The briefing cover for COVID-19 briefing for funders from IVAR.

Building a positive legacy together

Briefing 16 on the challenges faced by VCSE leaders during the Covid-19 crisis.

This sixteenth and final briefing in this series shares the experiences of 26 leaders and covers our reflections on the questions and opportunities for funders that they raise. It’s release coincided with the announcement of our peer support for charity leaders: Leading in Uncertainty.

Written in May 2021, with further lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and a clear ‘roadmap’ for future easing, charity leaders were in a reflective mood. Conversations focused on their mixed experiences of life during the pandemic, and the implications for the state of the sector and their role within it.

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

  1. The role of leadership moving forward – ‘We can be flexible, we can be creative and we can change.’ 
  2. Long-term planning and the ‘new normal’ –  ‘People expect you to make decisions but you can’t make decisions like you would normally do, due to the level of uncertainty.’
  3. The support of networks and infrastructure bodies – ‘Those that have used our services do value our role more and it has cemented the need for them, but there is no funding that is following this.’

What are we learning about the support VCSE leaders may need? VCSE leaders focused on the need for flexible funding practices and the importance of clear and open communication, with clear messages to funders.

Two stand-out messages for funders:

  1. Patience and empathy – Trust and patience remain at the heart of the response needed. Leaders will need time to work out how best to enact their duty of care… There can be no one-size-fits-all route back to stability, and this will need to be uppermost in funders’ minds as they re-set their funding criteria and processes.
  2. Mutuality –  With the prospect of some kind of recovery and renewal… there will still be a task to do in supporting the frontline, sustaining valued services and creative spaces for people to regroup as the longer-term impact of the pandemic becomes clearer. That will require listening, talking and learning, in order to inform and shape priorities and adaptations to practice…. recognising and respecting the different assets we all have to contribute.

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 www.ivar.org.uk/flexible-funders

Share the Leading in Uncertainty peer support session dates with VCSE leaders, more details here: https://www.ivar.org.uk/leading-in-uncertainty/ 

Read the full series of Covid-19 briefings here.

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