Coronavirus update 4: we’ve had to adapt, but our commitment to supporting groups doing their best for their communities has not changed

18th May 2020

Over the past eight weeks, like everyone across the country, we’ve made some big changes to the ways we work. With the whole staff team of 22 now working from home, we’ve adapted our paper based systems to work online, learnt how to manage our team meetings on Zoom, and tried to stay connected by moving our coffee time chats to Slack. We continue to stay in touch with grant holders, replacing visits around the UK with video calls, and have felt both the greater physical distance and increased sense of shared experience, while getting to know each other’s living rooms, families and four-legged friends.

Our monthly grants committees have moved online too, bringing together all our trustees in both April and May to discuss and approve 22 grants, with a commitment of over £1.8 million. Sixteen of these grants were made over three years, and most went towards core costs. Our Trustee Committee is also meeting every week to ensure we can respond rapidly to requests from both new applicants and grant holders.

And yet, despite these practical adaptations to our processes, trustees have shared with us a sense that our grants meetings have felt reassuringly familiar, as there is much that has not changed. We are still open for applications, and available on the phone for a chat if you are thinking of applying. We continue to assess applications, and have weekly conversations as a team with trustees about which we are able to take forward.

What do we need from new applications?

We know we are facing uncertain times, and trustees are working through how to make grant decisions based on an unknown future. What we are able to provide is flexible medium and long term funding. We know you can’t ‘plan’ in any level of detail at the moment, so what we’re looking for is a sense of your direction of travel, an understanding of what you do and your ability to learn, respond and adapt.

We trust that you and your trustees will have the interests of the people you work with at the heart of your decision making, and that you will deliver to the best of your ability. Any financial information that we ask for during the second stage of our application process will purely be to get a sense of where you are, what the challenges ahead may be, and how we can help. We won’t ask for in depth forecasting for an unlimited number of unknown scenarios.

We’re staying alert to what is changing for voluntary and community groups in the applications we receive, and have found that it is now more than ever appropriate to continue to support groups that address marginalisation, are embedded and make a difference in their communities, and are reflective and open to change. If you are thinking of making an application, do take a look at our information on the kind of organisations we support and what we’re looking for here.

We are being challenged in all our ways of working. We will reflect on what we hear, to ensure we are making quick decisions for the people and communities who are most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, and will continue to keep both grant holders and applicants informed of our approach.

Any questions?

Before applying please take a look at our guidelines available here.

For general enquiries including new applications, please call the Information Team on 020 7727 8522. We are currently receiving a large number of calls, so please bear with us if the line is busy.

For current grant holders, please email your grant manager directly.