Virgin Unite’s Local Legends fund helps support 31 UK charities with £155,000 in its first year

UK-based employees of Virgin companies have helped the charities they volunteer with go further, through Virgin Unite’s £1m Local Legends fund, delivered by UMi. 

Back in the summer of 2023, UMi was awarded the task to manage Virgin Unite’s Local Legends fund, an initiative that will make 200 grants of £5000 available to UK charities over a three-year-period.  

The initiative also celebrates the volunteering efforts of Virgin employees by supporting their nominated charities that are tackling our society’s most pressing issues – like poverty, advancing human rights, and supporting education. 

UMi’s experience is being harnessed to provide state-of-the-art nomination and grant application processes - taking the hard work out of grant administration and helping to make a difference to many lives across the UK.  

So far the project has seen UMi’s experts undertake system and process design, due diligence and report preparation for the grant-making panel, legal contracting, defraying funds, and follow-up reporting.  

Thanks to the phenomenal efforts of all involved, the first round of the Local Legends Fund successfully provided a total of £155,000 to 31 charities across the UK. Each charity received the full £5000 available, putting the money towards creating a meaningful difference in their local community. 

The recipient charities can spend the grant wherever it’s needed, deciding for themselves what will benefit their areas the most, ensuring the funding has the greatest impact possible. 

One recipient, The Manchester based LGBT Foundation, allocated their funding towards the staff and project costs of their Rainbow Buddies Befriending Service – a service that supports LGBTQ+ people across the region who are socially isolated or are at risk of becoming isolated. 

Meanwhile Sussex Sailability, a charity that provides sailing experiences for disabled people, were able to use the grant to buy a new ‘rise and fall’ recovery bed and wash basin. This equipment helps disabled people that are unable to shiver to return to normal body temperature and makes the sailing experience more accessible. 

Scotland based Glasgow Street Aid expressed their gratitude for the initiative, saying: “As a small volunteer led charity a grant like this makes such a difference! It allows us to keep on being there to help those in need each weekend on the streets of Glasgow City Centre. We spend so much money on kitting out the volunteers, keeping our ambulance on the road and ensuring that the doors to our medical and welfare centre stay open, so this is a much welcome boost, especially over the winter month. 

The Local Legends fund is a fantastic opportunity for charities to improve their services and reach, as well as a chance to celebrate the legends that give up their time to make a difference in their community.  

Through the collaborative efforts of Virgin Unite and UMi, it is hoped that many more charities will benefit from the grants on offer over and that a real difference can be felt across the UK by those facing some of society’s most unacceptable issues. 

Amber Wilson, Senior Programme and Operations Manager at Virgin Unite said: “UMi have been a fantastic partner in administering the Virgin Unite Local Legends fund owing to their collaborative approach, diligence and friendly support to the charity applicants”. 

Brent Smithson, Local Legends Fund Project Manager at UMi said: “It’s been so fulfilling working on the Local Legends Fund; supporting the efforts of so many hardworking charities and volunteers, seeing firsthand how the grants have impacted those it supports. 

As the initiative continues, all of us here at UMi look forward to helping make an even greater difference by working with the Virgin Unite team to support more applicants access funding.”