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Sustaining simplified funding beyond the Covid-19 crisis

Over the last decade there has been much talk of funders – particularly trusts and foundations – trying to become less burdensome, more straightforward and quicker in their dealings with applicants and grantees. For that to happen, they need to be ruthlessly clear about the purpose and necessity of their processes. The positive examples that we have seen – those described in The possible, not the perfect and, more recently, in our account of the Tudor Trust’s work in Hartlepool and in our collaboration with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation on better reporting – weren’t rushed or haphazard. Their preparation and execution were characterised by care, attention to detail and great sensitivity. But, critically, they were nimble and proportionate, sending a clear signal to others about what is possible when you are prepared to ‘step outside the normal’.

 

In the current context, as funders and voluntary organisations grapple with uncertainty, anxiety and complexity, we are all having do things differently. Many funders are seeking to provide assurance to their grantees through the continuing upheaval and disruption. Powerful tools include converting and committing to unrestricted funding – immediately and at least for the medium term – and offering extensions on grants ending in the next twelve months.

 

While it may be too soon for definitive answers on long-term strategy, there is a real opportunity for a more collaborative approach to rethinking the future and, in particular, funding practices, many of which may no longer be fit for purpose. In partnership with a group of funders and small charities from across the UK, IVAR is launching a Learning Review to identify opportunities for sustainable adaptations and innovations to funding processes and practices. We will be capturing and distilling the key features and aspects of funder responses to the Covid-19 crisis, before turning our attention to options for longer-term adaptations and innovations to funding behaviours and processes, and supporting funders with implementation – paying particular attention to the needs of VCSE organisations adversely affected by systemic barriers and burdensome practices.

This work is in partnership with: 

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Learning partner for Comic Relief intermediary funding

IVAR will work with Comic Relief as the Learning Partner for their work with intermediary funders in the UK to support reflection and learning of their processes and experiences. We will support Comic Relief and its partners to question, learn from and adapt the work in real time. In practice, ‘working alongside’ will include acting as a sounding board; sense-making; synthesising both informal and formal data; and facilitating group conversations. Given the exploratory and innovative nature of this initiative, IVAR will ensure that it creates a space within which it feels safe to share, challenge and question – in part, that will require careful preliminary thought about the appropriate role for Comic Relief in the process. The aim will be to create relationships of trust that allow for candid dialogue outside of the constraints of grant management.

This will involve two main areas of work:
  • Facilitate a learning process amongst this group of intermediary funders and Comic Relief around topics of common interest to the group
  • Support Comic Relief to reflect on and test some of the assumptions that underpin our approach to working with intermediary funders