Annie Salter, The Tudor Trust.

6 things The Tudor Trust learned from Wellbeing Grants

– and how we did it

December 2020. Ten months into a life-altering pandemic, approaching Christmas and the groups we work with are telling us that the emergency footing they have been on all year is taking its toll on their staff, volunteers and trustees. 

Community groups have been providing essential support to communities, navigating complex and exacerbated issues, while adapting to new operating environments comprised of zoom calls and social distancing. Behind the scenes, their teams are tirelessly working to do the best they can with what they have, while themselves dealing with grief and loss.    

Wellbeing was an issue long before Covid-19. Increased demand, high workloads and the challenge of responding appropriately to user needs contributed to ‘anxiety, depression, burnout, and even secondary trauma’, according to The Resilience of People in Community-facing Organisations report by London Funders released in April 2019. The same report recommends that flexible funding could better support wellbeing. So, when we add the pandemic into the mix, the case for supporting workforce wellbeing has never been more pressing.  

Realising the growing need amongst our grant holders, we wanted to respond and decided to offer them a grant specifically focused on staff, volunteer and trustee wellbeing. In this blog, we want to share with other funders; our approach, the things we learnt, and what we can do collectively to support wellbeing.  

How we approached wellbeing grants

Through conversations with our grant holders, we were hearing about the increasing strain they were under as a result of the pandemic. As a team, we shared these stories and  considered how Tudor could help.

Following discussion at the November Board meeting, Tudor’s trustees agreed that we should offer each group we work with £2,000 ‘to support staff, volunteer and trustee wellbeing’. While the grants were restricted for the purpose of wellbeing, it felt vital that they be as flexible as possible – trusting organisations to know what their teams needed and when, enabling them to progress their wellbeing journeys in ways that felt natural and helpful to their staff, volunteers and trustees.

We had to think through a lot of practicalities – it took a cross team effort to work out how we could give a one-off grant to over 600 grant holders in a way that didn’t burden them further, or bury Tudor staff in additional work. We also got legal advice so that we could be confident that we were continuing to give with charitable purpose.

It was a light-touch approach. Grant holders had to reply to our email to accept the grant, attaching a scan or photo of their recent bank statement and confirming that the grant would be spent on wellbeing and assisting in delivering their charitable purpose. At this point we said that the only reporting back we needed would be a short survey in September 2021.

The whole process – from idea to offer – took less than a month. The first payments were distributed on the 5th January 2021.

Nine months later, we wanted to understand the difference these grants had made, how they were used and their impact on individuals and organisations. We were also interested in the experience of receiving the grant, and what grantees thought we, and other funders, could do to continue to support wellbeing going forward. As our learning partner, we asked IVAR to help us get a better picture of this – collating and interpreting survey responses to capture what wellbeing activities were invested in, and the difference they made.

What did we learn from wellbeing grants?

1.    The wellbeing grants responded to an unspoken but recognised need, sending the message it is okay to prioritise wellbeing

The grant felt significant to charities that had been struggling with workforce wellbeing. It provided them with an opportunity to focus on solutions without having to justify the money or time to themselves or stakeholders.

2.    The grants made a significant difference

Organisations expressed many benefits to individual wellbeing from boosting morale, building (or rebuilding) connections, and encouraging recuperation. Benefits extended beyond the individuals themselves, contributing to the delivery of organisational objectives by strengthening culture and helping to improve efficiency.

3.    Flexibility enabled grantees to respond appropriately and fund multiple activities

The flexibility of the grant allowed charities to tailor their spending decisions, with many organising two or more activities. Smaller organisations – with smaller teams – could even look into tailored, individual support. The most popular activities were those which brought staff and volunteers together.

4.    Short-term investment can have a legacy

This one-off grant saw organisations trialling activities and approaches. It also prompted organisations to think about and prioritise staff wellbeing in the future beyond the grant – influencing policies, practices and procedures and/or investing in wellbeing activities that have a lasting legacy.

5.    Funder systems, processes and culture are essential enablers to making grants like this possible

This grant felt like a necessary add-on to our existing support because we were listening to grantees and attuned to their circumstances and concerns. We already offer core funding, and in many cases offered additional funding during 2020, so the Wellbeing Grant felt like a legitimate ‘addition’ to core support, not a replacement. Although we had existing infrastructure to make the grants in a light-touch way, the scale and speed at which the grant was delivered required significant cross-organisational commitment and resource.

6.    The grants have had an impact within Tudor too

Although we had different ways of supporting grant holders in our toolbox, Grant Managers sometimes felt overwhelmed by the level of stress and anxiety some of the individuals they were talking to were dealing with. Being able to give this grant and acknowledge the work groups were doing had a powerful impact on Tudor staff, giving the team a sense that we were doing something to help, however small, at a very difficult time. There were also real moments of joy and celebration as we shared some of the amazing things groups were doing with their grants! It required a cross-organisation response, pulling the team together when we were working from home in separate locations. A year on, we have reflected that it has made us think about wellbeing across the team, and how we can centre staff and grant holder wellbeing in all that we do.

How can funders help organisations to support wellbeing?

Grant holders shared their thoughts on how funders could better support wellbeing. Their answers covered:

  • Offering similar grants – Grantees suggested that offering dedicated wellbeing grants or incorporating funding for staff wellbeing into grants would ensure organisations can prioritise wellbeing.
  • Ensuring burden-free grant-making processes and investing in unrestricted funding – The best preventative measures to being overworked and stressed are ensuring charities are properly resourced, improving our grant-making processes to reduce strain on applicants and developing our approaches to align with the realities of working on-the-ground. It’s all about being open, trusting, and flexible.
  • Influencing other funders – We need to look at how we are supporting organisational wellbeing by articulating its value and encouraging other funders to do the same.
  • Sharing learning from wellbeing grants and developing sector-wide resources– Sharing our learning benefits funders and charities by providing inspiration and insights to explore. Charities also felt they would benefit from a directory or list of suggested providers to make best use of their resources – which funders may be able to create or signpost them to. 

Our staff and trustees have met to discuss the feedback and will consider how we continue to support wellbeing, both within Tudor and with our grant holders. We’ll continue to use our relational funding approach and ask ourselves how we can fund to reduce burden on grant holders, through core funding, minimising reporting requirements and being straightforward about what we do and why.

We have now published the report in full and welcome your feedback. If you have any questions for the Tudor team or would like to know more about the grants programme, get in touch with our Learning Manager Annie Salter at anniesalter@tudortrust.org.uk.

A concluding thought from IVAR

The Tudor Trust’s example shows the benefits of open and trusting grant-making. When grants and their processes are underpinned by flexibility and trust, charities are empowered to invest in solutions that feel most meaningful and useful to them. We are grateful to the grantees for sharing their feedback with us and to the Tudor Trust for making their thinking visible.

If you’re interested in this and other approaches to open and trusting grant-making, join our Community of Practice.

You may also be interested in:

The Tudor Trust wellbeing grant: One year on

Feedback from grantees

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