Adapting to change
Grants allow charities to respond to emerging needs, whether that is through adapting existing services or developing new ones., recognised a need for an intensive therapeutic programme for gay and bisexual men engaged in ‘chemsex’, an emerging pattern of substance use in a sexual context. These needs weren’t met under existing services so the charity used unrestricted reserves to develop and pilot a new programme. Using this initial evidence, the charity was able to obtain a £42,000 grant over two years from the Henry Smith Charity to further develop the service.
Grants can enable charities to meet local needs, even where these go beyond a local authority boundary. For London Friend, a charity supporting the LGB&T community with substance abuse issues, this means that they can work with a community that is not defined by one geographical area. It enables specialist services to be delivered which would not be available in more narrowly defined geographical areas where the numbers of people accessing support would be too low. Conversely, contracts tend to commission more generic services so it is harder to meet the needs of a specific community through them.
Grants empower those who understand issues and communities to adapt services to best meet needs as opposed to more restrictive contracts where specifications are prescribed by commissioners. For London Friend, they were able to adapt the needs assessment so that it could reflect specific specialist areas. Had the service been delivered through a contract, a generic needs assessment would likely have been imposed which formed part of the contract.
The flexibility offered by grants helps charities to deliver services as they are needed. London Friend have a contract to deliver support services to people affected by HIV which allows individuals to access four support sessions. Sometimes, the four sessions paid for through the contract are not enough support for some people but the charity is able to provide more intensive support through other grant-funded services. While the prescriptive nature of contracts could leave people without access to the full level of support they need, more flexible grants enable charities to assess the individual needs of each person and tailor a holistic response accordingly.
For some sectors, the decline of grants is threatening the sector as a whole. Contract funding has moved towards larger, more generic contracts that do not recognise the various needs of different groups and communities. PACE has already been forced to close while a number of others are at risk. The ongoing pattern of decline in specialist services following the decline of grants is moving towards an environment whereby only generic services, which do not need the specific needs of individuals, are available.
Saving time, effort and resources
After receiving a grant from Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, London Friend was able to access additional support to strengthen the charity for the future. As part of its Enhance programme, charities receiving a grant from the funder are offered a range of funder-plus option. For London Friend this resulted in five days of consultancy support to develop the charity’s first ever strategic plan. This kind of additional support plays an important role in increasing charities’ capacity and capabilities, helping them to become more sustainable in the long term. Contracts, where a set price is paid for a closely defined service, do not allow for this kind of organisational development.