Learn more about our COVID Recovery Fund

On 3 August 2020, we are launching our COVID Recovery Fund. Here, Director of Grants, Harriet Stranks takes us through the thoughts behind the new fund aimed at helping charities recover from the pandemic and its aftermath.

Harriet Stranks

Harriet Stranks, Director of Grants

We know that charities are facing more challenges than ever whilst being squeezed to manage with less time and money available. Charity staff and volunteers are feeling increasingly stressed and burnt out but the needs of the people they support are becoming more complicated and urgent.  It’s the perfect storm with no easy answers.

We have heard these stories time and time again and as a funder we felt we had a responsibility to act. We wanted to give back time and money, which in turn might help relieve some stress for charity staff and volunteers. We wanted to do this in a supportive way which focused on the best of our learning and feedback from charities.

Charities want unrestricted funding; this is always important but more now than ever because of the fast pace of decision making. The degree of financial uncertainty charities face is unprecedented, and it makes long term planning almost impossible. Unrestricted funding means that charities can take a more agile approach and use the funds in a way that makes the most sense at the time.

Our new grant programme will provide £50,000 over two years which is completely unrestricted. This means if necessary, it can be used to build back up depleted reserves which can then help to bring in more funding and improve sustainability.


The other key element of the new funding programme is providing each charity with an experienced external Development Partner to walk alongside the charity for the first 12 months. They will co-create a bespoke support plan to suit the charity’s needs and priorities.


This support is designed to be flexible, as each charity will be facing different but similar problems, some might need practical support just to get stuff done, some might need to create time and space for planning, strategy and engagement.


Charity leaders are in a really tough position at the moment and are carrying a crushing burden of responsibility; for their staff, for the people they support, to their trustees and towards the ever-changing regulatory environment. What we know is helping though, is support from peers, providing reassurance, reducing isolation and providing a listening ear.


Making time for self-care is important so we have built into the programme opportunities for sharing through cohort and peer to peer learning along with access to our Enhance programme which has a wide range of options for support. We intend to learn alongside our charity partners as the programme progresses, this will inform our future funding strategy to ensure we continue to provide support to charities in the way it is most useful.


This grant programme focuses specifically on helping charities to weather the storm, it gives control to the charity to respond as effectively as they can with the resources they have got.


We have abandoned the idea of objectives and outcomes because nobody knows what the future holds and how to plan for it. We expect charities to do the best they can to support the people who use their services, and we will do all we can by removing requirements like monitoring. 


Like all funders, we can’t fund all the requests that we get and have to apply shortlisting criteria and priorities.


A key criterion will be enthusiasm to engage with the Development Partner from the leadership and the Board.


We are not looking for charities to have all the answers, far from it, but we will be looking to fund leaders who are forward thinking and can articulate the vision and barriers to adapt services and their organisation. This will take time, energy and commitment, but independent evaluations, feedback and six years of experience has demonstrated that this type of support can be transformative at a time of crisis.


We know that Black, Asian Minority Ethnic communities have been deeply impacted by the effects of COVID-19 so our Board has agreed that a minimum of 25% of the Fund will be ringfenced to charities that are led by and for Black, Asian Minority Ethnic communities.


For charities in Wales, where we have recently seen reduced levels of funding compared to those in England, we are applying greater flexibility to our eligibility criteria. In addition, we will be awarding 12 grants to charities across six towns which have historically seen low levels of grant funding in spite of supporting communities where there are high levels of deprivation.


If you are interested in applying but feel unsure, please feel free to contact us to have a conversation.


We don’t want to waste anyone’s time unnecessarily, and we know applications take time. We have reduced what we are asking down to six main questions to establish if the work that you do fits our funding criteria.


If it does, the next step will be a video call with a Regional Manager who will advise if the application can go to full assessment or provide feedback as to why not. We will let people know of funding decisions in Mid-December and we aim that the applications that are taken to panel will have around a 75% success rate.


A Q&A webinar with the members of the grants team will be held on 11th August between 2pm – 3.30pm. Applicants can register for the webinar here

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