Sussex is not often thought of as a deprived county, but scratch below the surface and you'll find problems which desperately need to be addressed and, thankfully, small local charities springing up to address them. But these aren't the Cancer Res...
You would think that the people who give money to charity would want to shout about what they were doing, like the people on the TV series The Secret Millionaire. In the documentary, successful business people go undercover for a week in underprivileged neighbourhoods in order to find people to give money to. At the end of the programme there is a 'grand unveiling', where they reveal their true identities to the individuals who they have met during their stay. It all finishes with the millionaires handing out cheques to those who they feel are the most deserving. But unlike this very public show of philanthropy, Sussex donors are much more private in their giving. The people regularly giving large sums of money to charities in Sussex didn't want to appear to be 'showing off' by speaking to us.But the work they do, mostly unnoticed, is vital in keeping our charities afloat. Latest figures released by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), and the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), show that the proportion of the UK population that gave to charity in 2006/7 dropped to 54 per cent, down 3 per cent from the previous year. Dr John Low, chief executive of CAF, said: "Charities are reliant on the increasing generosity of a diminishing number of donors."Kevin Richmond, chief executive of the Sussex Community Foundation, knows what it's like to work with this situation on the ground. The foundation was established in 2004 with the aim of making it easier for donors' money to reach the small local charities who most need their help, and who otherwise might not be heard about.
They have steadily built up a core group of donors who give regularly to charities across Sussex. "The foundation is all about matching the people who care about the community with the people who need them," says Kevin, "and allowing charities the freedom to spend their money where they need it most. Because of that, charities and the voluntary sector are what democracy is all about."According to the NCVO, the voluntary sector now derives 38 per cent of its income from government sources. "If we totally relied on government money," says Kevin, "we would only do what government wants us to do. Plus one government can't know what is needed in every town and village in the UK, but the people living there do."
From buying new pots and pans for an elderly persons' hospice to providing the money for a summer trip to Chessington Zoo for the children of asylum seekers, grants both small and large have been awarded. And by March this year £400,000 will have been given through the foundation to charities across Sussex by a small number of generous donors.So, who are these very private individuals, and what impact has their generosity had on our community?