When the GUS Charitable Trust became tired of dealing with overlapping applications for funding from a number of prostate cancer charities, it decided to act. It offered a sizeable grant - £100,000 instead of a number of small ones - provided the charities got together and submitted a joint bid (Third Sector, 2 October).
Charities, especially small ones in a crowded field such as cancer, could view such an approach with disquiet. They may feel that their ability to meet the needs of particular niche groups is under threat if it becomes harder for them to attract funding in their own right. In other cases, it might be a unique approach or way of working with client groups that is especially valued.
It would be wrong for a powerful funder to try to apply some sort of "central planning
to a charitable sector. And "partnership
should never be simply for the sake of it.
However, funders are also entirely within their rights to use their money in ways that they think will have the greatest impact. And there are many indications that grant- makers are taking an increasingly proactive, involved approach for this very reason. The question is not whether this is wrong or right; it is whether it is being done in the right way.
The GUS Charitable Trust footed the costs for the 16 charities to meet together for a day, and also paid for a trained facilitator to help them agree common goals and priorities. The organisations involved did not seem to feel threatened by the process. On the contrary, they appeared to appreciate the involvement of the grant-maker at this level.
Sometimes, funders are in a better position than the charities on the ground to take an overview of a particular sector or set of needs. And approached with sufficient trust and goodwill on both sides, initiatives like this can only be welcomed. See Hot Issue, p15.