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What does funders’ data tell us about grants to mental health?


David Kane, Freelance Data Scientist

As it’s mental health week this week, we wanted to see what 360Giving data tells us about mental health funding in the UK.

Key findings

  • In 2016 and 2017, 360Giving publishers gave 1,800 grants worth £155 million to projects that focused on mental health.
  • The largest funded project – Time to Change – received £7.5 million in this period, from two funders.
  • Two thirds of mental health grants received are for between £1,000 and £10,000.

In order to do this analysis, I first needed to identify mental health grants. To do this, I looked for a list of mental health-related keywords in the title and description of the grant, and in the name of the recipient organisation.

This isn’t exact – there’ll be some false positives and grants missed out, but it should give an idea of the sort of grants that are related to mental health. This method spreads the net quite wide – some grants included may only have a small mental health component within a larger project.

This method gives us 6,600 grants to around 4,700 organisations from 50 funders. These grants stretch from 2018 back to the 1990s – giving us more recent analysis than would be possible using returns to the Charity Commission.

The data presented here looks at only those grants made in 2016 or 2017, which includes 1,800 grants to 1,600 organisations by 41 funders, worth around £155 million. Note that although the grants were awarded in 2016 and 2017, the actual duration of the grants may extend beyond that time. Figures are for the total amount awarded, not adjusted to an annual figure.

Which funders?

Looking at those funders where mental health makes up a large proportion of their work, London Councils comes out on top. They made a relatively small number of grants (3) totalling £5 million. This table shows the top 10 funders when looking at the proportion of their grants that goes to mental health.

Amount Grants % of grants
London Councils £5.0 million 3 21.4
Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales £3.2 million 65 10.6
Scottish Council For Voluntary Organisations £107,000 18 10.0
Wiltshire Community Foundation £34,000 12 9.0
London Catalyst £49,000 23 8.3
Cheshire Community Foundation £48,000 9 8.1
Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council £5,700 3 7.9
Trafford Housing Trust Social Investment £87,000 19 6.7
The Henry Smith Charity £2.7 million 41 6.2
The Big Lottery Fund £129.4 million 1,265 5.7

We can also look at the funders with the most grants and amount. Here the Big Lottery Fund stands out – they made 1,200 grants worth over £129 million – over 80% of the grants we analysed. This included large grants like £2.5 million for the “Time to Change” campaign (which also received £5 million from Comic Relief). Other key funders in terms of grants made include the Co-operative Group and Lloyds Bank Foundation.

Amount (£000s) Grants
The Big Lottery Fund £129.4 million 1,265
Co-operative Group £349,000 115
Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales £3.3 million 65
The Henry Smith Charity £2.7 million 41
Quartet Community Foundation £167,000 28
Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland £97,000 26
The Tudor Trust £1.2 million 25
Essex Community Foundation £175,000 23
London Catalyst £49,000 23
Community Foundation for Surrey £75,000 20


Grant size

Most mental health grants are small – two-thirds of grants are between £1k-£10k.

This data is slightly skewed by the Big Lottery Fund’s “Awards for All” programme, which has a maximum grant size of £10,000. But even when removing the Big Lottery Fund, the pattern mostly remains. Excluding the Big Lottery Fund, around a third of mental health grants are for more than £100,000.

Amount (£m) Grants Funders
MIND (The National Association for Mental Health) 8.7 7 Quartet Community Foundation, BLF, Comic Relief
Ashiana Network 3.4 3 London Councils, BLF
Mental Health Concern 2.5 2 BLF
Shaw Trust 2.1 4 BLF
Scottish Association for Mental Health 1.6 2 Comic Relief


Is funding for mental health increasing?

It’s difficult to tell for certain because different funders have published data for different years, with only a few stretching back in time more than a few years. Even looking at the proportion of grants in a given year going to mental health may be problematic. The chart below is restricted to just grants made by 16 funders who have published data on grants made between 2010 and 2017, to remove some of these issues. The Big Lottery Fund has been reported separately as it makes up 90% of the grants by those funders in that period.

The data does suggest a broad pattern of mental health being of increasing importance to the Big Lottery Fund over the last few years, with other funders not showing this pattern. By continuing to publish data, grantmakers can help us tell whether this trend is correct and if it continues.