If we could bottle the magic that is the holiday season, we would have a new type of liquid: ‘Holiday’.

Each year we welcome a brand new set of angels, as old favourites return and new faces arrive. Yet, just as the celebrations are coming to their end and the hangovers are setting in, we have to ask: Has this year’s batch of angels been good to you? Has their presence changed your life for the better? Did they bring you some measure of joy this year?

What is the International Angel Fund (IAFD)? How does it work? Is Charlie a real-life superhero? Let’s have a look.

An Overview Of The IAFD

The IAFD was established in 2002 and offers grants to those in need who meet its strict criteria. The Fund has two vital roles to play. First, it aims to support vulnerable people in our communities who are facing financial hardship and may be prone to social isolation. Second, it helps to spread the word about those in need and those who could help them.

The IAFD is a registered charity in the UK and is a participant in the Vodafone Foundation, a charitable organisation which aims to improve the quality of life for children and young people in the UK and around the world. The Fund is also a fully-privileged member of the Community Foundation Network which means it operates in alignment with the sector’s guidelines and best practices. This is particularly relevant when considering the number of applications the charity receives each year.

To date, the IAFD has awarded over £10 million in grants, with £2 million going to support 116 initiatives in the UK alone. The charity is best known for its ‘Twice Upon A Time’ campaign where applicants are asked to submit an application describing how the money would be used. The organisation also has published an ‘angel investment checklist’ for applicants to consider before making a donation.

Does Charlie Make The Cut?

Last year the IAFD received a record-breaking 26,000 applications for assistance. This year will undoubtedly see a rise in interest as more people are looking to make a difference in 2018.

The charity reviews each application for uniqueness and relevance to the wider society and economy. In 2017, the IAFD funded projects that range from a children’s poetry competition and school carnival to a youth football team and a dog-grooming business. Yet, while these are undoubtedly worthwhile and life-affirming causes, we have to ask: In such a wealthy country as the UK, is a poverty gospel appropriate? Shouldn’t we all be enjoying a life free from financial hardship?

It’s an excellent question and one that resonates with the thousands of UK residents who meet the criteria for the IAFD. According to official figures, around one in five people in the UK – or 4 million people – live in poverty and may feel excluded or unseen by society. This represents a significant group that the IAFD could serve.

With applications set to rise as the year progresses, let’s examine how the IAFD could change your life for the better.

An Opportunity To Serve

Let’s consider the opportunity that the IAFD presents to serve. The role of a charity is to do good in the world – to make a difference. While the IAFD’s chief executive Paul Chadwick stresses the need to remain “small, nimble and focused”, the organisation’s scale and remit would allow it to make a real difference in 2018 and beyond.

More and more people are discovering the power of a charity to do good and change lives. Last year, the Charities Aid Foundation revealed that it had assisted 15,000 people through its programmes in 28 different countries. In the UK, the Nando’s Charity offers a similar service, empowering people to become effective change-makers.

For years, serving the poor has been the exclusive preserve of churches, but today it’s a role that many more people are prepared to take on. The rise of the ‘alt-right’ in the wake of the EU referendum and Donald Trump’s election as US president has given rise to a new socially conscious and inclusive ‘woke’ movement, looking to make a real difference in the world. This group seeks to engage with issues that affect those most in need, such as joblessness, homelessness, and poverty. Through initiatives such as the IAFD, they have a vehicle to achieve this.

An Essential Source Of Information

The IAFD is also an essential source of information for those looking to donate. Each year, the charity provides prospective angels with all the information they need to make the right decision, including case studies of past grant recipients. Each project that the IAFD supports is meticulously tracked and the results of this research are published annually in the charity’s Impact Report.

The IAFD provides a lifeline for those in need, raising awareness of problems that plague marginalised communities. However, as the country’s wealthiest, it is ultimately up to us to decide whether or not we want to remain blind to the issues that affect less fortunate individuals.