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briefing paper

Chasing against time

Briefing 14 on the challenges faced by VCSE leaders during the Covid-19 crisis.

February 2021

Ben Cairns, Emily Dyson, Liz Firth, Keeva Rooney


This fourteenth briefing shares the experiences of 33 charities through online peer support sessions, between 4 December 2020 and 20 January 2021.  


Three things remain front of mind for VCSE leaders:

  1. Sustaining their teams during more uncertainty:A lot of the time we feel like we’re not doing enough, but right now ”good enough” is enough.’
  2. Funding beyond March 2021: ‘The funding system is making it harder for us to plan, yet it wants us to plan. But instinct says I shouldn’t plan too much and need to be flexible.’
  3. Planning for the future beyond the crisis: ‘As an organisation, I’m struggling to imagine what we’ll be doing next year – what’s blended and where should we be. I’ve got settled with this virtual side of stuff – adding the face-to-face back is scary for me.’ 

Our recent discussions reinforce the value that funders can deliver if they:

  1. Provide long-term, unrestricted funding – we repeat this call because VCSE organisations identify it as the single most powerful thing that funders can do to support them.
  2. Adopt simple and flexible practices that accommodate the ongoing unpredictability caused by Covid-19 and respect the intense strain under which everyone is working.
  3. Share the risk. During the emergency many funders have adopted less onerous approaches to due diligence and shown greater trust in VCSE organisations themselves to make the best use of funds. A commitment to sustaining this approach for the foreseeable future powerfully demonstrates empathy with, and support for, the sector.

You can read more about how other funders are working towards more open and trusting grant-making, and join our community of practice, at

Read the full series of Covid-19 briefings here


(Briefing 14 - Chasing against time - IVAR February 2021 - Final)

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