Each livery company and guild will have a charitable trust or trusts, with each trust governed by its own trust deed, which sets out how funds may be used.
Charitable giving by the livery is in excess of £67million a year, in addition to which significant sums are also expended by organisations such as the City Bridge Trust, the City of London’s principal charitable foundation.
A relatively small number of livery companies give a significant proportion of the £67million, having built up their charitable trust funds with endowments and bequests over several centuries. Much of their giving is however already designated for fulfilling their historic objectives, such as the advancement of education or the provision of alms houses. Donations by many of the modern companies, formed from 1926 onwards, are on the whole more modest; they will also often be focused on education or on charitable activities linked with their particular trade or profession.
Most charitable trusts receive far more requests for funding than they can possibly deal with. Many requests cannot be accepted as the purpose falls outside the charitable objects defined in the trust deed.
If you are considering applying for a donation, it is therefore particularly important to carry out some research first; this is vital. A small number of well researched and tailor made applications are far more likely to succeed than a wide ranging begging letter.
The starting point when carrying out research will be the livery company’s website. This will contain information about their charitable trust and its activities and may include the criteria for funding. It will often give contact details of the person to whom applications should be sent. This might be a professional member of the company’s staff. If no contact details are given, then you should write to the clerk.
Some trusts issue application forms to ensure that you provide precisely the information they are looking for. Some are happy to have an informal discussion on the phone before an application is submitted. Whatever the process, it is worth finding out as much as possible about the trust as you will need to make a strong case as to why your project will help to meet the trust’s outcomes.
The trustees of the charitable trust, who are responsible for managing it, will probably meet on a quarterly basis. They will not be able to consider applications which are outside the objects of the trust. They will not appreciate vague applications; it is therefore important for you to be specific with facts and figures when telling them why your project needs their money, how you will spend it if given and how many people will benefit, and in what way.
Trusts are carefully regulated by the Charity Commission, to ensure that the public can support charities with confidence, and are required to file an annual return (report) detailing their income and their spending. Larger charities are also required to submit a trustees’ annual report, accounts and an independent examiner’s or auditor’s report. The Charity Commission maintains the Central Register of Charities.