Reflections on three Coronavirus funding collaborations

This blog was originally shared by ACF (Association of Charitable Foundations) where Carolyn Sawers, Deputy Chief Executive of Corra Foundation summarises the response to coronavirus in Scotland.

The community and voluntary response to the coronavirus pandemic has been astounding. Rapid, agile, underpinned by kindness, care and love.

There are many things to be proud of in the response from independent funders and government in Scotland, although it has not been perfect by any means. We are listening to what could have been better and what should be different for the unpredictable times ahead.

Three ways that funding collaborations have worked are worth reflecting on:

  • ‘Shared front doors’ for applications – web-based checkers that land applicants at the right place. The Third Sector Resilience Fund eligibility checker is a door to three different funders (Firstport, Social Investment Scotland and Corra), depending on the kind of funds needed. Together we’ve made 1316 grants and loans (all money being managed on behalf of the Scottish Government). Foundation Scotland and SCVO added a direct divert from the Wellbeing Fund for applications of less than £5k so they reached the National Emergencies Trust’s Response Recovery Resilience Fund, where they could be supported.
  • ‘Shared back offices’ to assess applications – massive credit to the SCVO digital team who, along with partners Corra, Hunter Foundation and Inspiring Scotland, created a shared Salesforce platform that staff from half a dozen different funders, the Scottish Government and every Third Sector Interface (TSI)* in Scotland used to jointly review and assess Wellbeing Fund applications. This made the most of capacity across organisations, with no one group of staff having to process everything. 955 grants have been made. In the Supporting Communities Fund an oversight group meets twice weekly to take decisions, with funders sharing the grant-making nuts and bolts behind the scenes. This leads to holistic assessment of what organisations on the ground need, able to draw funds from different Scottish Government pots.
  • Sharing data and thinking together – conversations between funders in Scotland have gone up a notch in frequency and depth over the last 12 weeks. From the Response Recovery Resilience Fund advisory board, to a fortnightly funder call convened by SCVO, and joint meetings hosted by ACOSVO between funders and third sector CEOs. Conversations have been honest and focused on practical action that can be followed up.

There’s another blog to be written about what could have worked better. Step for a hint: we still ended up with different funds with different purposes and different timelines which added to the time organisations spent finding funding. Sometimes they still needed to go through different ‘doors’ to find what was needed. Generally, people have understood, the infrastructure was built quickly, and folk have made it work. The sector will expect more now that we are beyond the emergency and can reset.

There are many other good initiatives from funders both in Scotland and beyond and this blog isn’t a comprehensive study. Others like Life Changes Trust, National Lottery Community Fund, the William Grant Foundation and The Robertson Trust have also been innovating and responding. And visit this ACF page for a broader look at what foundations through the UK have been doing.

This period for me has been characterised by things I’ve wanted to see in funding for years: shared data, proportionate due diligence, fast processes. There’s been no competition for space or profile or credit between funders. And a word on the Scottish Government – I’ve found that they acted at speed, with significant resources, and made decisions that enabled good things to happen.

The last 12 weeks have seen an unprecedented grant making effort in Scotland. Many funders have been so busy that we haven’t yet updated 360Giving with the details – but that data is coming soon.

And so is the discussion about what happens next, as we move from emergency action to the medium and longer term challenge for people and communities ahead.

*TSIs provide a single point of access for support and advice for the third sector within local areas. There is a TSI in each local authority area in Scotland.

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