We need to move on from emergency funding, charity leaders say

Sector leaders are calling for charities to move on from the demands of applying for emergency funding and back into more conventional cycles so they can begin to plan for the long term.

A briefing produced by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research and called Between a Rock and a Hard Place, is informed by research among charity bosses on the challenges their organisations were facing and what support they needed to move on from the coronavirus crisis.

The report, which is based on evidence supplied by 36 charities that took part in a series of online support sessions, says: “Both funders and VCSE organisations desperately need to move on from the demands of applying for and distributing six-month grants.”

It calls for a move back to more conventional cycles of one, three and even five-year funding, without losing the urgency and lightness of touch that has characterised the immediate response by so many.

As well as moving on from short-term funding, the report calls for funders to develop and prioritise trust, flexible funding, and support.

It asks funders to select organisations whose values and ambitions align with your own and then back their knowledge, experience and skills. 

The report says that this is best expressed through genuinely unrestricted funding, which grantees can use as they see fit in response to changing circumstances.

Funders should also be supportive by allowing charities to create the capacity to engage with and use support; and give them the freedom to decline it, if the timing or focus is not right for them.

In response to Ivar’s survey, one charity leader said: “We definitely don’t have the income we had going forward to just carry on with usual activities. We’re having to review earlier development plans which could mean difficult strategic decisions.”

Another leader responded: “The support clients need in six months will not be what they normally need. We are having to rethink our strategy for the long term.”

Ben Cairns, director of Ivar, said that both funders and VCSE organisations desperately needed relief from the demands of applying for and distributing six-month grants. 

“We're hearing from VCSE leaders - many of whom are flat out managing new needs and increasing demands on their services - about the challenges of staff and personal welfare, navigating the easing of lockdown, and reviewing long-term strategies,” he said.

Sector leaders were also concerned with their staff and personal welfare, navigating the ease of lockdown, and how they develop plans for the long-term.

The report calls for more access to peer support for charity bosses, more supportive funding structures, and greater collaboration and cross-sector engagement.

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