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About

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We are calling for funders to adopt more open and trusting practices that make life easier for those they fund, in light of the ongoing uncertainty caused by Covid-19.

 

Our ambition is to see these commitments extend beyond the crisis: to become standard practice in the sector.

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We can always do better and this initiative commits us to that, do it better and always have at the forefront of our work those at the front line.

Tim Cutts | Executive Secretary, Allen Lane Foundation

Be open

We commit to making grants in a way that reflects the realities facing VCSE and other civil society organisations now and for the foreseeable future.

Don’t waste time

We will not waste their time – we will explain our funding priorities clearly; we will be open and transparent about all our requirements and exclusions

Examples

After each funding round, we review all rejected applications, looking for ‘rules’ that we hadn’t identified or made clear

All our published application documents are independently copy edited for clarity and consistency

Further Reading

ACF’s Transparency and Engagement: The Pillars of Stronger Foundation Practice
One of six reports on the pillars of stronger foundation practice, this is an exploration of what transparency and engagement means for foundations. The summary on pages 11-12 includes examples of what this could look like in practice.

Ask relevant questions

We will only ask relevant questions – we will only collect information that we must have to make funding decisions; we will test our application forms rigorously to make sure our questions are clear and do not overlap

Examples

We use a 2 stage process. We aim to support 75% of applications at stage 2, so stage 1 is all about the key questions that most strongly influence our funding decisions

We take responsibility for compiling information on applicants from publicly held records (e.g. accounts from Charity Commission)

Further Reading

Reimagining application and assessment processes
We are currently exploring what commitments to respect and trust could look like in practice for application and assessment processes. This work will draw on Better reporting principles, which were designed to make grant reporting a shared, more meaningful and mutually beneficial experience.

FixTheForm on Twitter
GrantAdvisor are currently working on a pledge to improve online applications; meanwhile you can read about grant seekers’ experiences on Twitter.

Accept Risk

We will accept our share of risk – we will be realistic about how much assurance applicants can reasonably give us; we will clearly explain how we assess risk when we make our funding decisions

Examples

In the light of Covid-19, we are reviewing ‘what good looks like’ in relation to e.g. reserve levels; diversity of funding; financial projections. We will share this with applicants

We don’t require detailed activity plans. We trust organisations to make their own operational decisions

Further Reading

Thinking about risk front cover imageThinking about… risk
This framework helps funders consider their approach to and appetite for different elements of risk.

Act with Urgency

We will act with urgency – we will seek to work at a pace that meets the needs of applicants; we will publish and stick to our timetables; we will make our decisions as quickly as possible

Examples

We make all decisions about small grants within 30 days of receiving an application

If we have problems meeting our timetables, we get extra help rather than giving applicants less time or changing their deadlines

Further Reading

Possible not the perfectThe possible, not the perfect
Read how, in response to three emergencies during 2017, funders dispensed with ‘business as usual’ to provide urgent support. This includes an exploration of what we can learn about responding effectively in an emergency.

London Community Response
More recently, the London Community Response Fund has pioneered collaborative, flexible and nimble grant-making.

Be Open

We will be transparent about our decisions – we will give feedback; we will analyse and publish success rates and reasons for rejection; we will share our data

Examples

We try to think creatively about how and when to give useful feedback to all unsuccessful applicants – we never just say ‘we had more applications than we could fund’

We publish details of the reasons for rejection at each stage of our application process

Further Reading

360Giving
help organisations openly publish grants data, and help people use it to improve charitable giving.

Be Trusting

We will be realistic about how much assurance applicants can reasonably give us; we will clearly explain how we assess risk when we make our funding decisions

Enable flexibility

We will enable them to respond flexibly to changing priorities and needs – we will give unrestricted funding; if we can’t (or are a specialist funder), we will make our funding as flexible as possible

Examples

Our Trustees are committed to moving 90% of our annual spend to unrestricted grants within three years

We contribute towards the essential operating costs of an organisation, not just to direct project costs

Further Reading

Front cover image of Thinking about core funding
Thinking about… core funding

The benefits and challenges of core funding, with recommendations of when and how to offer it.

Communicate with purpose

We will be clear about our relationship from the start – we will be realistic about time commitments; we will ensure that our contact is positive and purposeful

Examples

When we make a grant, we jointly agree the expectations for the relationship between us

We are working on ways for funded organisations to safely raise challenges in their grant relationship with us

Further Reading

IVAR029 Duty of Care_Report_CoverMoving from Paper to Conversations
For ideas on why and how to take a more conversational approach, see pages 8-9 of our better reporting principles.

Duty to Care?
An exploration of how foundations could reset their relationships with grantees, simplify processes and rethink risk.

Be Proportionate

We will commit to light touch reporting – we will ensure that our formal reporting requirements are well understood, proportionate and meaningful

Examples

We explain why we have awarded a grant and then jointly agree what grant reporting will work best for us both

We use a simple ‘tick box’ form to deal with all reports for accountability purposes

Further Reading

IVAR037_Better-Reporting_Master-1024x919Better reporting principles

These principles are designed to make grant reporting a shared, more meaningful and mutually beneficial experience.

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Open & trusting grantmakers

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on a grantmaker’s logo to see how they’re bringing the eight commitments to life. 

You can see a full list of the funders who have signed up here.

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    Building on our promise to stand by the sector, we commit to being more open and trusting grantmakers by:

     

    • Making grants in a way that reflects the realities facing VCSE organisations now and for the foreseeable future.

    • Managing grants and relationships in a way that reflects our confidence in and respect for the organisations we fund.

     

    Our strategic aims, size, and governance are very different. But we all believe that how we do it matters: who we reach, how we judge applications, the kind of funding we give and the relationships we make.

    Why it matters

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    Founding group

    We developed the eight commitments in collaboration with London Funders and:

     

    • Barnardo’s Scotland
    • Beatfreeks
    • City Bridge Trust
    • Comic Relief
    • Community Foundation for Northern Ireland
    • Corra Foundation
    • Counselling all Nations (CANS)
    • Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
    • One25
    • Refugee Action
    • The Mercers’ Company
    • The Tudor Trust
    • United St Saviour’s Charity
    • The Ubele Initiative
    • Unlock

    Rawan Nuseibeh

    Development Manager

    Refugee Action

    Fiona Duncan

    CEO

    Corra Foundation

    James Banks

    CEO

    London Funders

    Yvonne Field

    CEO / Founder

    Ubele Initiative

    David Farnsworth

    Chief Grants Officer

    City Bridge Trust

    Lekan Ojo-Okiji Abasi

    Clinical Co-ordinator

    Counselling All Nations Services

    Moira Sinclair OBE

    CEO

    Paul Hamlyn Foundation

    Jim McCormick

    CEO

    The Robertson Trust

    Nicky Lappin

    Head of Research

    The Tudor Trust

    Christopher Stacey

    Former Co-Director

    Unlock for people with convictions

    Orla Black

    Grants Director

    The Community Foundation

    Gina Crane

    Director of Communications

    Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

    Tim Cutts

    Executive Secretary

    Allen Lane Foundation

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    Rawan Nuseibeh

    Development Manager

    Refugee Action

    We have been able to work more collaboratively with current funders in response to Covid-19. Funders have gained a better understanding of our work and the importance of being focused on emerging themes and has encouraged more open dialogues with funders, especially on processes that work/don’t work and the importance of core funding. It has also brought the refugee sector, wider sector and funders closer together. In doing this, funders gain a better understanding of the challenges facing charities and what it entails to design and fundraise for a project. It makes the process easier, for both sides and more focused enabling us to create long term impact and change.
    Whether in an emergency context or not – funders needs to use learning from 2020 to assess their own priorities, criteria and systems to make the funding process more equitable, fair and easily accessible. For instance, looking at core funding, not just restricted, connecting charities with other funders, taking the lead on equality, diversity and inclusion, reducing the amount of information (docs needed), e.g. accounts, policies that have remained unchanged and have been provided in a previous/recent grant.
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    Fiona Duncan

    CEO

    Corra Foundation

    The Call to Action must remind all of us to push ourselves to ensure we are aware of and able to respond to the needs and hopes of people and communities we are here to support.
    Corra aspires to be the best it can be – particularly in relation to grant making, participation, diversity, inclusion, transparency and climate impact – and this must guide all our actions.
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    James Banks

    CEO

    London Funders

    We are proud to join with our friends at IVAR and across the funding community to call for the achievements of 2020 to strengthen our work for the future. Over 400 organisations signed our ‘We stand with the sector’ statement at the start of the crisis, and we believe that the eight funder commitments are the natural next step to take for funders who have already pledged to adapt activities, be financially flexible, and to listen. We encourage all of our members to sign up to the commitments, and to make practical changes where necessary, so that together we can enable our communities to thrive.
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    Yvonne Field

    CEO / Founder

    Ubele Initiative

    This period has begun to open up some honest conversations about the pre-covid-19 state of foundation and charitable trust support (or lack of it) for the BAME sector – which were really difficult to have beforehand. There appears to be much more of a willingness to listen and to find ways to respond. The impact has been that literally thousands of BAME led organisations have now applied for funding and/or capacity building support, which has brought to the fore a real richness and diversity within the sector as well huge swathes of imagination and creativity. The flexibility and simplicity that has been seen during this period has enabled Ubele to create an infrastructure which has helped us extend our reach from local to national. However, it is mainly short-term funding and we are left with a deep sense of uncertainty post March 2021 even as levels of demand for our services grow.   
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    David Farnsworth

    Chief Grants Officer

    City Bridge Trust

    The past year has focused our thinking as funders. How we operate is critical: our processes must be straightforward, purposeful, and we must be prepared to take risks. As funding partners we must listen as much as we speak. Establishing the London Community Response Fund and adapting our funding processes showed us that we can make changes quickly and effectively. We are committed to learning from this experience to ensure we don’t return to business as usual but continue to challenge ourselves to be equitable, trust-based and transparent throughout our grant-making. We hope other funders will join us on this journey.
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    Lekan Ojo-Okiji Abasi

    Clinical Co-ordinator

    Counselling All Nations Services

    For us at Counselling All Nations Services (CANS) it means an acceptance of the important role we play in the wider community as glue and the vital services to the public. The benefits are that different Funding Trusts are in the position now to align with CANS and provide necessary support to do our work with ease. Hopefully, they will listen to us with seriousness it deserves.
    It is very important to adapt and standardise the simpler application process and continue with the relational process as part of the assessment. We also need a better person-to-person relationship as a way to maintain continuity. As a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) support charity, it is important that funding trusts also set aside separate funds to target BAME support organisations apart from just general funds.
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    Moira Sinclair OBE

    CEO

    Paul Hamlyn Foundation

    Openness and trust are core values at Paul Hamlyn Foundation and we are always thinking about how to live up to these commitments in our behaviours and our processes. Our past work to become a more flexible and responsive funder informed the approach we used in going into the pandemic and we have learnt a lot more about what this means in practice as we have all lived through the last year. We want to make sure we continue to embed this into our ways of working, which is why we are pleased to be part of this movement of funders working towards better grant-making.
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    Jim McCormick

    CEO

    The Robertson Trust

    Our funded organisations are operating in a shifting, uncertain landscape which presents challenges for service delivery, planning and supporting staff and volunteers. We have committed to providing funding for up to five years, using proportionate and flexible approaches, with greater scope for unrestricted support. These changes enable us to take a more transparent and relational approach to grant-making and reduce the administrative burden upon applicants and grantholders. The enormous challenges faced by the third sector require us to act with ambition, taking risks to achieve lasting change.
    Acting on feedback from those we support, we will continue to adapt our approach in response to the last year. We will consult openly on the design of a new Strategic Fund to support larger organisations to change how they work and to better serve people and places affected by poverty and trauma in Scotland. We are building our knowledge and capacity on equality, diversity, participation and rights to improve our work as a funder and partner.
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    Nicky Lappin

    Head of Research

    The Tudor Trust

    Over the past year we have further explored what it really means to put trust at the heart of our grant making and grant support. As we have changed our approach in response to the pandemic it has become ever clearer that being transparent and flexible in the way we operate is a key part of working in a trusting and trustworthy way.
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    Christopher Stacey

    Former Co-Director

    Unlock for people with convictions

    It’s important for charities to feel trusted and respected by funders to make well-informed decisions about how they can best respond to the needs of the people they exist to help. In a context of where challenges and issues are developing at pace, enabling charities to respond quickly with simple funding processes which lead to flexible, core funding is crucial.
    With emergency being the ‘the normal’ for the foreseeable future, I would encourage funders to look at how they move their adaptations into their business-as-usual ways of working for supporting work that isn’t directly related to the current emergency. Charities that are tackling deep-rooted problems need to be supported.
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    Orla Black

    Grants Director

    The Community Foundation

    Charities are vital, and they have, and will continue to, face challenges around generating funding to deliver their activities. For this reason it is important that as grant-making organisations we take more risks. The pandemic has brought an opportunity for us to adapt and better support the sector. We have streamlined our processes and procedures to enable funding to reach communities efficiently, and at pace. This has supported the emergency efforts being driven in local communities by local charitable organisations. It has enabled communities to respond, and enabled funders to take a more trusting approach to grant making; accepting that those organisations delivering much needed support for communities, are the people that know what the issues are, and how best to address them.
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    Gina Crane

    Director of Communications

    Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

    Covid-19 has shown funders what can be achieved when we break our own rules and work together. Let’s take this opportunity to face up to the cost of our individual requirements on the organisations we fund, and make a change.
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    Tim Cutts

    Executive Secretary

    Allen Lane Foundation

    The Allen Lane Foundation has always striven to consider the stress and time involved in the funding process for groups and organisations. We like to think we have a light-touch process which recognises the size of grants we award. We remain committed to taking some of the risk with those we fund and giving honest feedback both to successful and unsuccessful applicants. We can always do better and this initiative commits us to that, do it better and always have at the forefront of our work those at the front line.

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