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A Funder’s Perspective

19 June 2009

A busy morning of speaking engagements for me yesterday.

First up was the newly established Westminster Legal Policy Forum where I had been invited to offer a funder’s perspective on challenges facing the Third Sector in the context of recession.

I was introduced by Nick Hurd, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Charities, Social Enterprise and Volunteering. A good opportunity to share what we are hearing back from enquirers, applicants and award holders. The picture is mixed. Up to now, the impact of recession depends very much on the sources of funding organisations rely upon and the demand for the service or cause they are supporting.  The sector includes some multi-million pound businesses and amazingly switched-on operations but much of it is fragile, relying typically on low levels of capitalisation, depending on short term awards and random acts of goodwill. Governance can be well meaning, passionate about a cause but inexperienced when it comes to managing money and somewhat prone to panic.

BIG prides itself on being a VCS-friendly funder and has, for some years now, sought to fund in a manner that mitigates or removes some of these fragilities. We support and adhere to the Compact. We encourage longer term grants, increasingly up to five years. We promote full cost recovery in all we do. We focus on outcomes which we will, if appropriate, revisit during grant management if circumstances change rapidly and there are better ways of meeting need than originally envisaged.

We have invested directly, notably through our BASIS programme, in building capacity and expertise in the sector. All these things help in the good times and are even more important in the bad times.  However, we are but one funder of millions within the billions that support Third Sector work.
You can read more of what I had to say.

It was then off to Central Hall for the ACEVO summer funding roadshow where hundreds were gathered to pick up tips and insights from 19 speakers with varying quantities of cash to hand out over the coming period.  I sought to lift the veil on some aspects of the Big Lottery Fund’s journey from distributor to intelligent funder but it was hard to be too specific.

Next week we will launch our Strategic Framework 2009-15, share with everyone the outcomes of our extensive Big thinking consultation and announce some specific recession-related funding.  So the whole thing was a bit of a tease really.

You’ll hear it all here first!

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