Get the basics right: 10 actions to improve charities’ funding experience

This blog summarises our findings about what 1,200 charities want from funders when they apply for and manage grants. Thank you Bangladeshi Women’s Association and The Co-op Foundation for the profile picture.

In February 2021, we launched the Open and Trusting Grant-making initiative, which aimed to build on and enhance the positive adaptations made by foundations in response to Covid-19, for the long term. Our ambition was a simpler, more respectful, inclusive philanthropy, that put charities at the heart of change.

Now, as charities are confronted with the Cost of Living crisis, the case for change is all the more compelling. We need to do everything in our power to support charities to do the best possible job for the communities and causes they serve, and there is much that grantmakers can do. Today, we are publishing the Funding Experience Survey findings – where we heard what 1,200 charities need to reduce the wasted time, effort and stress of fundraising and funding relationships. Ultimately, their message is loud and clear: get the basics right. How you fund matters, and small adjustments can make a massive difference.

Over 100 funders – responsible for more than £800 million of annual grants – have now joined our Open and Trusting community. These funders recognise that shifting to a more trusting, power-aware relationship between foundations and charities is necessary for civil society to be a true force for equitable, democratic and effective social change. Wherever they are on this journey, they understand the pressing need to hear honest feedback and to welcome charities into their thinking as they move forward.

Over the autumn, we’ll be working with a group of 30 charities to bring this shift to life. Foundations who first joined Open and Trusting will complete a self-reflection form, looking back at the commitments they made when signing up; and will then join a peer review session with another funder, facilitated by two charities. The Funding Experience Survey findings will be central to this process.    

Charities have told us loud and clear what they need. They know that funders face different constraints and opportunities, but everyone can do something. However far along the journey you are, we believe that it is worth considering: can we go further? We are asking our community – and all funders – to implement the 10 actions that charities agree would make a real difference.

10 funder actions infographic by IVAR. Logo: Open and trusting with IVAR. Title: Get the basics right. Subtitle: 10 actions to improve charities' funding experience. 1 -  Icon - Two dialogue icons and arrow cycles. Text - Offer charities the chance to ask questions before they make an application. 2 - Icon - Two files with tick at end. Text - Have a two-stage application process. 3 - Icon - percentage sign. Text - Be clear about success rates at each stage of your process. 4 - Icon - Layered dice faces, two with numbers and one with i for information. Text - Don't ask for detailed information until a charity has a good chance of funding. 5 - Icon - Open envelope with letter and text. Text - Give meaningful feedback to charities whose applications are turned down. 6 - Icon - Multiple calendars with pound sign. Text - Give multi-year funding. 7 - Icon - Arrows pointing in different directions. Text - Allow grantees to adapt and change project plans and budgets if needed. 8 - Icon - unlocked padlock with a pound sign on. Text - Give unrestricted funding. 9 - Two puzzle pieces, one with an i for information. Text - Only ask for information that you need and will use. 10 - Icon - Document with cycle arrows around. Text - Allow grantees to use existing reports (e.g. to other funders, annual reports, etc). More information: Based on 1,200 charities' views shared through IVAR's Funding Experience Survey.

If you are working towards more open and trusting grant-making, please do join our community. Share your experiences and become part of the collective effort, sending a powerful message to charities that funders are really listening – and that more positive changes are on the way.

You can sign up to be an Open and Trusting Grantmaker by clicking the middle button below.

Share the findings

We hope that many funders beyond our community will use the findings to develop their practice, and would really appreciate your help to share them far and wide. Copy the code in the box below into your HTML editor to share the 10 actions on your website. Alternatively, you can save the image and include a link back to IVAR’s blog.


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