The power of face-to-face grant-making: Small grants in Hartlepool

There is much talk of funders becoming less demanding, more straightforward and quicker in their dealings with applicants and grantees. In June 2019, a team from the Tudor Trust visited Hartlepool to test out a way of paring back bureaucracy and placing relationships and trust at the forefront of their grant-making. Involving both Tudor’s trustees and staff and local community group staff and volunteers, the approach centred around half hour face-to-face conversations, with the idea of co-producing applications for funding together. It represented one part of Tudor’s response to the challenge IVAR laid down in ‘The possible, not the perfect’, and drew upon the lessons learned from grant making in response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

This paper is based on the views of those who took part in these grant-making conversations. It highlights how these conversations allowed Tudor to understand more about the people they met, the communities they are part of and what they care about. It suggests that this approach made for a more proportionate and accessible experience for community groups, and recognises the difference that ‘small’ grants can make within communities. In addition, the experience of talking to a funder about their work and experiences offered added value – beyond money – to the groups.

The paper concludes by drawing on the experience and the findings to ask: what is required for this approach to grant making? Would it be possible, or even desirable, to do this again? What does this experience mean for Tudor’s broader grant making? And, might some of the lessons learnt here contribute to the wider conversation on how applying for grants can be a more positive and straightforward experience for applicants?


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