward by Commission for registration but failed to apply
  • Was called forward by Commission for registration but your application was withdrawn and you never reapplied when invited to do so
  • Was called forward by Commission for registration but your application was rejected and you never reapplied when invited to do so
  • Has informed the Commission for Northern Ireland that you have or are about to close
  • Has never informed the Commission of its existence

For further information about the fund including assessment criteria and how the DfC will prioritise go to the Department for Communities website

How to apply

You can access the online application form here

You will be asked to provide some evidence to support your application including a copy of your latest bank statement, most recent annual/draft accounts and you’ll need to complete a financial overview template giving some detail of how your income and expenditure has been affected by the impact of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Charities Fund will be open for receipt of applications for a 4-week period until 10 July 2020.

This funding will be distributed as a one-off payment and is intended to cover a shortfall of unavoidable costs from 1 April to 30 September 2020.'s picture
by Sandra Bailie

Head of Organisational Development

[email protected]

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