It all comes down to a question of money

Nobody really likes talking about money, but it’s an important factor that can’t be ignored when it comes to providing a community-based service such as Meeting Centres. Chaired by Professor Dawn Brooker MBE, the May Meeting Centres webinar looked at funding aspects from three different perspectives:

  • What motivates a funder to fund a Meeting Centre
  • What it’s like as a Meeting Centre seeking funding
  • How to find out what people might be willing to pay to attend a Meeting Centre

First up giving a funder’s perspective was Arlene Crockett, Director of Evidence & Influencing Dementia Programme with the Life Changes Trust. Set up by the Big Lottery in 2013, Life Changes Trust has funded 267 organisations across Scotland, benefitting nearly 20,100 people with dementia and over 12,300 unpaid carers of people with dementia. Less than half of people with dementia are offered post diagnostic support, and much of that provision has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the importance of the work being done by Meeting Centres.

Life Changes Trust funds a variety of projects at both local and national level, including a large number of Dementia Friendly Communities. The Trust focuses on funding community-led grassroots groups that start small can be more sustainable due to greater buy-in at ground level. Rather than there being a potential competition for funding between Dementia Friendly Communities and Meeting Centres, they are often complementary, with Meeting Centres being seen as a natural development route for some Dementia Friendly Communities. Indeed, Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre itself evolved from a Dementia Friendly Community initiative.

Recognising the work being done my Kirrie Connections, the Trust has committed funding to support it for 18 months, not just for the sustainability of the individual Meeting Centre but also as a strategic element within the work being done nationally around Meeting Centres in Scotland. For Life Changes Trust, Meeting Centres and Dementia Friendly Communities sit together comfortably and have the potential to provide a good underlying structure and platform for delivering a wider range of post diagnostic support.

A key resource from Life Changes Trust is ‘Dementia: A whole life approach – a resource for creating better lives’ which can be found via their website at www.lifechangestrust.org.uk/publications. You can connect with Life Changes Trust on Twitter @lifechangestrst

Next up was Graham Galloway, Chief Officer at Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre, who shared his experiences of some of the different types of funding available to Meeting Centres. He gave many tips and bits of good advice that I’m sure many webinar attendees will take away and benefit from, but here’s a summary of some of the key points:

  • Grant funding – Search grant sites and sign up for alerts to know when new grants become available. Build a relationship with funders as many are happy to answer questions or discuss applications which can make them stronger. Some offer training or workshops which it’s good to make use of. Be aware that it can take time to put grants together as well as any reporting that may be required once funding has been awarded, so make sure you have relevant staff in place to support this. Including a management fee in your budget when applying can help with this, but not all grants will allow this.
  • Fundraising and events – Register with HMRC to ensure you can claim Gift Aid on donations. Be aware that the use of cash is declining, even before the pandemic hit, so consider ways of accepting card payments at events. Get your PR and social media working so people know who you are and what you’re doing. High profile events can also help to increase awareness of your Meeting Centre. (sorry Graham, couldn’t resist sharing this image from your recent – and very successful – Kilt Walk!)
  • Membership fees – Using membership fees to become sustainable may not be possible due to the relatively small numbers of people who attend Meeting Centres each day, but they can still be important as a means of showing potential funders that you can actually generate your own income.
  • Donations, wills and legacies – You may have to search for local trusts via a charity regulator website as many don’t publicly advertise what they offer, but can still provide financial support when contacted. As well as donating raffle prizes, local businesses may donate services and goods so it’s worth asking around. Families may also use wills and legacies to show their support and how much a service is valued.
  • ‘In-kind’ support and volunteers – Local businesses might provide free labour to help out with some projects, while many large businesses have Corporate Social Responsibility programmes that you could benefit from.

So while it’s clear that there are many options out there, it’s worth bearing in mind that it does take time, effort and energy to access them.

You can connect with Kirrie Connections on Twitter @kirrieconnect or Facebook @kirrieconnections

Our final speaker was Dr Michela Tinelli from the Care Policy Evaluation Centre at the London School of Economics, who is working with us as part of our ‘Get Real with Meeting Centres’ project. She focused on ‘how a discrete choice experiment will be used to measure people’s willingness to pay for successful Meeting Centres’, which will include capturing the views of both people with dementia and family carers. For this work, you need to consider multiple different aspects of Meeting Centres, so it’s not just about what activities and support they offer, but also how they do that, such as how often people can attend, whether it’s in person or online, and whether people need to book in advance. The final aspect is the cost of attending. Part of the work is recognising that you can’t have the best of everything, so there will always be trade-offs required, but what those trade-offs are and what people are willing to be flexible with are not often understood. That’s where the ‘discrete choice experiment’ (DCE) comes in.

We’re still early in the ‘Get Real’ project and in process of developing the DCE that will be used, but it will look at people’s preferences for Meeting Centres, what they are willing to pay, and how this relates to sustainability. A DCE basically works by asking people to choose between two alternative hypothetical situations, and in Get Real people will also be allowed to say if would choose either of those or prefer to stick with the Meeting Centre they currently attend. By considering different situations with various combinations of elements, it will be possible to work out which of those elements are most and least important to people.

Once the DCE has been developed it will be tested and piloted with Meeting Centres before rolling it out to be used more widely with people with dementia and carers in multiple Meeting Centres across the UK.

We’ll keep you up to date with any developments and findings!

The webinar concluded with a short Q&A session which included a discussion on fees, in particular whether there is a problem if different Meeting Centres have different fees. It was recognised that it’s difficult to ‘standardise’ a fee for attending a session at a Meeting Centre as there is variety in terms of the venues used and what is provided or delivered during a session. The key is to keep members and carers involved and informed at all times, including when fees are set or changed, so that it is clear why two Meeting Centres may be charging different amounts – especially if they are in geographically close locations. Another important point raised as part of the discussion is that it can be difficult to definitively agree on a fee when a Meeting Centre first opens as you may not have a clear picture of the actual running costs until it has been operating for a while.

Thanks to our presenters and to everyone else for taking part. If you missed the webinar or want to listen to any of it again, you can find a recording here.

The next webinar is about ‘Everyone brings something to the Meeting Centre’ and will take place on 25th June at the slightly earlier time of 10-11am. You can register to attend via our website

Author: Association for Dementia Studies

We are a multi-professional group of educationalists, researchers and practitioners who are expert in the field of person-centred dementia care and support. Our aim is to make a substantial contribution to building evidence-based practical ways of working with people living with dementia and their families that enables them to live well. We do this primarily through research, education and consultancy.

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