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What are funders now thinking about?

I spoke to a number of local and national trust, foundation and National Lottery funders about what was on their minds at the moment. They also shared what they are expecting to see from the sector as we move from emergency to recovery.

There were four key messages

1. Going into lockdown is not the same as coming out of lockdown

They are very aware of this. They know how quickly you responded to the crisis and in many cases how fast you had to stop delivering your work. 

The options at that time were very clear – you had to close. 

Then you worked hard to ensure that you could keep in contact with the people you work with. They saw how you did your best to keep doing your work and continue to reach people.

They are not expecting you to reopen as quickly as you closed. They know that this will take time. They understand that you may need to consider a range of options, work on risk assessments, repurpose funding and respond to the latest guidance. Funders want you to keep talking to them about this. They can share their learning with you about how other organisations are working and will want to help you solve problems and find new solutions. 

2. Collaboration and partnership working is vital 

All of the funders I spoke to told me inspiring stories about how organisations had come together to support people. Some examples were about organisations who don’t usually work together as they do different things, or because there was a history of conflict between the organisations.

It was seen as a great use of resources to collaborate and play to the strengths of different organisations.

They were all impressed with how the people who needed help came first. They want to see this spirit continue in the future work that they fund.

Funders also want to collaborate with you. Nearly 400 funders ( signed up to the following COVID funding commitment:

If your community, services or organisation are affected by the covid-19 outbreak, and you receive grant* funding from us, we are committed to:

  • Adapting activities – we recognise that you may experience difficulties achieving some of the outputs or outcomes we agreed for your grant during the outbreak, and would like to be able to maintain our grant payments to you at originally-agreed levels during this period, so please have a conversation with us if you are affected in this way;
  • Discussing dates – we don’t want to add pressure, so if you think you will struggle to meet a reporting deadline please get in touch with us so that we can agree a more realistic time for you to get things to us wherever possible;
  • Financial flexibility – we know you may need to use your funding to help cover sickness, purchase equipment, or deliver services differently, and we will be reasonable if you need to move money between budget headings to ensure your work can continue; and
  • Listening to you – we are here if you want to talk to us about the situation you’re facing, but we’ll wait for you to call us so that these conversations are at the right time for you.

3. ‘Be cautious but purposeful’

One of the funders I talked to used this phrase“Be cautious but purposeful” about how they want to see organisations working in the future. I think it sums up what a lot of them were saying about future planning.

You do not need to be overly ambitious. They want to see reasonable plans for these uncertain times. And as the above commitment shows – they want you to keep talking to them. We are entering another phase of uncertainty with partial reopening and there may be closures again. Keep your funders informed of your plans, thinking and any changes.

There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment. They are not expecting you to have all of the answers. They want to see what your scenario planning looks like and understand that your financial plans will need to be conservative.

They have been impressed by how flexible and nimble you have been during the crisis. They expect to see this continue. They want to understand how you are adapting or pivoting as and where necessary.

What else is on their minds?

I also spoke to them about what irritates them most about funding applications.

Check out my article ‘5 common mistakes that annoy funders – what are funders pet peeves?’ HERE

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