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Welcome to 2023 – a New Year message from David Knott, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund

Welcome to 2023. As we embark on a New Year, I want to reflect on the year that has been and look ahead at what is to come.

2022 was another tumultuous year. After two years living through a global pandemic, we saw a major conflict start in Ukraine and rapidly growing cost-of-living pressures affecting communities in the UK.

Among these challenges were moments of hope. As pandemic restrictions receded, we began to enjoy again the places, spaces, and moments that bring us together as people and unleash within us the remarkable power of community. 

We marked HM the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, mourned her death, and together celebrated major sporting successes.

The National Lottery was there every step, every moment.

A year in review at The National Lottery Community Fund 

2022 was my first full year as the Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund. £30 million is raised for good causes each week by National Lottery players, and during the last year I got to see first-hand the incredible difference that money makes.

I travelled around the UK and listened and learned from the inspiring and tireless work of charities, community groups, social enterprises and volunteers. In all four nations, in cities, towns and rural villages, I witnessed National Lottery-funded groups that are resilient and determined to deliver lasting change for the communities they - and we - serve. 

Last year we delivered almost £600 million of life-changing funding to communities across the UK, supporting over 14,000 projects to turn their great ideas into reality. Over eight in ten (83%) of our grants were for up to £10k – with many going to grassroots groups and charities that matter to their communities.

I’d like to pay tribute to our hard-working staff and thank the National Lottery players who made it possible for us to back a community project somewhere in the UK every seven minutes. 

And I’d especially like to thank our funded groups, projects and volunteers for supporting people and communities through good times and bad, regardless of the challenges. 

So, what will 2023 involve for The National Lottery Community Fund?

We are here for you

We recognise the continued cost-of-living pressures facing communities and will prioritise being here for you. We will soon share the results of our annual Community Research Index which surveys over 8,000 adults. It digs deeper into how people are feeling about their communities and their ambitions for their local area in the year ahead. Without giving too much away, the story it tells will be familiar to many of us, with hope and room for opportunity set against challenge and deeper crisis. 

The results tell us the sense of community in the UK holds strong, with community connections and volunteering intentions strengthening. And it tells us that, as we found throughout the pandemic, challenge and hardship is drawing us closer and anchoring us firmly to those around us. But it also reveals that communities are predicting mounting pressure on local community-run services and that food banks, debt advice and mental health charities will be at the forefront of high and rising demand.

Our message is simple: we are here for you. Just as we adapted during the height of the pandemic, we are being flexible and responsive in the support we offer. We already expect to commit over £75m to support communities on cost-of-living this year. And we will keep this under review so that we can ensure we continue to support our grantholders to deliver their vital work for communities.

A new strategy to 2030

2023 will see us launch and roll out a new strategy to take us from the here and now through to 2030. Over the last year many of you have been generous with your time and energy, contributing ideas and feedback on how we can ensure we, and our funding, are fit for the future and making the most difference we can. As I set out in a recent blog we have listened and reflected thoughtfully about what we fund and how. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.

We are now sense checking and building this new strategy. We will take a closer look at how we focus on some of the key social challenges we face as a society – particularly climate and environment, health and wellbeing, and opportunity for children and young people. We will ensure that equity, diversity and inclusion, and the premise that National Lottery funding is for all, will be at the heart of our thinking. 

Shane Ryan MBE

Finally, we will challenge ourselves to enhance our own ways of working – from how we work in effective partnerships to how we support civil society and learn from, and share insights from, our work with communities to shape and influence the future.

In this context I am delighted to today announce the appointment of Shane Ryan MBE as Senior Adviser. Shane is returning to The National Lottery Community Fund to play a critical role in shaping how we will deliver great grant making for all communities now and into the future. With his support we will ensure we are putting equity, diversity and inclusion and youth voice, inclusion and opportunity at the very heart of decision making.

Key moments to look forward to and our steady business as usual

While we can’t predict all that 2023 will involve, we are already looking forward to supporting some key moments that will enable communities to come together. We will welcome National Lottery Awards for All applications for community activities to celebrate the King’s Coronation in May and the 75th Anniversary of Windrush in June to recognise the huge contribution Windrushers and their families have made to the UK. 

We are also looking for applications aimed at supporting the Ukrainian community here in the UK, recognising the challenges they face and reflecting the fact that the UK is hosting the Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine this year.

Throughout these moments, and with whatever challenges 2023 will bring, I’m confident you’ll see The National Lottery Community Fund demonstrate our enduring commitment to putting communities first day in day out through this year.

Once again, my thanks for your support and work with us during 2022, and my very best wishes for you and your organisations in 2023 and our work together.

David Knott

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