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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Awakening 'sleepy trusts' to unlock millions for Scotland's charities


Dormant grant-givers have been identified - and work is underway to unearth their treasure

More than 200 ‘sleepy trusts’ have been found in Scotland – and steps will now be taken to waken them and put the cash they contain to good public use.

Dormant, or sleepy, trusts are identified as charities that have either had no income or expenditure over the last five years or have donated less than 30% of their total income over this time to help good causes.

The Revitalising Trusts Project was launched in May 2021 by Foundation Scotland, in partnership with charity regulator OSCR, to identify charitable trusts registered in Scotland that appear to be inactive and support them to reactivate by using funds that are lying dormant.

A year into the project, more than 200 have been identified, potentially unlocking a huge source of much needed funds for Scotland’s hard-pressed charity sector, as charitable trusts typically provide public benefit by making grants or donations to other charities, voluntary groups or individuals.

Foundation Scotland is already proactively supporting 12 trusts with a combined asset value of £313,000. It continues its pursuit of others that could potentially unlock significant funds for public benefit.

While the total value of Scotland’s sleepy trusts has yet to be established, a similar programme launched by the Charity Commission in England in 2018 has so far revitalised £32 million.

Within the project’s first year, its team has proactively approached over 60 of the 200 dormant trusts offering to support them to start actively giving once again.

One trust, focused on education, had laid inactive for several years due to having some restrictions in its original purpose that limited distribution. By working with the trustees, Foundation Scotland- which has more than 25 years of experience in building funds which provide long-term benefits for communities - has helped to widen the trust's objectives to enable more young people to benefit from funding.

This partnership process also includes helping to find suitable recipients for any remaining funds to be distributed. Foundation Scotland regularly engages with local development organisations, Third Sector Interfaces, and charitable groups to ensure any revitalised funds positively impact Scotland’s communities.

Steff Bell, Revitalising Trust project advisor, joined the initiative last May to oversee the programme.

She said: This is an exciting project that we hope will unlock significant funds for communities when they need them most. We are making great progress; overall, the trustees we have approached have received the offer of support positively, with several indicating that the trustees had been stuck for a number of years, unable to find appropriate tailored support to aid their navigation out of inactivity.

“This next year will see us continue to work collaboratively with more trustees, alongside OSCR, to help these trusts maximise their funds and their reach in their local area.”

Steff Bell will be co-presenting a Revitalisers of the Lost Trusts seminar at The Gathering on Wednesday, 15June at 9.30am. Anyone interested in attending can book for free at There’s also more information about the project on Foundation Scotland website at



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