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In 2011, we launched Beyond Money in which we use the term ‘funding plus’ to describe ‘any activity which is additional to a grant and the grant-making process’.


This description – arrived at following over 100 interviews with funders, grantees and consultants – means that all stages of the practice of making grants, however engaged and sophisticated, fall outside the broad tent of funding plus.



more than

just money

Most funding plus activity is described as ‘capacity building’ (training, consultancy, support) aimed at developing the skills of individual grantees and/or organisations. However, we have also found that many funders work to achieve influence and change through ‘plus’ activities, such as convening, networking or brokerage.


For a small number of foundations, the distinction between ‘funding’ and ‘plus’ is consciously and deliberately blurred. We have described this practice as ‘high engagement funding’, a term that better reflects the phenomenon than ‘grants plus’ or ‘funding plus’, which imply a simple ‘add on’ to basic monetary transfers’1.


This degree of engagement – where going beyond the money may be automatic and is an expression of values and beliefs – is still relatively rare. Indeed, at the other end of the spectrum, going beyond the money might just not be the right thing. And, whilst there’s no shame in that, we do encourage all funders to engage in debate and discussion about the use of their assets as part of a wider consideration of what it means to be a responsible funder.


1Cairns, B and Buckley, E. (2012) ‘New ways of giving’, Paper presented to the ISTR Conference, Siena, Italy.



Make funding plus work

Be clear about purpose: To inform thinking about the focus and method of additional support, funders need to think about purpose. Is it to strengthen individuals, projects and organisations, or a combination of all three?

Know and understand grantees work: Our research shows that funding plus works better when funders understand grantee field, context, circumstances and concerns – this helps to ensure a good fit between the organisation and the support.

Alignment: Through open communications with grantees, be clear together about purpose, design and delivery (why, how, what).



Make funding plus work

Establish a shared commitment to the process: Ensure grantees are ready and willing to be part of a funding plus approach. Ideally participation will be voluntary but, if it can't be, communicate expectations clearly from the beginning.

Avoid prescriptive and standardised approaches: Bespoke approaches allow grantees to have ownership of support and outcomes. In a context of uncertainty and change, off-the-shelf toolkits or online solutions are likely to be of limited use. Organisations benefit most from flexible, tailored support that they can access when needed.



Make funding plus work

Prioritise support for forward thinking: We have growing evidence that it may be beneficial to focus support on forward thinking and planning  mission review and renewal. Organisations that are able to adapt and develop are those which review and renew their mission in a changing environment. Those that understand their mission best are those strongly rooted – with a clear sense of where and how they fit into the greater scheme of things.

Invest in the right kind of support: Smaller organisations are distinctive - support may be best carried out by people experienced in development work and with a clear understanding of their role, accountability and reporting relationship with both funder and grantee.

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Make funding plus work

Be mindful of power: Foundations need to pay serious attention to some of the ethical dilemmas posed by extending involvement in grantee organisations beyond the provision of funding. In particular what is your mandate? What are the limitations of your role? How best to use your power for good ? ('power to' not 'power over') How best to deploy resources and guard against seeking gratification or profile over social impact?

Our insights are drawn from work with:

  • Tudor Trust
  • Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland
  • Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales
  • Northern Rock Foundation
  • City Bridge Trust

For grantees

  • Improved confidence and performance: A chance to gain new ways of thinking or doing things; independent input and viewpoints; sometimes leveraging in new funding – overall, gaining stability and credibility
  • New approaches: Being supported to achieve greater influence and impact by using new approaches – like partnerships or peer learning – and extending the range of services
  • Meaningful relationships: Feeling the funder is on-side and that the organisation is valued


“I felt over the six years that the funder was proud of us. If someone believes in you, then you rise up to that.”


“Funding plus introduced us to a range of opportunities we would not otherwise have had – evaluation support, pro-bono mentoring, and financial advice.”


For funders

  • Improvements to the strength and stability of grantees
  • Tangible changes to policy or law: For those engaged in influencing activity
  • Stronger relationships: The opportunity to develop more trusting and honest relationships with grantees


“We take time to understand what organisations need before embarking on the relationship. It gets the organisation to think about where it’s going and it lets us understand where we can add value.”

In practice

Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland




Our 2014 evaluation of Northern Ireland’s Creating Change programme found that >

  • 94% of organisations indicated that Creating Change had increased their capacity to reach more people

  • 83% stated very positive changes in their organisation in terms of responding to changing needs of beneficiaries

  • There were also strong positive responses to the difference Creating Change made to organisations ability to advocate and demonstrate the difference their project is making is to the community

  • Creating Change helped organisations to leverage other funding: for every pound invested in grants, a further £5.80 had been leveraged by grantees

For grantees

  • Lack of clarity about roles and expectations: It can be hard to understand the role of the funder, especially if one person is trying to fulfil all roles (eg. manage a grant and provide support). Sometimes in our studies grantees were not clear what support was available or what was expected of them.
  • Inappropriate interference: There is a fine line between adding value and interfering. We have found that funders are sometimes seen as overstepping the mark.
  • The need for adequate resources: Receiving support and using support takes time and requires skills.

‘At the extreme end, are funders who are too involved and demand ridiculous amounts of information; it comes from a good place but it takes up so much time.’


  • Readiness and willingness to contemplate and achieve change: Grantees need to be engaged in the support. Our research shows that problems can be emphasised when support is imposed, so the style of support and diagnostic are really important.

For funders

  • Cultural fit and goal alignment: Achieving a cultural fit and goal alignment with grantees, partners and support providers isn’t always straightforward or possible.
  • Time, cost and skills: Time spent building relationships and engaging with grantees may be seen as a distraction from grant-making, so trustee commitment to this way of working is essential.
  • Managing support: The balancing act between providing bespoke support and (easier to manage) standardised support can be difficult and needs to be handled with care.



A high level and experienced support provider with a focus on strategy

Support that is basically an injection of part-time help with practical issues rather than focused on organisational effectiveness

A match between the skills of the support provider and the charity's needs

Lack of fit or empathy between the charity and the support provider

Securing high level strategic input on the charity board

Weak or unstable charity leadership

Being left with a very clear plan that focused energies

Support for governance not welcomed by the Chair and/or failure to include all the trustees

Involving everyone – staff and trustees – so that the support reaches into the heart of the organisation

Lack of organisational capacity, especially where the chief executive officer is part-time

Support was maintained after the Enhance pilot had finished

The charity is in a financial crisis and focused on fighting for survival

The support provider is:

  • enthusiastic

  • committed

  • motivational

  • inspiring

  • non-judgemental

The support provider is:

  • inconsistent

  • unreliable

  • too busy

  • out of his/her depth

The charity has:

  • commitment to the process

  • capability to effect change

  • capacity for implementation

The charity is half-hearted about support or doesnt appreciate the implications for time and effort



Photo of Ben Cairns

17 December 2015

It’s not about the money money money?

Ben Cairns

At a recent Association of Charitable Foundations workshop on ‘funding plus’ (aka ‘grants plus’ or ‘funder plus’) I was interested to hear one of the funders present say that they now felt relaxed about the prospect of ‘just giving grants’. Was this a case of heightened self-awareness or just a lack of creative thinking about what is possible with independent money?

read-more read more


Front cover image for Beyond Money report


Beyond Money

Eliza Buckley, Steven Burkeman, Ben Cairns, Alison Harker

Beyond money: A study of funding plus in the UK is the final report of research funded by Barrow Cadbury Trust, The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and Trust for London.


It’s completely blinkered to think there’s not a power relationship going on – they’ve got money and we haven’t!”

Front cover image for Duty of Care


Duty of Care

Eliza Buckley, Ben Cairns, Alison Harker, Romayne Hutchison

This report outlines findings from the ‘Recession Watch' research project led by IVAR and working with: Comic Relief; Cripplegate Foundation; The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund; Esmée Fairbairn Foundation; Henry Smith Charity; and The Tudor Trust.


It’s hard to say to funders that it’s too much because we need the funding. This is where the power relationship comes into play – because it makes it very hard for the grantee to refuse requests, involvement etc. especially when it comes from wanting to be helpful.”

Learn more about IVAR