Complicated and messy

Briefing 12 on the challenges faced by VCSE leaders during the Covid-19 crisis

This twelfth briefing shares the experiences of 43 leaders participating in online peer support sessions between 15th October and 4th November 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. Protecting the welfare of their staff and of themselves: ‘Get some time out from the digital and get some thinking time. It’s important to pace yourself so pace doesn’t run you out.’
  2. Remaining mission-focused: ‘We could have folded and decided to all go on furlough, but we decided to stay. We wanted to plant ourselves in the memory of local people that we’ve been there when people needed us. We’re here to do a service. We have the resources to do these services, so we decided to take a bold approach.’
  3. Balancing the need to plan with the imperative to remain highly flexible: ‘Everything is reversible at any moment, so now we don’t put a date on things but expectations are still there.’

Four stand-out messages for funders:

  1. Proportionate and relational funding practices: ‘It can take as long to produce a report for a funder who has given £500, as it can for a funder who has given £5,000.’
  2. Longer-term, core funding: ‘Core funding gives us sustainability and the ability to retain good staff.’
  3. Realistic measures of ‘success’: Funders will need to understand that they will ‘receive applications that cost the same but with fewer numbers of people being served.’
  4. Recognise the contribution and diversity of the VCSE sector: ‘Infrastructure is desperately needed to bring attention to, and help to amplify, the voice of the sector.’

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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