Our #FlexibleFunders pledge

By Helen Fagan

In March 2020, we signed up to the London Funders Funder Statement of Commitments, which outlined a series of commitments we, and other funders made to support charities and community groups during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly one year on we have joined the #FlexibleFunders campaign, run by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) and London Funders, to build on our commitment to the sector and adopt even more open and trusting practises in support London’s grassroots organisations.

The eight commitments we are making to the organisations we support are:

1. We will not waste their time

We commit to explaining our funding priorities clearly and to be open and transparent about all our requirements and exclusions.

Before applying, we encourage applicants to speak with staff, either by phone or email, to discuss their project and eligibility for the fund. We will not encourage people to apply for a fund if they are not eligible.

2. We will only ask relevant questions

We commit to only collecting information that we must have to make funding decisions; we will test our application forms rigorously to make sure our questions are clear and do not overlap before an application form goes live.

3. We will accept our share of risk

We commit to being realistic about how much assurance applicants can reasonably give us; we will clearly explain how we assess risk when we make our funding decisions

Recently, we have introduced a financial projection template to seek further information on applicants’ financial position at the time of application as we are aware that organisations are likely to be in a more financially precarious position than prior to the pandemic. LCF will take this into consideration in assessment and decision making.

4. We will act with urgency

We commit to working at a pace that meets the needs of applicants. We will publish and stick to our timetables and we will make our decisions as quickly as possible.

During deployment of our emergency funds via the London Community Response, at one stage we were able to make payments to successful applicants in an average of 4.3 days of their application being received by us. This turnaround time was made possible through partnership work and several digital and process efficiencies introduced.

Our team are working to identify which elements of the new processes introduced will transfer to our business-as-usual practises as well as identifying new processes that can help support improve our work.

5. We will be transparent about our decisions

We commit to giving feedback, analysing and sharing out data.

We are publishing our Emergency Fund grantmaking on 360Giving and are working on the processes to enable the publication of all our funds over the next 12 months.

6. We will enable them to respond flexibly to changing priorities and needs

We are committed to making our funding as flexible as possible.

We recognise the importance of core funding and encourage our donors to give in this way. In attracting new donors, we use the evidence collected within our report, Voices on the Frontline and knowledge of grassroots groups to make the case to direct funding towards core costs. Where there is project funding, we endeavour to support an element of contribution towards core costs. Further, wherever our donor directed funding allows, we are able to support grantees in granting project variations/extensions.

7. We will be clear about our relationship from the start

We will be realistic about time commitment and ensuring that our contact is positive and purposeful.

We outline the expectations of our beneficiary organisations as early as possible in the process, generally pre-award. Our aim is establish a clear and transparent relationship with our grantees and prospective grantees – encouraging them to get in touch with any questions or concerns. We particularly encourage them to be open with us to allow us to assist as much as we can.

8. We will commit to light touch reporting

We commit to ensuring our formal reporting requirements are well understood, proportionate and meaningful.

The only questions we ask within our monitoring are those we use for the purposes of feeding back to our donors and/or reporting on our impact more widely. All the information provided by grantees is reviewed by our team – we have a target to review reports within 2 weeks of their receipt.

We are proud to join 50 other funders to make this Flexible Funders pledge and will continue to review our grant making to ensure we are providing London’s grassroots organisations with the flexible support they need.