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

This marks the 10th anniversary of the transformative support package, valued at over £22,000, extended to small charities in the North of England, Midlands, and Wales. The Awards aim to champion and assist ambitious front-line charities dedicated to Community, Welfare, Youth, and environmental causes.

Under the Weston Charity Awards, unrestricted grants of £6,500 are accessible for up to 22 charities to formulate a strategic sustainability plan and foster innovative growth. Successful charities will also receive complimentary access to the Pilotlight 360 programme, a ten-month leadership coaching package estimated at £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.”

In addition to grants, award recipients will benefit from a comprehensive leadership mentoring package provided by four senior professionals from diverse private and public sector organisations. These empathetic “Pilotlighters” offer expert coaching on various aspects, from enhancing operational efficiencies to developing sustainable long-term business strategies.

One of the beneficiaries of the Weston Charity Awards in 2022 was Nepacs, a Durham-based charity working with families, young people, and children in the North East facing challenging situations related to the criminal justice or care systems. Amanda Lacey, CEO of Nepacs, 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!”

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 Skills Sharing Impact Report revealed that six months after participating in Pilotlight 360, 90% of charity leaders reported a major positive impact on their strategic vision, with 100% noting a positive impact on the effectiveness of their senior management team. Two years post-program, charities experienced a 43% increase in income.

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 across various areas, including domestic violence, 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.

For more information about the Weston Charity Awards, interested parties can attend free Zoom sessions on various dates or visit Supplementary information may be requested by the end of January for longlisting by a judging panel, and the final selection of winners will be notified in May 2024 after a rigorous selection process.