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briefing paper

The certainty of uncertainty

Briefing 11 on the challenges faced by VCSE leaders during the Covid-19 crisis

October 2020

Ben Cairns, Emily Dyson, Liz Firth, Rebecca Moran


This eleventh briefing shares the experiences of 44 leaders participating in online peer support sessions in September, and our reflections on the questions and opportunities for funders that they raise.



Three issues remain at the forefront of leaders’ minds:

  1. Risk management: ‘I haven’t been managing a charity, I’ve been managing risk. It’s about Covid-19 risk management full stop’. 
  2. Balancing the advantages and disadvantages of face-to-face vs online‘When we shared an office, people could say “I’ve got so much on” and someone else would help … that doesn’t happen now.’
  3. Planning in uncertainty‘Every time you plan, it then changes – constantly. So, it takes up a lot of mental capacity and it is really frustrating.’

In terms of support from funders, VCSE leaders’ needs remain much the same:

  1. Adopt realistic, fair and transparent application deadlines
  2. Set realistic expectations about what can be delivered in the current context, as well as the associated costs
  3. Provide longer-term, non-emergency grants, as well as more proportionate application processes for shorter-term funding
  4. Adopt processes, practices and funding structures that align with principles of trust-based grant-making (e.g. unrestricted funding)
  5. Standardise reporting practices to reduce the burden of reporting
  6. Recognise, and take account of, the diversity of the sector
  7. Provide reassurance about the mid to long-term funding strategies that will help protect the sustainability of the VCSE sector in the future


Read the full series of briefings here


(Briefing 11 - The certainty of uncertainty - IVAR October 2020 - Final)

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