Fundraising News: Grant system is unhealthy, says Julia Unwin

Current arrangements for grant making are time-consuming and prevent the healthy development of the voluntary sector, claims a new book by former charity commissioner Julia Unwin.

The Grantmaking Tango examines the tensions and choices that affect the relationship between grant-making organisations and the voluntary sector.

While funders increasingly want to know what impact their investment has, organisations are in danger of losing touch with their mission by being too closely identified with the needs of their funders, the book argues.

Unwin draws on criticisms of the "number-crunching" approach of turning funding into an empirical science, where in reality social action and social change do not lend themselves to the "tidy world of the bottom line".

However, grant makers have a legitimate desire to know that their support makes a difference.

Most grant makers do not commit to a contribution for more than three years, creating short-term planning cycles in voluntary groups.

"The grant-making relationship is one in which there are incentives to dishonesty. This is largely because there are too many applications chasing the available funds," concludes the book.

Unwin draws on 10 years' experience with trusts and foundations as a board member of the Housing Corporation.

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