Helping funders commit to continuation funding
Just over two years ago, at the launch of Thinking about Sustainability, this quote from Filsan Ali and Anne Pirie of Midaye Somali Development Network struck a powerful chord:
‘Sustainability is about service continuation, which depends on the charity being there. [It] is important because the needs of other communities continue to grow and they have nowhere else to turn if we are not there.’
The message was clear: Voluntary organisations care about sustainability because they want to maintain and develop their services in increasingly needy communities where many of the challenges being addressed are long-term and entrenched. And things that get in the way of the work will, to state the obvious, adversely affect that work: access, availability, quality, usefulness – all can be impaired if time has to be diverted to yet another funding application or yet more reporting.
Work is the hardest thing to judge in terms of its quality and effectiveness: inevitably, much has to be taken on trust. But it is what ultimately matters, and funders need to ensure that their judgements and decisions give primacy to the work. So, over the course of 2019, we will be working alongside both funders and voluntary organisations in the pursuit of processes and relationships that help this happen. As part of this, we will continue to promote the new Principles for Aligned Reporting and the need for greater use of core funding. We will also be talking about continuation funding. Because long term challenges need long term funding, especially when so many public funding streams are becoming more short term and unpredictable.
We have proposed four simple questions for funders to ask themselves when considering continuation funding:
- Is the area of work still a funding priority for you?
- Is the organisation still doing a good job?
- Does the organisation still need your support?
- Is there another organisation which is demonstrably better and which might achieve more with your funding?
If the answers are Yes/Yes/Yes/No, then it would seem logical to offer continuation funding. Funders need to resist the tendency to prefer the new over the familiar just because it is new.