30 charity reviewers on Zoom windows waving.

Meet the charities holding funders to account

The Cost of Living crisis and the prospect of a difficult winter in the UK has brought into sharp focus the importance of an open and trusting relationship between grantmakers and the charities they support.  Since February 2021, over 100 funders have made eight commitments as part of IVAR’s Open and Trusting Grant-making initiative. We want this to be more than a badge that sits on people’s websites. So, this autumn we’re working with charities to hold funders to account on the progress they’ve made, and to explore how they can implement the ten actions that charities have said will make the most difference to their funding experience.

Meet our charity reviewers

Here are the charities, CICs, social enterprises and community groups who’ll be helping us with this exercise, waving from our Zoom training room!

30 charity reviewers on Zoom windows waving.

Why is this needed?

When funders make grants in a flexible and light-touch way, it means that charities can focus their time and energy on supporting the communities and causes they exist to serve. This is more important than ever in the current economic environment. Our charity reviewers shared some of what they are currently experiencing or anticipating:

Things were dire before and now they are getting worse. The women we work with are having to return to unsafe relationships and can’t afford to travel to our sessions. It will get worse and there’s not much emergency funding as it’s not treated the same way that Covid was.

There’s a huge upturn in help needed for eviction, mortgages, family breakdown. People have more complex problems and fewer safety nets – often we’re the only ones who answer the phone.

How can funders help?

Essentially – by adopting Open and Trusting Grant-making. In particular, our charity reviewers talked about the importance of:

  • Long-term unrestricted funding
  • Being flexible about how charities use money to achieve their outcomes
  • Being clear about future funding opportunities, so that organisations can plan effectively

Charities recognise that they also have a role to play in creating an open and trusting relationship with their funders, by sharing what they need – improved dialogue is essential:

We didn’t have any reserves three years ago, now we have three months. We were turned down for not having reserves and now we’re being turned down for having reserves.

Trust that we’ll use funding in the best possible way, and don’t expect us to run new, exciting projects all the time – we need to keep running our core services.

What will holding funders accountable achieve?

Our charity reviewers are hoping that holding Open and Trusting Grantmakers to account will help to shift the balance of power, and deepen the collective understanding of the barriers to flexible funding. And at IVAR, we want to ensure that charity voices are kept at the centre of the process supporting funders to deliver the commitments they made in 2021:

With funders and charities building a more open and trusting partnership based on two-way dialogue there will be a better understanding of each other’s needs, challenges and requirements.

I would love this to be the beginning of a culture change in the sector and an opening up of conversations; redefining how we communicate and collaborate towards social change.

If the funders involved in this can agree on some things, they can set the gold standard for others; in the longer term that becomes the standard that others are aspiring to.

What’s next?

To mark the second anniversary of Open and Trusting Grant-making, in February 2023 we will be asking funders to refresh their eight commitments. IVAR will also continue to work with charities, social enterprises and community groups to create opportunities for organisations to connect with each other, share their experiences, and explore how funders can best support them as they respond to the Cost of Living crisis.

Find out more about IVAR’s Open and Trusting Grant-making initiative and join our community here.

With thanks

With thanks to the charities, CICs and social enterprises helping us to hold funders to account:

  • Suffolk Law Centre
  • Drum Works
  • Early Years Cocoon C.I.C.
  • Sister System
  • Therapy 4 Healing – T4H
  • Working Families
  • Clean Break
  • Havering Volunteer Centre
  • Holding Space
  • Nottinghamshire Hospice
  • Asylum Support Appeals Project
  • E.A.S.E (Empowering Action & Social Esteem) Ltd
  • Become
  • George House Trust
  • Shared Parenting Scotland
  • The Green Team
  • StrathspeyWorks GrantownRemakery
  • Dads Unlimited
  • Friends of Hannah More
  • First Light South West
  • Open Harmony CIC
  • Allsports Coaches Coaching Academy CIC
  • Coast and Vale Community Action
  • Bone Cancer Research Trust
  • Foresight (North East Lincolnshire) Limited
  • Council of Somali Organisations
  • Woodcraft Folk
  • Hubbub Theatre Company
  • Limehouse Project

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Join a community of funders adopting more open and trusting practices that make life easier for those they fund.

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