Between a rock and a hard place

Briefing 9 on the challenges faced by VCSE leaders during the Covid-19 crisis

This ninth briefing shares the experiences of 36 leaders participating in online peer support sessions between 14th and 31st July 2020, and our reflections on the questions and opportunities for funders that they raise.

Three concerns stood out as front of mind for VCSE leaders:

  1. Staff and personal welfare: ‘Our clients are really suffering at the moment, which means staff are hearing difficult stories and clients are becoming harder to help – they are starting to take their frustrations out on our staff more, which is very hard’.
  2. Navigating the easing of lockdown: ‘Like many others, we’ve come out of the crisis phase and we’ve survived it. But planning for increasing capacity with physical distancing, infection prevention and having control measures in place is going to make our services very, very limited’.
  3. Long-term strategy: ‘The support that clients will need in six months will not be what they normally need. We are having to rethink our strategy for the long term’.

The stand-out messages for funders:

  • Trust – select organisations whose values and ambitions align with your own and then back their knowledge, experience and skills.
  • Flexible funding – trust is best expressed through genuinely unrestricted funding, which grantees can use as they see fit in response to changing circumstances.
  • Support – respect organisations’ own analysis of their needs and circumstances. Fund them to create the capacity to engage with and use support; and give them the freedom to decline it, if the timing or focus isn’t right for them.

What next?

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

Share the Leading in Uncertainty online peer support session dates with charity leaders, more details here:

Read the full series of Covid-19 briefings here.


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