Free webinar: trends in grant-making practice following Covid-19 and other developments
4th February 2021

In our February webinar, we explored the latest developments in how funders help charities to recover from the impact of the pandemic, while also taking action in relation to other major issues for grantmakers.

We were joined by three excellent guest speakers: Dr Jan McKenley, Ngozi Lyn Cole and Sarah Ridley (their biogs are below).

Due to the number of attendees and questions, we didn't manage to cover them all but Alex and our guest speakers have shared their thoughts below on the remaining questions.

We will be continuing to explore trends in grant-making following the coronavirus and more broadly. We're already planning our next webinar in May 2021. We'll be confirming a date and time for this event soon.

In the meantime, if you are aiming to improve your relationships with grant-makers and increase your grant income, you could benefit from our trust fundraising training. Our next training programme is 20 April to 18 May 2021. The training is a step-by-step masterclass with practical tools and resources that you can use to develop your charity’s trust fundraising programme.

We also have on-demand, online courses in different key areas of trust fundraising, if you would like to target a specific area of your trust fundraising.

Questions we didn't have time to answer:

1. Our organisation is working towards being much more representative of the communities we work in (which in turn vary can widely across the country) and I always wonder how best to present our current situation versus our goals. Can you offer any advice on what you want to know as a funder, is it where we are now, where we are going or both?

NLC - I believe that it's both. I suggest telling the story of where you are now, where you want to get to and why and then conclude with how you plan to approach this.

2. Is it still acceptable to be asking funders to consider supporting core funding. Securing FCR has always been challenging, but even more important now to enable organisation resilience. Are funders being responsive to this?

NLC - Many funders support core (unrestricted) funding including certain programmes run by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Lloyds Bank Foundation and others. I suggest speaking to the funder that you intend to approach to see if this is something they would support.

SR - You will find helpful resources on core funding on the IVAR website. This includes a link to “Thinking about... core funding” which I wrote with Ben Cairns and Chris Mills.

AB - I think in many cases unrestricted funding has increased during Covid, albeit that many ‘emergency’ grants have been small (<£10k). As you say the case for core is clearer than ever now due to Covid and so I hope this will add momentum to what I think has been a gradual increase in core funding over the last few years.

Those leading the way include Lloyds Bank Foundation (probably the most vocal supporter of core funding), Tudor Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Despite the positive actions of a small number of large funders and numerous reports on the topic from the likes of the IVAR (see above links), the pace of change has been slow and some major grantmakers still refuse to fund anything close to FCR, let alone unrestricted grants, so lets hope that a silver lining from Covid is more core funding!

3. It'd be great to hear the panels thoughts on the extra challenges and opportunities of launching a capital campaign now?

SR - There’s a lot to talk about here depending on the details of your project. The biggest difference to our “old world” is that funders will want you to be able to demonstrate that your forecasts take into consideration different Covid-19 scenarios. You will have to be able to demonstrate the need for the facility and that the facility will be able to function in a Covid-19 world of social distancing. Funders will be keen to understand how long the capital project will take to complete and be ready for use. They will want to see that you have considered the impact of Covid-19 as part of your timetabling and risk assessment. As usual, funders will want to know that you have realistic plans for raising the capital funds and for covering ongoing running costs. These will need to take into consideration different Covid-19 scenarios.

4. My organisation Attend has expertise in volunteer support and we get volunteers to help a broad variety of beneficiaries including in hard to reach places like residential care homes and mental health wards. I'm finding it hard to attract funding because I feel we are thought of as an umbrella group or perhaps we have too many different community interest groups too broadly spread across London (and in fact across England due to our National heritage). I wondered whether the panel have any comments about support for this kind of organisation? Are funders going to focus more and more local, single interest groups?

SR - Actually, I think this is a moment when umbrella groups can provide a great conduit for funders if the umbrella organisations can serve as an efficient mechanism for getting money and/or services out to small, local groups. An umbrella group that has excellent local knowledge and administrative networks can play a key role. However, in your instance, you will probably need to identify one issue for which you are able to provide volunteer support e.g., befriending rather than a general offer of “volunteers”.

AB – I think the key issue for you here is about how to make a strong case for support. Funders want to know about the specific needs of the people who will benefit, to understand that you are best placed to meet these needs and can evidence the difference you make. So, it may work best to focus your case on a particular area or theme of your work, or if you need to go for core funding then focus on the unique strengths of your organisation i.e. why is Attend needed to get volunteers in to hard-to-reach places, how do you add values to local charities who have volunteer projects and so on. If you can demonstrate that you offer something no one else can (or is), then you’ll stand out as an applicant that needs to be funded. You could think of this as the ‘what would happen if we didn’t fund you’ question.

5. Some grant making trusts have reported increased income - others reduced do you have a view / insight as to any trend / pattern?

NLC – I’m not seeing any obvious trends. Some trusts that experienced a decline due to the adverse impact of Covid on the markets are starting to see the green shoots of recovery. Others are planning for a decrease in funds available for 2021/2022.

AB – I think Sarah mentioned this in the webinar, there are various scenarios depending on the type of funder, for example a trust that spends the income from an endowment vs a corporate foundation that receives income from the company profits.

6. Are funders reluctant to consider multi-year grants now due to current uncertainty?

NLC – I don’t believe so. I would suggest contacting the funder you wish to approach to discuss why you need multi-year funding.

AB – I don’t think so in general. I think what we’ve seen is that the emergency grants were all short term (

7. What advice do the panel have for organisations with a wider remit (e.g. universities/research organisations) who are struggling to engage funders that are focused on frontline and community charities, but can still have significant long term impact, especially in our recovery from COVID and protection against future pandemics?

SR--Funders recognise that they have different roles: for example, some to support small, quick interventions, others to provide support for longer term initiatives. The task is to target those who share your objectives. If you know that a funder is currently focused on frontline and community charities, it unlikely that you will be successful with them unless you are working with frontline and community charities. If you have the time and resources to do so, you could communicate the longer term recovery impact that you believe that you will have and that needs to be funded.

8. Sarah mentioned the importance of case studies, and we already use these widely, but I wondered if the panel think that funders want to hear beneficiaries' stories in a wider variety of ways rather than just in reports - so, maybe as speakers on zoom events, as recorded or filmed interviews etc?

NLC - Many funders have started to welcome videos and films. Please check with the funder before you spend any resources on this.

AB – I expect this digital aspect of applications to increase over time, but things tend to move slowly in the grantmaking world, where many funders outside of the largest ones are still asking for applications by snail mail!

9. Digital age: does the growing trend of using digital and virtual fundraising have any impact on the way grant-givers respond to charities - are online appeals as opposed to traditional proposals in the post more effective? Should charities look into marketing their funding proposals more online and in the social media?

SR—I suggest that you use the approach that is requested by the funder. I haven’t seen a big swing to the use of online appeals.

10. Is there a chance that collaborations such as London Community Response Fund, where one application reaches a number of funders, will become a model in the future, enabling fundraisers to be more efficient in their application writing, which takes up so much capacity , especially in small organisations?

SR—Possibly. Certain types of funding support lend themselves more to a single application approach than others. This is something that has been talked about for years, but, given the diversity of funders and not for profits it is very hard to achieve.

AB – As Sarah says there have been campaigns for this for years and attempts to do it but for the reason above, I can’t see it ever happening outside of a specific situation such as an emergency. NB. We do see it a bit more commonly on a smaller scale i.e. two or three funders put the money in and one of them actually manages the programme. Its also more or less the model used by Community Foundations receiving one application that could then be funded from any number of named funds or the general fund.

11. We are in great need of an essential piece of equipment that will be of great cost. The speed of grants for such money will exceed the need. We really need this equipment in next month or two. The thought is to seek a loan. Will this completely knock us out from applying to grants re help to repay loan – whether in part or total?

NLC – please have a look at the funding criteria for the funders you wish to approach as a number of funders are clear that their grants cannot be used to repay loans.

AB – funders won’t grant retrospective costs as well, which this would likely be seen as so very unlikely.

12. ALEX - Is it possible for you to collate any unanswered questions for the panellists to respond to, if possible, afterwards? That would be very helpful if they have the time.

AB – Yes :)

13. Many of us are very conscious that grantmakers are completely overwhelmed by applications at the moment and don't often have paid staff, and I have certainly seen a trend where grantmakers are becoming less easy to contact for an initial conversation prior to an application. However this conversation could save both the applicant and funder significant time and potentially reduce unwelcome applications. Do the panel think funders will ever be able to become more engaged with prospective applicants again? Do you have any advice for being able to encourage those conversations?

SR—As I indicated in my comments, I think that communication is key and that conversations are essential for funders to make informed decisions. Many funders have a model that encourages and enables such transfer of knowledge, but this normally means having a larger staff and associated overhead costs. Other funders have a model that seeks to reduce the funder’s costs of making grants and to maximize the funds that are distributed. My advice is to prepare yourself well so that you can maximise the impact of any conversation that you are able to have.

AB – just to say I agree with Sarah and also with the point in the question that funders are going to find it harder to engage in communication with charities who they don’t already fund due to the increased levels of applicants (due to Covid’s impact on other income streams).

Questions answered in the last 30 minutes of the webinar (see recording):

14. What are the most common traits that you find successful applicants share?

15. Do funders expect to continue focusing on current grantees for the foreseeable, or will there be more scope to support new beneficiaries?

16. What are the panel’s thoughts on levels of charity reserves in the current climate. Are charities with high reserves at a disadvantage, or will it be seen as a positive in that it adds a level of protection for core services in the future?

17. Ngozi How can we ensure that greater awareness of EDI leads to genuine change and not to more short term tokenistic grant programmes? Also - It's tricky as a fundraiser to change the way an organisation works to get better at EDI - does anyone have any tips? I find it can become just a box ticking exercise.

18. Any big unexpected problems from Brexit and any more news about the UK Shared Prosperity Fund as regards the third sector?

19. A great deal of funders who had previously funded international work stopped doing so when the pandemic hit. Do the panel members envisage that situation continuing or will doors open again?

20. Signing the funders' statement while welcome in the initial months now seems like quite a passive move for funders. Longer time scales because of due diligence processes etc seems to lack credibility after how quickly we've seen foundations respond in the wake of the pandemic. Funders who awarded emergency funding showed that quick decision making is possible. To what extent do you think we should be pressuring funders to change their decision-making processes to reach quicker and more transparent decisions rather than accepting the traditional quarterly/six monthly decision making processes?

21. What could the move to place-based funding mean for charities who operate nationally?

22. It would be interesting to know if Paul Hamlyn are planning to evaluate the success of grants programmes awarded in this quicker, fast-tracked way? If they have proved successful relative to pre-COVID programmes, does it strengthen the case that quicker processes, more 'risk taking' (from due diligence perspective), and trust centred approaches, should frame future grant making strategies?

23. We have had an incredible response from existing and new funders, greater understanding of the need for core costs. I am now looking at 21-22 with some concern as it might well be a much less successful year - how long can funders' generosity last?

Guest Speakers

Dr Jan McKenley, a Trustee of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation since 2016, sitting on the Migration and Youth Panels and the Foundation's India Committee. Throughout a career in the public and private sectors, Jan has been involved in widening access and participation, raising aspirations and educational achievements.

As Director of Public Service at Heart, Jan supports organisations on Equality, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Jan provides performance coaching for individual leaders in London and the South West and is Lead Facilitator for Stepping Up, a city-wide talent development programme in Bristol.

Ngozi Lyn Cole spent 18 years at the National Lottery Community Fund holding several roles, including England Director until February 2017. In that role, she was responsible for all grant programmes, overseeing over 500 employees and an annual budget of £450m. Prior to this, she worked in community development, education, urban regeneration and housing. More recently she has worked with funders such as the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Lloyds Bank Foundation, Millfield House Foundation and Virgin Money Foundation.

A self-employed coach and management consultant, she is also co-founder of GLT Partners Ltd, a support agency for charities, social enterprises and businesses. Ngozi also holds non-executive posts including Deputy Chair of the Appointments Committee of the General Pharmaceutical Council and the South Tyneside & Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

Sarah Ridley has over 25 years' experience leading grant-making foundations and front-line charities to deliver award-winning results in the UK, US and Asia. Sarah is currently Chief Grants officer at The London Marathon Charitable Trust which works to remove barriers to participation in physical activity. She has advised many large foundations and individual philanthropists; and has overseen the 'spend out' of a significant UK foundation.

Sarah is a Trustee of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (Europe), a nonprofit that partners with individuals, families and institutions to help make philanthropy more thoughtful and effective. She is also a Trustee of the international development charity, Carers Worldwide, the only organisation working exclusively and strategically with unpaid family carers in the global South.

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