CharitySoWhite: Why can’t funders distribute to communities most affected by the coronavirus? Because #CharitySoWhite

Our conversations with senior leaders across the funding sector show a complete disconnect from the reality of what so many of our communities are facing on the ground

The sector has been campaigning tirelessly since the outbreak of the coronavirus, appealing to the public and government that #EveryDayCounts. There have been some wins along the way, but not enough of them. The fight for scarce funds will inevitably ensue and if funders don’t radically change the way they currently work, we know who will lose out.

As we learnt from the response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, we must ensure that funding goes to those organisations whose leadership reflects the communities they work with. Funders lack accountability and, as we continue to show that charities are #NeverMoreNeeded, we must scrutinise and campaign to ensure the funds reach those who need them.

On 30 April the Ubele Initiative’s research report revealed that nine out of 10 BAME VCS organisations are at risk of closure in the next three months. Many of these work on the front line, providing emergency response services. The work of others will be critical to an equitable recovery.

This rings an alarm bell in the middle of a crisis in which people from  BAME communities are dying and being left destitute at a disproportionate rate. At the same time, it is evident that funders do not know how to get money to these organisations and have made no commitment to making it happen.

In the response to the crisis, funders' actions are set to deepen these issues. Many have dropped equalities monitoring, are sticking to funding organisations in their existing networks and have made little effort to bring new perspectives to decision-making.

Leadership of these foundations is 99 per cent white, according to research from the Association of Charitable Foundations, and it is no surprise that existing networks reflect this. Their normal policies and practices reinforce structural racism and have led to a severely under-funded BAME VCS sector.

The National Lottery Community Fund and the National Emergencies Trust, the two key organisations involved in the distribution of Covid-19 emergency response funds, neither buck the trend on representation in their senior leadership, nor have an encouraging track record on funding BAME-led organisations.

#CharitySoWhite analysis of the largest 50 grants that the NLCF distributed in London in 2019 revealed that only 7.74 per cent of funds went to BAME VCS organisations. The 2011 census showed that more than 44 per cent of London’s population is BAME.

Across the rest of the UK, excluding London, similar analysis showed that only 2.53 per cent of funds were awarded to BAME VCS organisations.

In a statement about its diversity, equality and inclusion commitments during the crisis, the NLCF says that by 2023 it will have collected enough data on the spread of its funding to “diverse communities” to identify areas of under-representation and implement plans to address this.

We are sorry to inform the NLCF that by 2023 it will be too late: these organisations will not exist because of a lack of funding.

The picture is just as bleak from our analysis of the NET. Its only distribution partner, UK Community Foundations, has another mainly white senior management team. Grants are awarded through its network of 46 local community foundations, all but one of which are led by white chief executives.

The track records of these foundations is stark. Take Oxford, a city with an ethnic minority population of 22 per cent according to the 2011 census. Our analysis of the grants awarded by the Oxford Community Foundation so far in 2020 revealed that only 2.66 per cent of funds went to BAME VCS organisations.

UKCF has shared no public statement about its plans to ensure equitable distribution. Comments from its senior leadership about our calls to action show an attempt to distance itself from the power it holds, claiming it cannot influence local community foundations to prioritise representative decision-making panels for grant distribution.

Our conversations with senior leaders across the funding sector show a complete disconnect from the reality of what many of our communities are facing on the ground. We need leadership to take urgent and bold action. Instead, we are met with calls for more evidence and tired ideas about better marketing of funds.

Funders need to work hard to tackle structural racism in their organisations and win back the trust of the BAME VCS organisations in the long term. This won’t happen overnight. To truly match their intentions with impactful actions, in their emergency responses they need to hand power and funds to those who are best placed to ensure an equitable impact on communities.

We have outlined two simple actions for funders in the emergency response. Our first call is to ensure that people with race equality expertise are involved in decision-making for funding distribution.

The second is to ring-fence 20 per cent of funding for BAME VCS organisations, to be managed by BAME infrastructure organisations that have the expertise and relationships to ensure the funding goes where it needs to be.

Neither of these are unprecedented or unreasonable. Only last week, calls for ring-fenced funding for the violence against women and girls and domestic abuse sector were met. Funders make decisions every day about criteria for their funding: inaction now is an active choice to distance themselves from this power.

When the dust settles, funders cannot say they were unaware. If action is not taken, we will be here and will hold them accountable for the fact that they chose not to act.

#CharitySoWhite is a campaign group committed to rooting out racism in the charity sector. Follow @charitysowhite to join the movement

Notes

1. Organisations were identified as BAME VCS organisations if they were serving BAME communities and more than 51 per cent of the senior leadership team was BAME.

2. Our analysis of the National Lottery Community Fund’s funding in London was based on analysis of 47 out of 50 recipients allocated grants by them in 2019, for which we could verify the information in point 1. Information about grant recipients was retrieved through 360Giving GrantNav and individual grantees’ websites.

3. Our analysis of the National Lottery Community Fund’s national funding was based on analysis of 47 out of 50 recipients allocated grants by the NLCF in 2019 across the rest of the UK (excluding London), for which we could verify the information in point 1. Information about grant recipients was retrieved through 360Giving GrantNav and individual grantees’ websites.

4. Our analysis of the Oxford Community Foundation’s funding was based on analysis of 55 out of 55 recipients allocated grants by it in 2020, for which we could verify the information in point 1. Information about grant recipients was retrieved through the Oxford Community Foundation’s website and individual grantees’ websites.

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