Doing things differently in a crisis

By Kate Markey

Earlier this year The London Community Foundation launched a cost-of-living fundraising appeal, Together for London. To be specific, that is, in mid-August. Not the typical month to launch an initiative, as all good fundraising theory will tell you. But we are in atypical times. We are in desperate times.

We know that even in ‘normal’ times, London is a polarised city of haves and have-nots. Deep in the heart of our work is the belief that communities defined by the disadvantage they experience also have the insight, networks and resilience to be the positive change. It is these communities who are best served to support. Our task is to support them.

So, after surveying our community partners at the grassroots and understanding from them – loud and clear – that the need in London was great, one we could not ignore, we launched.

By September, we were speaking to our broad and varied network of donors and stakeholders. They could see the need but didn’t know how best to meet it. “It’s just too overwhelming, the solutions are too complex”; “Anything we do will just be a drop in the ocean to what’s needed”; “It’s a political (sic: small p) dilemma – the solutions are beyond our control.”

Yes, yes and yes. And yet, we launched. As the community champion for London, we had to act.

From Grenfell, COVID-19, the Afghan refugee crisis and now the cost-of-living crisis, The London Community Foundation (like our fellow community foundations around the UK and beyond) has a long history of responding. Beyond the capital, our fellow community foundations have been major responders to floods, terrorism attacks, major accidents and incidents.

In the face of the incredible – often desperate – need that characterises our city, The London Community Foundation is privileged to be the place so many turn to in their desire to help. And privileged to support the incredible frontline work of the capital’s grassroots charities. This is why we launched the appeal. We knew we had the expertise and reach to help our donors show their solidarity and connect with their community – fast. To take action. To be ready. To make a difference where it matters most.

Humanitarian aid is not community foundations’ ‘business as usual’. And yet in times of crisis it is.

And the feedback we have received subsequently has been a reminder of the trust placed in us.

Humanitarian aid is not community foundations’ ‘business as usual’. And yet in times of crisis it is. Why? Because we understand, champion and amplify the importance of local and the power of common good. And work hard to reach those trusted groups working deeply in our communities, day in, day out.

This cost-of-living crisis needs more. It needs real collaboration. From all of us. It needs us to consider new partnerships for impact; new conversations with our clients; rethinking on how our collective work can sustain support where it is needed the most. In our current practices, our we helping or hindering? Are we building trust or barriers?

Times are hard for many, yet for some the impact of the cost-of-living crisis will be felt well beyond a political term or financial recovery. And so, it is overwhelming. But if we all think it is overwhelming, who comes forward? And no, nothing you give is ‘just a drop in the ocean’. Grassroots charities can make a little go a long way. And yes, it is political, everything is. But don’t underestimate the value of your work, directly or indirectly, in enabling local giving where it matters most. Do something different. Show your solidarity for London. Your community will thank you for it.

We opened applications for our Together for London Programme on 27 October. Since then, we have received over 650 applications for funding, which we are diligently assessing. This shows the very intense need for support across the capital, but exceeds the number of projects we can fund.

Donate to our Together for London appeal today to help us support London’s local charities through the winter.