One Page: Our grant funders’ part in Shannon Trust’s work

Ian Merrill
June 12, 2023

Welcome to 'One Page'. In this monthly newsletter, I will talk about the people I have met, and the things I have read or seen relating to Shannon Trust's vision, which is a future where everyone can experience the positive impact of learning. I hope these short pieces will start conversations, generate new ideas, and help our vision become a reality.


Our grant funders’ part in Shannon Trust’s work


Basic learning is a key foundation for rehabilitation and change. That’s why we launched our 3 year strategy in January 2022. We committed ourselves to do more to address low literacy and numeracy among those in the criminal justice system.


We knew more needed to be done. Prison populations are growing, large numbers of people continue to arrive in prison not being able to read or do basic maths, and there is still pressure on staffing within prisons after the pandemic.


We knew Shannon Trust’s approach worked. We train people in prison who can read and do numbers, to help those who struggle. And both the learner and mentor benefit from this.


Over the years we’ve seen how this peer to peer model brings real impact, by increasing self esteem, building stronger relationships with family and friends, and opening doors to learning and work. We believed we could scale up what we do, both to help more people in prison and to develop our work in communities to bring our learning to prison leavers and those on probation.


As part of this scaling up, we had to consider our own resources, including finances. Doing more, reaching more people in different ways, costs more. One of the strands of our 3 year strategy is to diversify and increase our income, ensuring Shannon Trust and our work can grow and continue to be sustainable in the long term.


A big part of our funding comes grants from trusts and foundations. In 2021, these made up over 80% of our income, with charitable gifts from individuals on top. During 2022, I’m pleased that our income from contracts increased, and last year almost 16% came from this source.


In 2023, 50% of our income will come from contracts. However, a range of grants from trusts and foundations continue to play an important part of our income generation. We are grateful for the ongoing support of our grant funders, and those generous members of the public through their donations, who believe in what Shannon Trust does.


I want to acknowledge their important contribution, and their interest and encouragement. Like us, they’re committed to helping those in the criminal justice system transform their lives and futures, and those of their families and communities. I hope they see their contribution as an investment in improving lives and communities. We know there’s potential, and giving someone the tools to change and develop is often all they need to make a real start. There are many different reasons why some cannot engage with learning at school, or do not get the chance to, but this does not have to carry on forever.


I was delighted when we pulled together the figures for our impact report covering the first year of Shannon Trust’s new strategy. These showed that during 2022:

  • we had 2,064 new learners – a 51% increase on 2021
  • 1,466 Turning Pages manuals were completed – a 101% increase on 2021
  • we trained 1,307 new mentors – a 62% increase on 2021
  • 310 maths learners had joined us, since the launch of our basic maths support


All these numbers are rewarding, and the increased number of mentors bodes well for the future. Each one of them will help many learners during their time with Shannon Trust.


To me, the joint effort is what Shannon Trust is all about. Without our mentors, Shannon Trust couldn’t sit alongside individual learners and help them start reading and getting to grips with numbers. Without our grant funders, Shannon Trust couldn’t support our mentors, providing Turning Pages manuals, training, guidance and advocacy in the prison system. Without the contributions of our individual donors, volunteers, staff and others who cheer us on, we would not be able to keep tackling low literacy and numeracy among those in the criminal justice system.


We all have our own part to play. Thank you for your contribution.


Please get in touch if anything I have written resonates with you; whether you agree, disagree or have a suggestion for how we can improve what we do.

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