Funding sources, Fundraising

Six things from the world of grant-makers you should know about in 2019

At DSC we’re always thinking about how to connect charities with grant-makers – for example with our all-new website, Funds Online. We research what trust and foundations do and make this information available to charities and fundraisers.

Along the way we come across loads of interesting learning and research from the grant-making universe, which you might not have heard about or had time to read. But these sorts of things can give you important context about what’s happening – whether you’re a fundraiser, policy bod, chief exec, or volunteer trustee.

Read on for some quick summaries of new developments that could help give you an edge this year (and maybe even add a few items to your New Year’s reading list!).

Nine large funders testing new principles on grant reporting

If you’re a fundraiser or involved with a fundraising charity that receives a lot of grant funding, you’ve probably encountered this problem before: grant reporting processes can impose significant administrative burdens on grantees. The Institute for

Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) looked at what’s currently not working in UK grant reporting, together with a group of funders and charities. Out of this they developed a set of principles to make grant reporting ‘a shared, more meaningful and mutually beneficial experience’.

Nine large funders – among them the Big Lottery Fund – are currently testing these principles. This work will be reviewed in the summer of 2019, so watch this space. More aligned grant reporting arrangements could be highly beneficial for charities, by saving time and effort. IVAR also looked into how funders changed their ‘business as usual’ approaches to provide urgent support in response to three emergencies in the summer of 2017 – including the London Grenfell Tower tragedy. This example offers insight about how funders can step outside their normal way of working and make things happen quickly.

GrantAdvisor – coming soon to the UK?

Feedback is a perennial issue that comes up in the grant-maker/grantee relationship, but normally we’re talking about applicants or grantees as recipients of feedback from funders. In contrast, GrantAdvisor is a new platform where grantee charities can give feedback on their experience working with different funders.

In their own words,: GrantAdvisor is a ‘web service that facilitates open dialogue between non-profits and grant-makers by collecting authentic, real-time reviews and comments on grant-seekers’ experiences working with funders to encourage more productive philanthropy’. It launched in the US in 2017, which remains the current focus, but there are also talks about bringing the platform to the UK in the future.

The Good Exchange

The Good Exchange is an online charity matching platform. It matches charities and their fundraisers, funders, donors and businesses that want to engage with giving and charitable activity. It has big ambitions for ‘transforming charitable giving’.

They are a digital platform that instantly brings together those that have money to give with the charities and community groups that need it. This helps to cut down and simplifyi lengthy application and due diligence processes for both sides. See how it works in this case study by the Rosemary Appeal.

Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) framework on safeguarding for foundations

Safeguarding was a big topic last year and will remain so in 2019, with charities and their trustees across the UK looking at their safeguarding risks and processes. ACF is the membership body for 350 UK foundations and grant-making charities, and together with their members they’ve developed a new framework that helps grant-makers to look at safeguarding from the perspective of a grant-maker, but also from an organisational and internal perspective.

Charities might increasingly have to include some reference to their safeguarding practices and show an understanding of the wider topic in grant application forms – even if they don’t work directly with vulnerable people. If you want to know how your future funder might look at the topic, then this a helpful additional resource to tap into.

What Donors Want

What Donors Want is a new podcast by I.G. Advisors, a consultancy that provides philanthropy CSR and fundraising advise for a wide range of high-profile clients. This gives them access to some of the biggest and most innovative funders in the UK and US, and they get the people that make the grants in front of the microphone.

‘Season One’ of the podcast includes illustrious guests from funders such as the Rockefeller Foundation, NoVo Foundation and Comic Relief. Check it out for a behind-the-scenes view into major gifts fundraising from the donor’s perspective. It’s also a great way to learn a lot about the specific lingo that funders use and how they think about their relationships with existing and future grantees. This is a great resource to ‘look into the minds of funders’.

The case for funding core costs and multi-annual grants

Two interesting recent pieces about how American funders operate also have some valuable lessons that might apply to the UK. ‘10 things progressive funders must learn from conservative ones’ analyses what ‘conservative’ funders get right in how they fund their grantees – and therefore might achieve bigger policy wins and social change as a result. The thinking is unusual for a UK audience in that it applies a political approach, but fundamental observations about the effect of process on outcomes are worth noting.

Many of these themes might sound familiar to charities that have argued similar things in the past: a partnership between funder and grantee based on trust; unrestricted funding; multi-annual grants; organisations that get funding must reflect the communities they serve in their organisational structure etc. – ideas that DSC is also advocating for.

Another piece from a former programme officer at the Rockefeller Foundation lists a set of ‘Questions I Wish I’d Asked’ when working as a grant-maker. Why do funders not fund core costs? Why is grant reporting not more streamlined? What’s wrong with multi-annual grants?

Hopefully this through the latest literature will keep you informed and equipped with good arguments for the coming year. Sign up to DSC’s enews for more free content and regular bulletins about funders and much more.