Community funding often isn’t as transparent as it should be; games get played and thorny issues are sometimes unacknowledged and often unaddressed.
I explored some of this recently at a breakfast meeting with the Fundraising Institute in Auckland: – here is my presentation:
The session was well received and interactive, and there were some great ideas generated by the 70+ attendees for addressing some of the issues discussed. These fell into four themes:
Explore new funding models – NZ community organisations are more dependent on grants than their US counterparts (36% of funding in NZ is from grants compared to 15% in the US.) New approaches should be explored and some concrete examples were suggested, for example:
- “Dragon’s den” type funding where community organisations present to multiple funders (as used by Ākina foundation for their Launchpad programme or The Funding Network)
- “Cause-led” – where multiple organisations are funded to work together on an issue
- Online portals where projects can be posted and funders browse for the ones that meet their requirements
Build better relationships – there are two components to this:
Community Organisation / Funder relationships: There were many calls for funders to meet face to face more often and to engage in real dialogue, both before and during the grant. This allows trust and partnership to develop, which in turn leads to a genuine, two-way exploration of impact and how it can be achieved and measured. A relationship management approach where both organisations know who to contact was also recommended. Finally, respect and acknowledgement also matter – as one person noted “a simple thank you for the time spent, whether you are successful or unsuccessful, is really important”.
Relationships between community organisations: there was discussion about whether there were too many community organisations, with new organisations sometimes starting before the founders have checked whether an existing organisations could fill (or is already filling) the perceived gap. The ideal situation was to have “choice and cooperation in the community sector, but not competition or duplication”. More collaboration between organisations is also important, and funders can help encourage this.
Reduce Compliance costs: This is hot topic and funders are asked to:
- standardise reporting – perhaps by creating a standard framework for measuring outcomes – and/or allow for tiered reporting based on the size of the grant
- understand the significant time and resources that go into applying for funding and measuring outcomes and keep these requirements manageable and proportional
- use two-step funding where full funding proposals are only required after a shortlisting process (although ideally there should still be some opportunity for face-to-face meetings even before short-listing)
- provide more multi-year funding
Finally, funders are asked to be accountable too. It is hardly fair to demand accountability from grantees if this is not reciprocated – funders too need to be accountable to both their donors and the communities they serve. For example it is useful to have transparency regarding:
- what and who is funded
- how decisions are made and how decision makers are appointed
- the costs of running the funding organisation
Thanks to members to the Fundraising Institute for providing these useful suggestions and for the opportunity to explore these together.