Covid-19: Foundations must play our part
I don’t need to tell you that the scale of coronavirus impact is huge – on people, communities and the economy. It is creating new needs around people self-isolating, children who need to be looked after, homeless and vulnerable people; the list is long and growing every day. All of this is coming at a time when the impacts on charities who would naturally respond to these challenges are also immense. Those who rely on trading or on public fundraising have seen this disappear overnight, throwing many – both large and small – into acute financial difficulties.
It’s clear that the scale of the challenge is so great that only government can mobilise at sufficient scale. But all of us can play our part.
Foundations are already responding by being flexible with their grant conditions and reaching out to their grantees to see what additional support may be needed. They are contributing to new funds that have been set up to co-ordinate a response to the crisis, such as the National Emergencies Trust – which is working with community foundations to get funding to the frontline voluntary and community organisations helping those at risk from social isolation. And despite the stock markets we know that many foundations are working to maintain or increase their grant-making this year.
But foundations are also asking what more can be done to coordinate activity and funding. The National Emergencies Trust is one example – with several foundations using this as a means to get funding quickly to those responding to communities on the ground across the UK. Another is the London Community Response Fund, co-ordinated by London Funders, in which foundations, corporate and public sector funders are working together to support civil society groups in London who are facing immediate financial pressure and uncertainty because of Covid-19.
Conversations about better co-ordination between funders in their individual responses are already underway. Funders of advice services, of the youth sector and of work in the criminal justice sector are all looking at how they can work better together, to greater effect. As the infrastructure body for the foundation sector we at ACF are doing our part in contributing to these conversations, in convening them and in bringing them to the attention of our members.
We are also supporting efforts by the wider civil society infrastructure, working with NCVO, ACEVO, CFG and others to ensure that government support designed with businesses in mind works for charities where appropriate, and to make the case for grant funding to those charities who can’t get access to what’s on offer for business. There has also been a focus on working with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, as well as the regulators in Scotland and Northern Ireland for special flexibility this year to help frontline charities and charitable foundations.
Many organisations and individuals look to the foundation sector at times like these. Our reputation with them will be shaped by our response at this time. I know from past experience that foundations will do all we can to step up to the challenges ahead. And as you do this, we at ACF will be with you every step of the way.