The volunteering column with Karen Weaver

Members of the Scotton Scorchers Junior Football Club were at the Mercer Art Gallery last month.
Members of the Scotton Scorchers Junior Football Club were at the Mercer Art Gallery last month.

One of the best things about my job at Harrogate and Ripon CVS is that I get to meet amazing people doing amazing things every day. A great example is the reception organised by Harrogate Borough Council for the recipients of their annual Small Grants awards.

Being a member of the Grants Panel is rewarding and tough in equal measures as the fund is always over-subscribed and it’s just not possible to support all the projects put forward, even though you don’t want to turn anyone down.

However when the assessments are completed and decisions made it is all worthwhile when you have the chance to chat to representatives from the successful groups and find out about their projects.

There was a lovely buzz of excitement at the Mercer Art Gallery last month as young footballers mingled with people from village halls, environmental projects, mental health and disability organisations, all delighted to be there and swapping stories about their projects.

It is really important that local voluntary and community groups and organisations are able to access a local grants fund.

Often this is the first time people take on the daunting task of completing a grant application form, and the Small Grants form is kept as straightforward as is possible when handing out public money.

This then gives them experience and confidence to apply elsewhere.

Whilst the amounts of money may not be huge (the maximum amount is £3,000) this local support can often open up opportunities for other applications as well.

Larger funders will always expect to see evidence of the need for a project and will want to be assured that there is local support for the proposals. Receiving an award from the Small Grants Fund really helps with this and success breeds success.

A good example this year was High Batts Nature Reserve, north of Ripon on the River Ure. Established in 1973, the Reserve is operated by a group of charity trustees who actively manage the site to optimise its biodiversity and conserve habitats and species. There is no public access to the Reserve but lots of volunteer involvement and group and school visits are encouraged. The charity applied for support to employ an accredited Forest School teacher to train volunteers, help to work with schools and develop on site children’s activities.

The funding landscape has changed greatly in recent years and in order to ensure future access to local community grants HARCVS has been part of a project team working with Harrogate Borough Council and Two Ridings Community Foundation to create a substantial local endowment fund.

The aim is to boost the amount of funding available each year and also offer some protection from possible further reductions in council budgets.

The partners believe that launching THE LOCAL FUND for the Harrogate District will be the best way to support community groups and help voluntary organisations tackle some of the difficult issues faced by local people such as loneliness and isolation and poor mental health.

This is an exciting and ambitious project to provide a long-term source of tangible support to all those amazing people giving their time and skills to benefit our communities.

If you’re interested in more information about the plans for THE LOCAL FUND please visit or contact me via