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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 London Funders, a group of eight foundations, and VCSE organisations 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.

Exploring opportunities to align grant reporting

‘Funder-led. Bureaucratic. Time-consuming. Misunderstood.’ All words that have been used to describe UK grant reporting – the process (or processes) by which charities report their progress to funders. No matter how simple and clear an individual funder’s system might be, the current approach forces charities to repackage similar information for different funders, on different dates, with different word counts and in different formats.  

A group of funders and charities have developed a set of principles to make grant reporting a shared, more meaningful and mutually beneficial experience. These have now been published, and are being tested by nine independent funders. We are asking for feedback from UK charities and charitable trusts and foundations. 

Read more about the project here, or get in touch to join the group of funders testing the principles. 


Recession Watch Revisited

Funded by the IVAR Research Development Fund, in partnership with Cripplegate Foundation and Comic Relief

In 2012, we undertook research with 60 small voluntary organisations across the UK to explore the challenges they were experiencing and how independent funders might help them navigate the ongoing political and economic uncertainty sparked by the recession.

Five years on, we continue to see, hear about and research many of the same challenges – less funding and more need has become the new ‘normal’, and austerity seems to be here to stay. The original research highlighted the reduced availability of core funding; higher demand for services due to increasing poverty, hunger and unemployment; and a lack of time for forward planning. We also identified a number of ways that funders could support organisations to overcome these obstacles, which we have explored further in subsequent publications: for example, the importance of core funding, difficulties around ‘sustainability’, and the role of funders in supporting advocacy work.

In 2017 we are revisiting the voluntary organisations that took part our 2012 research to understand if and how their circumstances and outlook have changed. We will also carry out a series of interviews and discussions with independent funders to reflect upon changes in funding practice over the last five years, with the aim of highlighting the most useful and/or progressive practices.

For more information, take a look at the 2012 research ‘Duty of Care‘ and our wider work on Funding: Core Funding; Sustainability; Funding Plus.

If you have any questions, please do get in touch with eliza@ivar.org.uk