50 funders commit to being 'more open and trusting'

11 Feb 2021 News

Fifty funders have promised to be more open and trusting, and make grants in a way that reflects the realities facing charities and social enterprises.

As part of the #FlexibleFunders commitment, they will also manage those grants in a way that reflects the confidence they have in organisations they fund. 

The campaign has been coordinated by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR), in collaboration with London Funders and a small group of UK foundations and charities. It builds on a pledge circulated by London Funders at the beginning of the pandemic. 

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

The eight commitments are:

  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 funder's 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.”

They are calling on funders to adopt simpler and more flexible practices, in light of the ongoing uncertainty caused by Covid-19. 

In March 2020, some funders overhauled their processes, “dismantling onerous reporting structures and proactively offering a range of financial and flexible support”. 

The campaign wants to see these commitments extend beyond the crisis, and for them to become standard practice in the sector. 

Gina Crane, director of communications and learning at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, said: “Covid-19 has shown funders what can be achieved when we break our own rules and work together. Let’s take this opportunity to face up to the cost of our individual requirements on the organisations we fund, and make a change.”

'Next natural step'

They are asking funders to commit to being more open by making grants in a way that reflects the realities facing civil society organisations and managing grants in a way that reflects their confidence in and respect for the organisations they fund. 

This pledge builds on the stand by the sector statement, led by London Funders, which over 400 funders signed in recognition of the impact of Covid-19. 

James Banks, chief executive at London Funders said: “We are proud to join with our friends at IVAR and across the funding community to call for the achievements of 2020 to strengthen our work for the future.

“Over 400 organisations signed our ‘We stand with the sector’ statement at the start of the crisis, and we believe that the eight funder commitments are the natural next step to take for funders who have already pledged to adapt activities, be financially flexible, and to listen. We encourage all of our members to sign up to the commitments, and to make practical changes where necessary so that together we can enable our communities to thrive.”

The IVAR pledge aims to complement other work aiming to influence change, such as Association of Charitable Foundation’s Stronger Foundations initiative.

The campaign is calling for more funders to sign up and adopt the eight commitments.

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