Five things that funders can do to support local charities
Rosemary Macdonald, CEO, UK Community Foundations
It’s hard to believe that it’s one year since the launch of the National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal. Since the 18 March 2020 over 12,000 local charities and community organisations have received the emergency funding raised by the NET and expertly distributed by community foundations. The collective response that we’ve been part of has been incredible. The work that has been done to support communities through this most difficult year has been absolutely vital.
Despite the phenomenal efforts of our network and our partners, there is no getting away from the fact that further financial support for local charities is desperately needed. Like many across the sector we were disappointed to see that Government didn’t offer this in the budget. However, as funders we must ask ourselves this question: what more can we do to make life easier for the organisations that we support? We asked our network what they think and here’s what they said:
Support what works
The unique problems that the pandemic presented were overcome with innovation, agility and ingenuity. We’ve seen local charities and community organisations meet the need in ways that would have seemed out of the question a year ago. As in every other sector, going digital has had its perks. Local charities have seen increased engagement; more people have been able to access support and in certain cases there has been a wholesale overhaul of service delivery.
As local charities have adapted, so should funders. Rather than just focussing on short-term, transactional funding for project delivery, we should instead be looking at where we can provide longer-term support for what has been proven to work. Forcing local charities to reinvent the wheel to access funding serves no-one.
Core funding, core funding and… more core funding
When we ask our network what they would like to see more of, core funding is always top of the list. The demand across the sector for core funding has always been there, but the supply hasn’t matched it. It’s key that this isn’t forgotten about and we will keep banging the drum for core funding wherever we can. Giving charities the freedom to spend funding where and when it is most needed ultimately serves the people and places that benefit most from the work they do.
Extending deadlines, repurposing existing grants, non-restrictive criteria, non-onerous reporting requirements and simplified application processes are all elements of good grant-making practice that are easily within our power to get right. As funders we need to take the administrative burden off the organisations we support and do all we can to ensure that our processes aren’t a barrier to them going out and delivering the services that communities desperately need right now.
Teamwork makes the dream work. The pandemic has taken funder collaboration to a whole new level. We’ve seen some fantastic examples of funders introducing one-stop portals for applications and pooling resources; many of these have involved community foundations. In turn, we’ve been an active member of the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership (VCSEP) bringing the local insights of community foundations to the table. This ethos of partnership and collaboration should be the norm moving forward.
Think outside the box
Local charities and community organisations have been creative in their service delivery throughout the pandemic; funders should be thinking laterally about how they can meet the needs of the sector. There’s so much work that can be supported that builds resilience and capacity in local organisations to deliver the services that communities rely on. Investing in things like stronger governance, organisational development, local VCS infrastructure and peer support will equip local charities with the tools to respond to future challenges.
*You can read more about how community foundations have been responding to coronavirus in this report.