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What we fund

The Trust's strategic review in 2017 decided that the priority for grant-making in the coming years will be campaigning on democratic and political reform.

When the Trust was founded in 1904, Joseph Rowntree, our founder, underlined the importance of working on underlying causes - rather than the manifestations of societal evils. In its political work, the Trust was urged to be mindful of the greatest danger to national life, the power of 'selfish and unscrupulous' wealth which influences public opinion - at that time largely through the press - as well as to work for the purity of elections.

Today the need for wholesale democratic and political reform is urgent; without this many of the social and economic challenges the UK faces will fester.

  • The 2016 EU referendum shone a harsh light on public discontent with the political class and erosion of trust in democracy and parliament. "Take back control" resonated with people who felt disconnected and left behind.
  • The 2017 snap election led to a hung parliament, once again failing to deliver either fair or decisive results. The election was marked by high levels of tactical voting, microtargeting of marginal seats, flawed regulation of election spending and growing influence of social media. Although turnout was up, four in ten under 25s did not vote.
  • Since the election, Brexit has posed profound challenges for a divided electorate, an underperforming economy, devolution settlements under strain and the health of UK democracy. Declining support for democracy, particularly among millenials, has been recorded in many countries.

A multitude of issues press for Trust support - as the range of our recent grant-making testifies. As a relatively small grant-maker, our influence has greater impact if focussed. Directors have selected democratic and political reform as that focus. If power can be challenged and held accountable, if the political system is open and responsive, collaborative and in touch, if we can fix our democracy - then the social and economic problems we face will be easier to work through together.

Our democracy and political reform priorities

We particularly welcome applications for work on:

Electoral reform: ensuring that citizens' votes count, that turnout is high and elections are fair.

Examples could include: campaigning for proportional representation, improved voter turnout, votes at 16, and reforms to election party funding.

An open and responsive democracy: in which executive power is checked by an effective parliament, and power is devolved to the nations, regions and communities.

Examples could include: work to ensure that the Brexit process returns power to parliament rather than the executive, or measures to promote further devolution and related mechanisms for accountability. It could also include measures to enhance "taking back control", making both parliament and government more accountable and responsive to citizens.

Democratic culture is thriving, with respect for diversity, collaboration and informed public debate, encouraging participation.

Examples could include: supporting effective cross-party collaboration; media and social media influence on elections and political trust; and threats to key democratic rights to protest, speak out and campaign.

Other work JRRT will fund

While the Trust will allocate the majority of funding to its work on democratic and political reform, funds will be available for a small number of grants for:

  • Fast response capacity for significant new political developments

The Trust can respond quickly to exceptional political developments.

  • JRRT legacy issues

Limited funding is available for taking work the Trust has previously invested in to fruition, where the applicant can demonstrate that one further grant would "take the issue over the line" to achieve a policy or legislative change.

Type of grants

Applications can be made:

  • To quarterly application rounds for larger grants
  • At any time for small grants of up to £7,500.

Applications should be for campaign activity to achieve a specific change within the period of the grant.

We encourage applicants to talk to the office before developing an application.


Important Dates

Small grants - £7,500 or less

If you are applying for £7,500 or less, you can submit your outline proposal at any time except the weeks in which the deadlines for larger applications fall – see below.

Once your full application is submitted, we aim to inform you of the Trust’s decision as soon as possible and within two to three weeks.

Larger grants – over £7,500

If you are applying for more than £7,500, you need to be aware of the deadlines for submitting your outline proposal and full application. Applications over £7,500 are considered by our Directors at quarterly meetings (approximately one month after the final application deadline).

If you miss a deadline, you will have to wait until the next quarter before your application can be considered.

The final deadlines for upcoming applications over £7,500 are:

  • Outline proposals - no later than 10am on Monday 13 May 2019;
  • Final applications - no later than 10am on Monday 20 May 2019.
  • Outline proposals - no later than 10am on Tuesday 27 August 2019;
  • Final applications - no later than 10am on Monday 2 September 2019.
  • Outline proposals - no later than 10am on Monday 28 October 2019;
  • Final applications - no later than 10am on Monday 4 November 2019.

Meetings with Applicants

Directors may also wish to meet you to discuss your application. Please hold the mornings of the following dates in case you are invited to a meeting with Directors:

  • Thursday 6 June 2019
  • Thursday 19 September 2019
  • Thursday 21 November 2019

Meetings take place in central London. If you are invited to a meeting, the Trust will fund your reasonable travel expenses. Please note not all applicants are invited to a meeting. Whether or not you are invited to a meeting should not be seen an indication of the eventual outcome of the assessment process.

Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd.
The Garden House, Water End, York, YO30 6WQ
Tel: 01904 625744 | Fax: 01904 651502 | E-mail:

For details of the other Rowntree trusts:

Company Registered in England No: 357963
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