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Forty funders commit to be more open and trusting

Over 40 funders have signed a pledge for open and trusting grant-making, committing to be #FlexibleFunders for the organisations they support.

A new campaign has been launched today by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR), in collaboration with London Funders and a small group of UK foundations and charities. They are calling on funders to adopt simpler, more flexible practices that make life easier for those they fund, in light of the ongoing uncertainty caused by Covid-19. Their ambition is to see these commitments extend beyond the crisis: to become standard practice in the sector.

They are asking funders to commit to being more open and trusting by:

  • Making grants in a way that reflects the realities facing VCSE and other civil society organisations now and for the foreseeable future.
  • Managing grants in a way that reflects their confidence in and respect for the organisations they fund.

These two goals provide the framework for eight, actionable commitments.

Why now?

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. Then, over a few short weeks in March 2020, some funders overhauled their processes, dismantling onerous reporting structures and proactively offering a range of financial and flexible support.

Building on 20 years of researching, advocating for and supporting progressive funder practices[1], IVAR convened a group of funders and charities to look at how the best of these behaviours could be nurtured into the future.

The Eight Commitments

1.       Don’t waste time – funders will be open, transparent and clear about all of their priorities, requirements and exclusions.

2.       Ask relevant questions – funders will test their application forms to ensure clarity, relevance and avoid repetition, only collecting information that genuinely informs a funding decision.

3.       Accept risk – funders will clearly explain how risk is assessed and be realistic about how much assurance applicants can provide.

4.       Act with urgency – funders will aim to make decisions as quickly as possible by publishing and sticking to timeframes to ensure they work at a pace that meets the needs of applicants.

5.       Be open – funders will provide feedback, including reasons for rejections. They will analyse and share relevant data, including publishing success rates.

6.       Enable flexibility – funders will aim to give unrestricted funding; where they can’t (or are a specialist funder), they will ensure their funding is as flexible as possible.

7.       Communicate with purpose – a funders contact is positive and purposeful. They will be realistic about their time commitments.

8.       Be proportionate – funders will ensure that their formal reporting requirements are well understood, proportionate and meaningful.

This pledge is built on the stand by the sector statement, led by London Funders, which over 400 funders signed – in recognition of the impact that the Covid-19 outbreak continues to have on civil society groups, and to provide assurance that they stand with the sector at this time.

For funders who sign up to the eight commitments, IVAR is creating a community for dialogue, debate and challenge on the details of day-to-day practice, involving both funders and charities.

The pledge complements other work aiming to influence change – both in funder practice and improving relationships between charities and funders, such as ACF’s Stronger Foundations initiative. IVAR will continue to collaborate with ACF and others active in this space to ensure work is complementary.

Over 40 independent funders across the four nations of the UK have formed the first wave of foundations signed up to open and trusting grant-making on launch, including Corra Foundation, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.

IVAR, their partners and networks are calling for more funders to sign up to open and trusting grant-making. This means adopting the eight commitments, sharing how they will bring them to life, and joining a community of practice with other funders and charities to adapt and improve practice together.

IVAR invites both funders and those they fund to join them in championing these commitments and engaging with the campaign as it progresses, using #FlexibleFunders and tagging @IVAR_UK.