Why it’s important that funders listen to applicants and grantholders
On the 14th September the Scottish Government announced its £10.8m funding to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) across Scotland . The same day I shared insights at the Scottish Grantmakers conference on a funders’ collaboration with a focus on children and young people’s wellbeing and mental health.
For a long time a group of funders (BBC Children in Need, Corra Foundation, STV Children’s Appeal, The National Lottery Community Fund, The Robertson Trust and William Grant Foundation) have been looking at how they could better understand need and support for children and young people’s wellbeing and mental health by listening and learning from those working most closely with children and young people. In May this year, the funder collaboration invited a group of third sector organisations to facilitated conversations for one purpose, to listen.
Often as funders we step in first trying to find solutions without taking the time to actively listen. Recognising this, the conversations were independently facilitated by Animate Consulting (independent consultants with skills in facilitation, learning, system change). Ian and Joette from Animate helped create a safe environment where organisations could share openly about experiences, where opportunities lie and how as funders we can work better with and for charities and communities. This is what they told us and this is how we are responding:
- Provide practical support and funds to enable grantholders to respond to the emerging hardship needs of children, young people and their families.
Lessons from the pandemic have been taken forward by many of the funders in this collaboration (and others), who have listened and responded. For example, simplified application processes and unrestricted grants. It is important we don’t forget these measures and continue to respond in a supportive and accessible way for those most in need.
- Support flexible funding and core costs.
Many of us are already committed to funding core costs. There is a movement to support more open and transparent grant-making to encourage more flexible and unrestricted funding, which many of the collaboration are signed up to. Learn more about this at Flexible Funders.
- Invest in workforce development: the training and ongoing supervision and support of frontline workers and volunteers, including youth workers, teachers and family support workers.
We are committed to exploring this further, looking at what else they can do. Funders like BBC Children in Need are currently investing in counselling support.
- Use your voice to influence other funders and policymakers and help facilitate the connections with decision-makers.
We have and are sharing the insights from the conversations across our networks. Highlighting the role and importance of emerging themes and needs. There is a commitment from us to host future opportunities for open conversations between charities, funders, policymakers.
“The voices of community groups need to be heard more – they’re furthest from government, and the infrastructure is still built around local authorities and the NHS: this needs to change.”
Contributor Children and Young People’s mental health conversations held in May
- Encourage a more joined up and systemic approach to addressing the emotional and mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and their families by sharing good practice, encouraging the collaborative development of more place-based responses.
Place-based approaches are already being adopted by Corra Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund. Funders like William Grant Foundation, STV Children’s Appeal and BBC Children in Need are also developing place-based ways of working around the needs of families. We have committed to producing case studies of these ways of working to share lessons about what it takes to offer a more holistic approach. We are also keen as a group to explore this further.
- Continue to support open and honest conversations with grantholders to gain an in-depth shared understanding of the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the emotional and mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and their families.
As independent funders we are committed to listening to grantholders and learning from them about the impact of their work and the challenges they face. Through this collaborative process we have been able to share where the similarities are. We are committed to holding safe and honest conversations individually and collectively.
We will listen to charities on what is changing and what is needed. We are also planning to reconvene a conversation with the organisations we spoke to in May. If you are interested in being part of this then please get in touch.
At the Scottish Grantmakers conference I heard from colleagues in the National Lottery Community Fund and Association of Charitable Foundations on the importance of participation, trust, relationships, and collaborations. All very similar themes to those shared from the conversations held in May with 26 organisations from across Scotland.
Now more than ever where children and young people have faced increased pressures, are dealing with life in a new way, and increasing demands on mental health services we need to work more collaborative, listen and find ways that support trusting relationships. We need to get alongside the organisations we fund and children, young people, their families. You can read more about the conversations in this Summary Report.