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Larger trusts ‘have gone backwards’ in grant flexibility, warns foundation boss

22 Jun 2023 News

Some larger foundations have “gone backwards since Covid” in terms of the unrestricted funding they offer, a trust chief executive has said. 

Mary Rose Gunn, chief executive of the Fore, was speaking at a Small Charity Week panel yesterday on how funders can better support small charities. 

She told the audience that many funders had become more flexible in their grantmaking for charities during the pandemic but this seems to have regressed over time. 

“From what we’re hearing on the ground from small charities, big foundations have gone backwards since Covid, which is really disappointing,” she said. 

‘There is still a long, long way to go’

Gunn said there had been some progress in how foundations were supporting small charities, “but it’s not enough and it’s not fast enough”.

“If you look at the data in this sector, the NCVO Almanac shows the amount of funding going to small charities is still on a downward trajectory. One of my big impact aims is to try and change that,” she said.

Gunn said it was important to ensure “money is getting into grassroots organisations who have got solutions” to problems faced in society.

“As funders, we need to work a lot harder to get money into those small charities on the ground and social enterprises,” she said.

Larger foundations ‘don’t want our reporting to be a burden’

Alex Van Vliet, research and learning manager at Lloyds Bank Foundation, said larger funders “don’t want our reporting to be a burden” on the smaller charities they fund. 

“We want it to serve as a mutual learning exercise for both us and for them, and making sure that those processes are proportional, and that they continue to build that degree of trust and that organisations are really clear on why we might ask for information and how we’re going to use it. That’s really critical, I think, to building the quality of the relationship.”

Amicky Carol Akiwumi, CEO of Money4YOU, asked how radical funders can get when it comes to grantmaking.  

“For me, what true unrestriction is, is not asking me to tell you what I’m going to use it for,” she said, putting herself in the position of a small charity. 

She suggested funders take a more “radical approach” that is “co-creational from the start – get the recipients to design the process with you”. 

“I know that’s probably a little bit scary,” she said.

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