As a relatively new Foundation we were honoured to win the 2018 DSC Great Giving Funders’ Award, particularly as we were nominated by High Trees Community Development Trust, a grantee creating long-term impact in both Lambeth and Wandsworth.
What we know for certain is that we are NOT great
Far from it, but we strive to reflect and learn so that we can be the best we can be. We would like to share our learning to date and hope that it is useful to other funders’ thinking and reflection.
Launching a new Foundation is not easy. Like any start-up there were market entry challenges that required relationship building and understanding local need.
What worked for us was a listening tour
We walked the patch and talked to everyone. We were determined not to make assumptions about what’s needed and how and where it is needed.
Our approach was not to be a great grant funder as such but to source great grants through finding great people and great organisations. And goodness, there are many! And the community knew who there are and where they are. And we eagerly listened.
We also sought to collaborate
As the newest grantmaker in our area, we have hugely benefited from working with others, including Walcot Foundation, a funder with over 350 years of knowledge of placed based learning in Lambeth and in Wandsworth, with another newish funder, Wimbledon Foundation.
Across our grants we have sought to address areas such childhood obesity, youth violence, 50+ employability and social sector capacity building based upon what our communities told us and led by their expertise.
Our funding has been important when it has catalysed ideas and enabled innovation. As such we have provided core cost grants and sought to offer flexible funding in amount and approach, led by community need. And then got out of the way.
Our learning to date has focused on three particular points that we would like to share.
1. Flexibility is key
Very often our grants don’t go as planned and our initiatives have benefited from changing course as required. Our best grants are the ones where all stakeholders have been surprised in some way and something unplanned has emerged that was unanticipated.
2. Connections are key
We have found that our best and most impactful contribution to the community is through the connecting role we can have; through introductions and the facilitation of partnerships and connections.
3. Modesty creates significant value for our grantees
We are humble in what we ask from grantees including the amount of administration we ask them to perform. We do not assume to know what is best for the community, but we are fortunate to have built networks wherein local expertise from government, charities and social enterprises, business and other funders can share their knowledge and expertise and help us to make good decisions and back great people and initiatives.
Through flexibility, collaboration and modesty we aim to be the best funder we can be and catalyse great initiatives through great people in Wandsworth and Lambeth.