Paul Streets: Our thinking and approach during COVID-19

Lloyds Bank Foundation Chief Executive Paul Streets

Paul Streets, Chief Executive, Lloyds Bank Foundation England and Wales

We are now almost six months since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. In just six months we’ve seen charities across the country step up to help people affected by the health crisis and the effects of lockdown, ensure people stayed safe and were fed, helped people manage their mental health, escape domestic abuse, tackle loneliness and isolation and so much more. All this while their income dwindled.

 

In days, small and local charities, in particular, expedited organisation-wide digital transformation to keep their staff and volunteers safe while also providing vital support for the people that rely on them. This even from the charities that would have classed themselves as digital novices.

 

In weeks, many partnered with Local Authorities, community groups and other local agencies to provide support to people that needed it most. And many times over, these charities have been the focus of stories of lives helped, changed and sustained. Stories which we all need to hear more of so that small but vital charities can get the support needed to keep doing what they are doing day in day out.

Our Strategy

Our own journey in these six months has not been as fraught as that of small but vital charities, but what we do is influenced by and seeks to respond to them and the ever-changing external environment.

 

Our focus on supporting small and local charities helping people overcome complex social issues has been more important than ever. The three pillars of our strategy still hold strong: providing funding that is unrestricted and flexible, helping charities to develop and seeking to influence the environment in which they operate. Yet, like everybody else, we’ve been reviewing, adapting, and applying a new approach to the changing times and circumstances of charities and the communities they support.

 

Since March 2020 we have adapted our approach across our three pillars of funding, development and influence and in three main phases as we seek to help charities and the communities, causes and people they serve to react, recover and renew.

 

So, in the first phase of our response, our priority was to the 700+ charities in communities across England and Wales who we partner helping them react and respond to the initial shock while understanding the new environment we were all in.

 

We spoke to nearly all our grant holders to understand how COVID-19 was impacting them, offered greater flexibility to their grants and increased our Enhance development support offer. We moved all of our events online and commissioned consultants to deliver training and workshops to address charities’ most pressing needs and organised virtual peer support forums.

 

We collated and shared these charities’ inspiring stories with Government and MPs ourselves and through our partners spearheading the #EveryDayCounts and #NeverMoreNeeded campaigns to call on the government to understand the challenges facing charities and to provide some financial assistance. And we worked with and alongside our national programme grantees to influence the Domestic Abuse Bill through Drive, welfare policy through the Coordinated Crisis Support and practice throughout the criminal justice system through our Reform Justice programme.

 

Whilst we have redirected and reallocated our funding, we recognised we had an obligation to charities who had started a funding application before the onset of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown. So, in May we awarded £2 million worth of unrestricted grants of up to £45,000 to 71 charities to support their response to the health crisis.

 

Meanwhile, we worked closely with Lloyds Banking Group to design and develop a range of offers for charities to help them address emerging challenges and upskill their staff and volunteers. We convened partners in Redcar, Halton, Bolsover, Telford, Great Yarmouth and Merthyr Tydfil to discuss and explore how they can design and deliver services to the people that use them.

 

Recognising that charities were facing a range of immediate and extra costs from PPE, to sourcing digital kit and other materials, we offered additional one-year grants between £5,000 - £15,000 to existing grant holders. We were able to do this with the help of the Health Foundation who donated £500,000 and an additional £300,000 for Welsh charities through Wales Community Foundation.

 

Supporting Recovery - Our New Programme

This week we launched the next phase of our approach to support charities and those they serve to recover and which again involves funding, helping charities to develop and seeking to influence policy and practice and the environment in which they are operating.

 

In particular, is our new COVID Recovery Fund to help charities begin the journey to recovery. We will be awarding two-year grants of £50,000 and commissioning a Development Partner to 140 small and local charities.

 

We know this kind of work is not easy; it’s complex, it takes time and involves the whole organisation. With the Development Partner, we want to give charities that additional resource that can walk alongside and the charity can lean on for help. They will also help us learn from charities so we can understand and adapt our own ways of working to become a better partner.

 

More Equitable Funding

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the lives of many, but it has disproportionately impacted Black, Asian and communities. It has shone a light on the historic and ongoing structural inequalities people face. And the addition inequities that result when the charities that are best placed to support these communities are the ones that are least likely to receive funding whether through trusts and foundations or otherwise. We have a duty as a charitable foundation to address these inequalities through our work.

 

To understand the diversity of our grants portfolio, we analysed past applications to our funds using the assessment framework of the Funders Alliance on Race Equality and found that applications from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic led organisations had lower approval rates overall (26%) even when compared to white led organisations working with Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic communities, which had similar application success rates as the wider applications we receive (35% and 38% respectively). Internally, we are reflecting on why this is the case. But immediately, we know we need to do better, and we are committed to distributing our funds equitably.

 

So, a minimum of 25% of our COVID Recovery Fund will be ringfenced to charities that are led by and for Black, Asian Minority Ethnic communities. For charities in Wales, which have also seen reduced levels of funding compared to those in England, we are applying greater flexibility to our eligibility criteria. And finally, 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.

 

We will also pitch to the DCMS’ matched funding programme for a chance to be able to get extra funding to the charities who are successful with us. We know this will be competitive, but if the DCMS likes our pitch this will get more funding to #SmallButVital charities on the frontline.

 

Working with Infrastructure Organisations

 

Our priority will always be frontline charities helping people on the ground in communities right across England and Wales. But we know charities work best in an ecosystem and charity infrastructure bodies nationally and locally are key to that.

 

They have played a vital role at a national level publicly and behind the scenes to make the case to Government for support for the charity sector as a whole, and we have been pleased to work with and alongside them.

 

Underneath the national players has been an unsung army of charitable infrastructure coordinating activity, providing essential services, mobilising volunteers and others who wanted to help, and linking charities directly with local councils, the NHS and other statutory bodies to ensure people got the help they need and minimising gaps and duplication.

 

These same infrastructure charities, however, have been hit hard by the pandemic and they’re seeing their own income stream shrink. They also have fewer avenues for funding and are at risk of significantly reducing their services. We want to ensure that these organisations that are the backbone of support for many small and local charities are not forgotten so we will shortly be launching a new £500,000 grants programme to support local infrastructure charities that understand and represent their local small charities.

 

Partnering with others

 

You will see a recurring theme of collaboration underpinning our work, in fact, one of our core values is to be partnering. We have provided some funding to help the #NeverMoreNeeded Campaign to develop its approach to communications and to Locality and NAVCA to help them support their members. Alongside ACF and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, we initiated and have been helping get off the ground a Funders’ Collaborative Hub to coordinate collaboration amongst charitable foundations as we respond to COVID-19.

 

In addition to this, we will be contributing £100,000 to support the collaboration between NACCOM, Refugee Action and a group of funders that have come together to get more funding for refugee charities and support them with their capacity building efforts. The refugee sector is one which has been hit extremely hard by lockdown and in urgent need of funding to deliver effective services for refugees and asylum seekers as well as the resources to address organisational development needs.

 

What the future holds

 

We will continue to champion the role of small charities within our society and influence policy makers to address the needs of these charities. We have submitted evidence to the Danny Kruger review and will continue to lobby alongside many others to make the case for central government to invest in local authorities and charities and to improve commissioning. We have asked researchers to update to our Value of Small report to evidence the social and economic value of small and local charities in a post-pandemic world. And as ever, we will continue to work with partners to amplify the voices of small and local charities, showcase the tremendous work they do, and improve the environment they operate in.

 

We know there will always be more to do and even with the fantastic support of our corporate partner Lloyds Banking Group we are but one drop in a much larger ocean. There are so many charities that are a lifeline to people across England and Wales, but like all funders, we need to negotiate the difficult decisions such as balancing how many charities we fund versus how long we fund them for. We know the recovery will be difficult and a long haul and that we all need as charities, communities and funders to work together if we are to help our country renew for the long term and build back better. To support this we will need to continue to reflect and review how we best play our role throughout the rest of the year and into 2021.

 

We hope we have listened and learnt, been true to our values and, most importantly, to the charities we are proud to partner with because it is they that have been doing the hard and vital work – and long may we all need them to be able to continue to do so.

Supporting charities during COVID19