Weston Charity Awards Open for Wales and Midlands Charities Seeking Specialist Business Support

Applications for the Weston Charity Awards 2024 are officially open thanks to a collaboration between The Garfield Weston Foundation and charity partner Pilotlight.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the transformational support package worth over £22,000 to small charities in the North of England, Midlands, and Wales. The Awards celebrate and support ambitious front-line charities working in Community, Welfare, Youth, and Environment.

Through the Weston Charity Awards, unrestricted grants of £6,500 are available for up to 22 charities to develop a strategic sustainability plan and accelerate innovative growth. Successful charities also gain free access to the Pilotlight 360 programme – a ten-month package of leadership coaching worth an estimated £16,000. 

Philippa Charles, Director of The Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “This year is the tenth anniversary of the Weston Charity Awards. Now more than ever, charities are seeking help to ensure a robust strategic future. The Awards underscore the Foundation’s passion for nurturing and empowering charities to thrive and support those who need it most.”

Alongside grants, award winners receive an unrivalled package of leadership mentoring from four senior professionals across diverse private and public sector organisations. These empathetic “Pilotlighters” offer in-depth expert coaching on everything from creative operational efficiencies to sustainable long-term business strategies that take an organisation to the next level.

One beneficiary of the Weston Charity Awards in 2022 was Nepacs. The Durham-based charity works with families, young people, and children in the North East dealing with adverse situations such as those affected by the criminal justice or care systems. Nepacs CEO Amanda Lacey explained: 

“We were thrilled to be successful in our application to join the programme, not quite knowing what to expect, but we were really open to what the project would bring. […] We benefitted most from the space it allowed us to think and plan – which you don’t always get when you are busy working and delivering operationally.  Being challenged on our processes by the Pilotlighters didn’t feel critical, but instead it helped us consider other things and broaden our thinking.

“As a result of the programme, we have a new three-year strategy document – which I am really proud of. [..] We are greatly reassured that in developing it, we have been challenged by impartial experts across a variety of fields, to make sure the strategy is robust and that it articulates the right course for us. […] A huge thanks to the Pilotlight Team and the Garfield Weston Foundation!”

Another Weston Charity Award winner in 2016 was Skipton children’s charity, SELFA. The charity supports over 400 children and young people aged 4-25 across North Yorkshire experiencing vulnerabilities through wellbeing programmes, peer support, workshops, trips, and residential breaks.

Emma Pears, Chief Officer at SELFA, said: “In the seven years since we completed Pilotlight 360, we’ve kept moving forward – our income has increased threefold, we now have a diverse and secure funding streams as well as clear financial planning […]. All of this at a time when charities have been under more pressure than ever before, both financially and in terms of demand for our services. 

“I’m not sure if we’d be where we are now without the Garfield Weston Foundation and Pilotlight; the intensive support […] helped us future proof our organisation for the challenging times we’ve faced since. I can honestly say that the year spent with Pilotlight was the most impactful time in my 20+ years career in the voluntary sector, and we are still reaping the benefits of the opportunities that it brought many years later.”

A recently published Skills Sharing Impact Report showed that six months after participating in Pilotlight 360, an incredible 90% of charity leaders said the programme had a major positive impact on their strategic vision, with 100% saying it had positively impacted the effectiveness of their senior management team. Two years on from Pilotlight 360, charities increase their income by 43% (based on five-year rolling averages).

Pilotlight CEO, Ed Mayo, said: “Times are genuinely tough for people. Many charities supported through the Weston Charity Awards are small-sized and based in the most deprived areas of the UK. We give them space to think, access to the skills needed to help their communities, and a clear path ahead. I am grateful to the Garfield Weston Foundation as funders and our business experts who make this possible.’

Last year’s Weston Charity Award winners provided critical services to 48,541 people. The charities worked across various areas, including domestic violence and sexual abuse, Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND), social inclusion, alcohol and drug advisory services, environmental impact, ex-offenders, care work, refugee action, and adoption and carer support.

Registered charities over two years old (with at least one paid full-time member of staff in a leadership position) and an income of less than £5 million per year are eligible to apply. The application deadline is 5 pm on Wednesday, 10 January 2024.*

Find out more about the Weston Charity Awards by attending a free Zoom session at 2 pm on Wednesday afternoons:

Register for an online session or see full entry criteria at www.pilotlight.org.uk/weston-charity-awards

*Supplementary information may be sought by the end of January for longlisting by a judging panel. A rigorous selection process is then required to handpick the very best third sector organisations worthy of recognition for their achievements. Final selection takes place and winners will be notified in May 2024.