The North East’s most prized landscape area plans to turn to charity to help it cope with Government funding cutbacks.
By 2016-17, Northumberland National Park will be facing a real terms reduction of around 40% of its Government grant.
It is now exploring the potential for philanthropic giving from organisations and individuals who want to see one of the most unspoilt areas in the country both safeguarded and enhanced.
The idea is that they would be much more likely to donate to a charity than directly to the National Park authority.
So the proposal is to set up a programme to encourage and allow philanthropic fundraising for park projects.
This would involve employing a fundraising officer and setting up a charitable body called the Northumberland National Park Foundation to support the work of the authority.
The foundation’s formal purpose would be to “make grants and to provide other support for conserving and enhancing the natural beauty and cultural heritage of Northumberland National Park and promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the park by the public”.
In an attempt to deal with cuts from Defra, described as “significant,” the park has also set a target of bringing in £150,000 in additional commercial income from 2016-17.
The park authority has in the past been successful in securing funding from other Government and European sources, as well as the Heritage Lottery Fund, but these “pots” are becoming increasingly competitive and require a degree of match funding which the authority is finding hard to provide from its shrinking budget.
“There is a growing realisation in the public sector that private philanthropy has a greater role to play in supporting the provision of projects and programmes for the wider public good, for example in such areas as the environment, and the National Park authority now wishes to develop its capacity in this area,” says park chief executive Tony Gates.
The role of the Northumberland National Park Foundation would be to receive gifts on behalf of park authority projects, build up a network of supporters, and generally “beat the drum” about park initiatives.
“The foundation would formally handle the philanthropic funds and ensure their effective distribution to Northumberland National Park Authority for specific projects,” says Mr Gates.
Initially, the foundation would seek to raise at least part of the £3.5m match funding needed for the park’s proposed Sill landscape discovery centre on Hadrian’s Wall.
It is anticipated that the foundation would receive donations from trusts, other foundations, corporate sources and individuals who value the National Park and what it offers.
Mr Gates says: “Many people see as laudable the role that the park performs in heritage, the environment and community terms. Many funders look for a registered charity number as a form of reassurance when donating, and a registered charity can benefit from gift aid on amounts its fundraises from donations.”
The foundation would be an independent body run by a board of trustees. The plans will go before the park authority’s meeting next week.