Skills & Opportunities Fund

Helping people help themselves

Our Skills & Opportunities Fund is one of the many ways we’re contributing to the communities we live and work in. In 2016, we gave away a total of £2.5m across the Group to fund projects in charities, social enterprises, community groups, state-funded schools and colleges across the UK and Ireland, and we have allocated a further £2.5m to be split across two rounds in 2017.

Our focus for this funding is to support organisations that help people in disadvantaged communities to develop, create or access the skills and opportunities they need to help themselves, specifically in the areas of financial capability and enterprise. We believe that helping people gain such skills and access opportunities to learn can help turn their lives around and build better communities for everyone; when we build stronger communities, we all grow.

We want to support as many people and organisations as possible. So, even if your project doesn’t make the shortlist, we may still be able to offer our skills and expertise to help you get your project off the ground. To be eligible for this type of support, make sure your project meets the regional priorities and the set criteria before you apply; where we believe we can add value and your project has particular merit – we will contact you.

Supporting local communities

We’ve split the country into seven regions, each with its own decision making board, in order to distribute our Skills & Opportunities Fund. Although all regions will be looking to fund projects that enable people to help themselves, each will have differing priorities that recognise regional differences. Prior to applying for funding, you must look at your region’s priorities by clicking on the links below, and make sure your application complies with the requirements otherwise your application may not be eligible and may get rejected. Grants up to a maximum of £35,000 can be applied for.

We are making some changes

We are making some changes to our website and how we communicate the Fund to put more focus on what is important in the local communities that we live and work in. In addition to refocusing our website on the priorities for each region, we will also be bringing you updates on the difference that previous winners have made in their communities. If you would like to receive updates about these changes, please register your details here.

Regional priorities

To make a difference in our communities we need to focus on what is important in each local area.

Below you can learn more about priorities in each region – and the kind of projects they are looking to support.

  • Island of Ireland


    Northern Ireland

    "In Northern Ireland, we welcome applications for funding for grants of varying sizes. While larger grants are available, we particularly welcome applications for smaller grants ranging from £1,000 and upwards to support smaller-scale projects.  We want to fund projects from not for profit organisations that support financial capability, financial inclusion, enterprise and entrepreneurship that focus on driving inclusive economic growth and improving social mobility in local communities where there is a measurable economic or social impact.

    We are particularly interested in rural groups and in initiatives that provide opportunities for our staff to further support through volunteering and sharing their business skills."

    Northern Ireland Board Chair – Richard Donnan

    Read about winners in Northern Ireland

    Republic of Ireland

    "In Ireland we welcome applications to fund projects that help people become more financially capable and to start their own businesses.   Financial capability projects could include helping people with budgeting and money management, supporting access to banking and financial services whether that be learning about digital banking, understanding financial terminology or simply understanding more about frauds, scams and financial abuse.  We also want to encourage projects that help people start their own business for the first time, to develop confidence and business start-up skills such as finance, marketing, book-keeping and the like.  All projects must be based in disadvantaged communities, and grants can vary from €1,000 right up to €35,000.  We particularly welcome applications for smaller grants ranging from €1,000 to €10,000 for local community projects in rural and urban areas that meet the funding criteria.  New projects are welcome, as are proposals to widen the reach of existing successful projects – with the overall aim being to promote inclusive economic growth and improve social mobility.

    As in previous funding rounds, we will be glad to support projects that provide opportunities for our staff to get involved through volunteering and sharing their varied skills."

    Board Chair – Eddie Cullen, Managing Director Commercial Banking Division, Ulster Bank Ireland DAC

    Read about winners in Republic of Ireland

  • South East

    "In the South East, we want to fund projects that can deliver measurable social impact and make a real difference in our disadvantaged communities. We will firstly consider any project in the South East that supports either or both of our key priorities of developing enterprise and financial capability in the region. We also aim to spread the winners' pool of funds across a broad range of successful organisations whilst maintaining key funder status where appropriate. The best of luck to all who choose to apply."

    South East Board Chair – Tim Boag

    Read about winners in South East

  • South West and Wales

    "In the South West and Wales region, we want to support projects that will help people investigate self-employment and start their own business and also support organisations that help to improve the financial education of disadvantaged people and help them manage their personal finances more effectively. Where organisations have volunteering opportunities for our staff, whilst not essential, we would also like to hear about these."

    South West and Wales Board Chair – Oliver Watts

    Read about winners in South West and Wales

  • Midlands and East

    "In the Midlands and East, we’re looking to encourage projects to help build a long-lasting legacy and make a real difference in our disadvantaged communities. We’d like to fund projects that can deliver measurable positive social impacts which help entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. We also want to support projects that improve the financial education of disadvantaged people, help them to manage their personal finances more effectively and with an aim of gaining a recognised qualification." 

    Midlands and East Board Chair – Janat Hulston

    Read about winners in Midlands and East

  • London

    "In London we’re determined to make a difference to the communities that need it most.  We’re looking to fund projects that can deliver measurable positive social impacts, which help disadvantaged people in London to succeed with programmes that improve financial capability and provide skills that support London’s growing enterprise and entrepreneurship community.  We are particularly interested in projects who want to partner with us to leave a lasting legacy and provide volunteering opportunities for our teams."

    London Board Chair – Phil Northey

    Read about winners in London

  • Scotland

    "We would like to fund a diverse geographical spread of projects throughout Scotland, in line with the fund priorities of developing enterprise and financial capability, which demonstrate a measurable social impact in our most disadvantaged communities."

    Scotland Board Chair – Malcolm Buchanan

    Read about winners in Scotland

  • The North

    "For this round the North Board have focussed on two specific areas of activity.  We want to fund projects that: 

    • Help people investigate self-employment and start their own business.
    • Improve the financial education of disadvantaged people to help them manage their personal finances more effectively.

    While we are keen to see applications submitted from across our region we would encourage organisations from outside the larger metropolitan areas to apply."

    North Board Chair – Richard Topliss

    Read about winners in The North

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Round 1 2017 open for applications

In 2016, 95 organisations were awarded funding in total. You can read more about our winners here

Apply now for your share of our 2017 £2.5m Skills & Opportunities Fund and make a difference to the lives of those around you.

 

Apply now