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22 May 2014 minutes (Biscuit Fund)

Meeting with the Biscuit Fund
Present: Ian and Jessica
Notes from Ian.

Jessica and I spoke to The Biscuit Fund (TBF)  about what the Edge Fund is, who it helps, what it does and how it makes decisions. Then we listened intently to them talk about TBF. Mary (not real name, TBF agent’s are anonymous!) started TBF because she was affected by what she was hearing about people who had fallen into financial difficulties and did not know where the next meal or the electricity to heat their house was coming from. She decided to start The Biscuit Fund up in an act of grass roots philanthropy and convinced some of her friends to help her.

The Biscuit Fund operates via a network of agents throughout the country. TBF does not canvass applications for help and relies on these agents to identify people in need of assistance (identified I believe by a combination of local news, referrals from some other agencies (CAB) and word of mouth (this is not an exhaustive list)). It became very clear to me that one of the key drivers behind TBF is a wish to show people in need that in spite of everything there are people, that you don’t know, prepared to help you. Through it’s actions, TBF hopes it is empowering people to regain control of their life.

From discussions, I believe TBF has never made 2 grants to the same person as they do not wish to encourage dependency. What they try to do once a grant has been made is connect the recipient with organisation’s that can help them deal with the issues that led them into difficulties and TBF are trying to develop their ability and capability in this area. In my opinion, Mary is a remarkable lady who seems to be full of ideas on how she can help bring about social change. Two other ideas she spoke to me about were: effectively franchising the idea of The Biscuit Fund to allow local groups of grass roots philanthropists to help members of their local communities in needs of assistance which would better allow TBF to deal with any increase in demand caused by people becoming aware of them (Mary is already aware of some local communities that have already started to set up there own “Biscuit Funds” in emulation of the “Real Biscuit Fund”); and more interestingly, she spoke of enabling some form of local community house building programme delivering low cost houses. Also, I believe that she has some very well connected friends and I sensed she felt she had the power to make things happen.

I summarised this meeting into these 6 points:

  1. There is an opportunity here for The Edge Fund and the Biscuit Fund to share their respective knowledge, skills and contacts.
  2. The Edge Fund should invite The Biscuit Fund to our next meeting to further a shared understanding of each other.
  3. We felt The Edge Fund might be able to put The Biscuit Fund in touch with Edge Fund member groups that are working towards enabling people in financial difficulty get the right advice and help. As an example, is it possible to link people experiencing the impacts of systemic change (such as those helped by The Biscuit Fund) into Edge Funded communities fighting for people experiencing oppression caused by neo-Liberal economic policies or fighting for relevant system change? By virtue of their shared experiences and the Biscuit Fund’s easy access to personal stories that document the negative impacts of the system as it currently operates, it would reinforce the urgent need for change, in our opinion.
  4. The Biscuit Fund suggested they would be able to help Edge Fund Members in need of assistance who would be referred to TBF by us.
  5. Both organisations could help “Promote each other”. This could be as little as putting links to each others websites on our own websites.
  6. The motivation behind these discussions was that TBF saw value in creating an alliance with TEF. The Biscuit Fund also stated their intention to start donating regularly to the Edge Fund.
On reflection I believe it could be suggested that the Edge and the Biscuit Funds are more similar than they initially seem to be. Both organisation’s operate via the generosity of grass roots philanthropists. The Edge Fund supports groups striving to make systemic change by people facing discrimination whilst The Biscuit Fund supports individuals discriminated against by austerity by giving them the breathing space needed to deal with their problems. I recommend that as a start we invite TBF to our next formal meeting but also suggest we discuss this amongst ourselves so that we make the most out of this opportunity.
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