Funders are working to shift more power towards charities and communities


Elaine Wilson examines the changing relationship between funders and charities

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7th February 2019 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

Working for an independent funder for nearly 19 years I have learnt a lot, seen great work happen across Scotland and had numerous conversations about what funders should be doing or need to do more of. Many of the comments are justifiable and have resulted in a positive collective response. This is evident in the Scottish Funders Forum’s commitment to explore and discuss reporting burdens and the production of harmonising reporting. 

An increasingly common conversation amongst funders is how to develop the relationship between funder and funding recipient, how to make it feel meaningful and how to develop reciprocal dialogue.  

At Corra Foundation, we have long sought to explore and challenge the power dynamic between funders and charities that has in the past tended to favour the funder. Through our work alongside charities we have learned that organisations often felt that they were unable to ask questions, meet specific deadlines and or ask for core funding.  This imbalance of power was something we wanted to stop. 

In 2014, Corra Foundation took a conscious decision to think more about how the power dynamic impacted on the relationships we had with funded organisations.  We put steps in place to change our behaviour and continually test ourselves to ensure our language feels accessible and we actively listen to charities and people with lived experience to help shape funding needs. 

Elaine Wilson

Elaine Wilson

Corra is not alone on this journey, and I am increasingly talking with other funders about their role and responsibilities, particularly in relation to the power-dynamics.  A strong commitment is emerging around how funders work more collaboratively and look at ways that makes funds feel accessible.

The change in the tone of conversations and focus feels very positive. However, does it go far enough and could more be done? Definitely! I am often challenged by charities about what we do with the information we gather.

In a world where charities and the people they are support face increasing pressures on a day to day basis, can funders influence or help change happen? It appears obvious that we should be using the knowledge from reports more effectively.

At Corra Foundation we want to advocate supporting the needs of people and communities.  We are looking at ways to do this with learning from fundees reports and the insights shared at meetings and conversations with charities. All this offer further evidence on gaps in provision and examples of good practice. 

I am really looking forward to The Gathering and the joint session Corra Foundation is running with Institute for Voluntary Action Research.  The aim is to discuss and explore more how relationships between funders and funded organisations can help in a way that supports people and communities through challenging times. As funders I believe we can do more with our skills, knowledge and experiences that supports applicants and funded groups. 

Elaine Wilson is head of learning and development at Corra Foundation

The possible, not the perfect: changing funders’ practice to better serve voluntary organisations (Wednesday 20 February, 11.45am to 12.45pm, Dochart Suite)