35th Anniversary: Our journey as a grantmaker

To mark our 35th anniversary, Director of Grants, Harriet Stranks looks at our funding strategy since she started and the ways we adapted during COVID in response to the needs of charities.

Harriet Stranks

An audio recording of this blog is available at the bottom of this page

I joined the Foundation in 2012, after 9 years at BBC Children In Need. The Foundation had a good reputation, largely due to its regionally based managers who visited charities and helped them fill in the forms required for funding. 

We operated a ‘community programme’ which provided core and project funds to small charities to enable them to help disadvantaged people play a fuller role in their communities.

This programme funded anything from chairs to salaries and was welcomed because funding core costs was quite unusual at the time.

Each Local Authority area had a target indicative spend, depending on deprivation and population, broadly based on the Barnett formula. This, however, was extremely complicated and didn’t always target those in the greatest need.

When Paul Streets joined as Chief Executive in 2013, we undertook a review of grant making, asked charities what they thought we should be funding and asked them about their biggest challenges.

We thought long and hard about impact and where our money made the biggest difference. As a result, we focused on a new strategy, on charities supporting people with very complex barriers to fully engaging in society. 

After the global financial crisis and resulting austerity, charities were facing increased demand coupled with reduced funding. Local infrastructure bodies were decimated through budget cuts meaning that in many areas, charities had nowhere to go when they needed support.

In response, we launched the Enhance programme which provided charities with mentors from Lloyds Banking Group or an external consultant. 

From a pilot of 44 charities in 2014 we have now helped over *1000 charities to become stronger and more fundable, with support for strategic planning, governance, fundraising etc. We have over 130 different suppliers involved in providing Enhance, it has been incredibly humbling to see the results in action.

We had this programme independently evaluated and demonstrated that it created a positive impact for charities who repeatedly tell us that the Enhance support has been even more impactful than the grant. It was also very affirming to win the Charity Award in the grantmaking categories for this work in 2019.

COVID-19 has meant that 2020 has been a rollercoaster year, where we had to adapt and respond to the needs of charities very quickly, trying to support a greater volume of charities to keep their doors open.

We are providing unrestricted grants which means that charities can build back depleted reserves or adapt and change as they need to. We are focusing on charities that would like to benefit from some external support and have an appetite to develop as we believe this is where we can add most value. 

We have supported many charities to adapt their services to online and between March and September 2020 we had provided 102 desktop computers, 1139 laptops and 81 tablets to the charities we were funding along with additional funds to change their premises, buy PPE and more. 

As we look forward to 2021 we understand the need for charities to have greater stability and move away from emergency responses, but we want to retain the good things that COVID-19 has enabled,  - simpler processes and reporting, unrestricted grants, strong relationships with our Regional Managers and support for charities with their organisational development, where they would find it useful. 

We’d love to hear your memories of partnering with the Foundation. Share them using the hashtag #LBF35 on social media.


Listen to this blog

We have recorded a full audio reading of this blog. Listen below. 

*Narrated by Juliana MacDonald, Events Coordinator 

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