I'm not generally a fan of the National Lottery and I've never spent a single one of my Good English Pounds on it. It sells us the empty promise that our dreams will come true and makes people live life based on "when I win the Lottery..."
Yet, I am a massive fan of what's done with the money that is channelled in to the BIG Lottery Reaching Communities Funds. It is brilliant.
It has put in over half a million pounds for Somerville's new building to host youth services for children and young people in New Cross. This money allows a community run organisation to replace a cold (I mean COLD) and dilapidated building with something economical and fit for purpose. They put in £25k for 'development funding' to cover the up-front costs of architects designs and surveys so that the organisation wouldn't be out of pocket if the project didn't go ahead.
They have funded 5 years of contributions to salaries for Youth Workers to run activities in the new building. Many funders offer grants for 1 or 2 years, or 3 if you're really lucky. And they are usually for silly amounts like £10k which obviously doesn't cover a full time salary.
But what has made me really love them is the fact that they also offer up to £15k in 'Building Capabilities' funding alongside the main grant. Organisations can spend the money to build their capabilities as they see fit; I'm helping Somerville to establish a proper online system for data monitoring, reporting and impact assessment which is immensely important for satisfying current and future funders. They will also be able to access training and resources which will directly help them to be even better at what they do on the frontline. Without this funding, there simply isn't the money available to do these things.
The Big Lottery Reaching Communities Funds don't give away their money lightly - the application process is gruelling and they really make sure you're meeting an acute local need. But man is it worth it.
So does the Lottery make a difference to peoples' lives? Well, the players continue to hold onto vain hope of receiving a fortune, but yipeee dooo the community organisations' dreams have come true!