Third Sector Excellence Awards: Innovation in Grant Making

Elizabeth Finn Care's ability to respond quickly to the worsening economic situation made it stand out from the crowd.

Elizabeth Finn Care
Elizabeth Finn Care

For a grant-making organisation that has altered its distribution practices to make better use of its money and meet the changing needs of modern grant recipients

Judging panel:
Harriett Baldwin, deputy chair, Futurebuilders England
Stephen Brooker, chair, Russam GMS charities practice
Rohan Hewavisenti, director of finance and business development, British Red Cross
Colin Nee, chief executive, Charities Evaluation Services

Church Urban Fund
Elizabeth Finn Care

Winner: Elizabeth Finn Care
The founding motto of grant-maker Elizabeth Finn Care was "he who gives quickly gives twice". And it was with this in mind that the charity reviewed its application process to find out how it could turn requests around more rapidly.

Because of its efforts, some cases that once took two months can now be turned around in two days, and the average time it takes the foundation to make a grant has been cut from 71 days to 34.

These changes allowed the foundation, which supports people in poverty, to increase its grant-making sharply when the credit crunch struck and the number of applications shot up by 400 per cent.

To speed up the process, the charity moved decision-making powers away from its central case committee, which met monthly, to its casework team. It also fast-tracked applications from people who had pressing financial needs.

It retrained its volunteer assessors, who were asked to cut down the time they took to produce reports - by, for example, using email and phone reports in times of greater need - and to carry out home visits with a more pragmatic approach to the needs of applicants. The moves enabled the charity to cut the costs of making each grant by almost a fifth.

The trust is aiming to reduce further the average amount of time it takes to respond to a grant application to fewer than three weeks. It is also attempting to improve its relationships with other grant-givers and to share good practice so that grant-making decisions are speeded up across the voluntary sector.

The judges were impressed with Elizabeth Finn Care's swift response to the rise in the number of applications during worsening economic conditions.

"This was business as usual for the trust - but it was business as usual done extremely well in response to a pressing market need," said Stephen Brooker, one of the judges. "It was able to increase its grant-making extremely sharply when the credit crunch hit."

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