Elizabeth Balgobin, Small Charities Coalition: Prepare for what you are able to offer after the crisis
Elizabeth Balgobin was a guest speaker at the KindLink weekly webinar, on how charities can still attract funding and engage with their supporters during the Covid-19 crisis. A consultant for the Small Charities Coalition, she had a list of insights, from how to write a successful application for emergency funding to how to be more digital in a time when everyone is online. (You can find the link for the full webinar below).
Our attendees sent several questions that we didn’t have time to cover during the live event so, as promised, we reached out to Elizabeth and she provided answers to all your questions:
What advice do you have for those who need to continue to deliver programming from funds they’ve already obtained but need to change based on the current situation? How to continue to deliver and conduct evaluation/reporting?
Elizabeth Balgobin: It’s important that you understand what each funder is saying about their programme funds. Each will have a different approach. Check their website and Twitter for general messages and check your inboxes for messages from them. If there is nothing then you must contact them. Restricted funds may have restrictions lifted but you cannot make that decision without permission from your funder. Speak to them and set out your plans for the funds. Put it in writing. Get their response in writing. An email is fine but it must be stored – this is your evidence trail.
Now is a good time to look at what you are collecting and reporting. It might seem hard to do in a crisis but it’s worth thinking about what is vital to collect and what was a ‘nice to have’. If you someone not involved in the crisis response, but their work has lessened, give them the task of being your internal evaluator. It will help develop them and give you a fresh pair of eyes. The data you collect now will provide you a before Covid-19, during and after picture. The story of what you did, the changes you made and the effect/impact on your services and clients will be important for your future. Everyone will be asked, What did you do during Covid-19? But, it’s also important for your own review as it will help you identify what you need to change permanently.
Would charities prefer individual trusts and foundations to work together, pool funds at this time, or to offer extra funding themselves?
Elizabeth Balgobin: A mixture is needed. Funders have their own priorities. We don’t expect a counselling charity to suddenly start providing animal care because of this crisis. London Funders got the ball rolling by bringing funders together for an emergency response. It’s wider than London. Some trusts and foundations are continuing their normal grant application process in the anticipation that charities will need to be funded for ‘normal’ work once the crisis is over. Some have contributed to a joint pot and have a specific emergency fund related to their particular priorities.
The big issue with everyone pooling all their funds is that we lose balance: smaller organisations could miss out; funding on equality and diversity could be put aside in the rush to get the money out quickly and to the agreed standard (the minimum each funder was willing to sign up to). The combined pots have also been overwhelmed with applications and good, important, applications will not get through because demand exceeds available funds.
My charity’s supporters may come back to us later but perceive other charities to be more in need currently so it is impacting on our cashflow.
Elizabeth Balgobin: Cashflow is going to be a problem for lots of charities. You have to review your budget immediately and get a new cashflow forecast. Reduce what you can. If you can use the Job Retention Scheme to furlough some staff, then do that now. Prepare for what you are able to offer after the crisis. Prepare the messaging to engage your supporters during the crisis and to remind them you will be there after the crisis, with their support. Prepare for a drop in income after. People are going to come out of this changed. You know your charity best, so make sure you have identified what it is people value about you and your work. Build from there.
Is there a website that compiles information on available grantmaking institutions and foundations?
- The Directory of Grant Making Trusts is available, at a cost, https://www.dsc.org.uk/publication/the-directory-of-grant-making-trusts-2020-21/
- https://www.grantsonline.org.uk/ is a regular online magazine
- Ian McClintock at https://www.charityexcellence.co.uk/Home/About has compiled an ongoing list of emergency reponse funds.
- Sign up for your local CVS newsletter. They will often provide a roundup of local funding opportunities. You can find your CVS through the NAVCA map: https://navca.org.uk/find-a-member-1
Is it worth applying to trusts and foundations at the moment? Thinking about how we will meet the outcomes we set and if they can be met when we don’t know when Covid-19 will end.
Elizabeth Balgobin: It depends. Check their website, but don’t rush to call them. Funders are working extra hours to get through the emergency fund applications. Some are still taking their normal grant rounds, others have put them on hold. However, if you have time to work on applications, then think about what you will need to write to explain what you did during Covid-19, how that changes what you will do in the future and how your past work supports your application. Everyone will rush to put in applications when we return to more normal work, so make sure yours is a good one, and not one of the copy and paste ones I see so often.
Everyone will rush to put in applications when we return to more normal work, so make sure yours is a good one, and not one of the copy and paste ones I see so often.
It seems some trusts and foundations are not making grants because their investment portfolios have taken a hit. Is there anywhere we can go to find out which funders are open to receiving bids or is it case by case?
Elizabeth Balgobin: It is case by case. Some will decide to spend their endowment and others may be taking their time. Trusts and foundations are also charities with a legal duty to protect the charity. Just like other charities, each trustee board will have a different risk appetite and that will affect how they interpret their duty to their objects. Some foundations are making the case that all should keep spending but it is still an individual organisational decision.
I work for a small animal sanctuary. 70% of our income is generated through members of the public visiting, which at the moment they are not able to do. We’re really struggling to obtain large donations from donors/grants and, with over 500 animals in our care, we’re getting increasingly concerned that some very difficult decisions will have to be made. Do you have any suggestions as to how we could raise a large sum of money? We’re looking, realistically, at raising approximately £100,000.
Elizabeth Balgobin: There are no easy ways to raise large sums of money at the moment. Can you set up a virtual visit and asks for donations to support specific animals? Are your animals doing anything interesting? Get them trending and animals will do well (traditionally better than lots of people issues). Tell their stories and what they need.
What about those charities whose work is not deemed to be “emergency” or “essential” to the wider donor population. How do they cope with the diversion of donors to the “emergency” charities?
Elizabeth Balgobin: This is tricky. You may need to mothball, using the Job Retention Scheme to furlough staff, and wait until things return to normal. You should look at what you can keep delivering. What do you do that people will still want now and what will they want in the future? What are you telling your supporters about your work at this time? Make your offer as strong as possible. People will want a diversion away from crisis and emergency and they will want to have things to look forward to.
I’m a sole fundraiser, new to the role and all my experience is face to face, relationship fundraising. I have no comms support or existing online following and nearly no warm contacts. Fundraising strategy was focused around community groups, schools, and a corporate membership offer.
Elizabeth Balgobin: If you haven’t become a member of the Institute of Fundraising, there are some guides and supportive documents on their website. If you can afford to join, you will be able to link into your local volunteer committee network for fundraisers. Beth Upton of MoneyTree Fundraising has created a fundraisers support and skills swap group.
Should we be focusing on building a digital strategy or refocusing to trusts and foundations to keep things going for the next few months?
Elizabeth Balgobin: Trusts and foundations are swamped, so don’t refocus your fundraising to them unless you have something they will really want to fund – be honest and critical of your work. If you don’t have a digital strategy, then you should develop one, but be honest about whether you have the time and resources to do it now. There are lots out there through CAST and the Catalyst programme to get you started.
We support people in getting back into work. We provide vulnerable people with an interview outfit if they can’t otherwise afford it. Therefore, we break down barriers in getting back to work. We saw an increase of 187% in use of our service recently. And we know we will certainly be needed after this. But we aren’t delivering the service for now. How do we keep funders interested as we aren’t currently a direct Covid-19 emergency support charity? We know we will help rebuild the region by playing a part in reduced unemployment rates. How do we bridge this gap?
Elizabeth Balgobin: Look for the funders who already support into work programmes and see which are still accepting applications. You can use this unique opportunity to get people to put aside their GOOD work outfits that are being culled in their lock-down clearout. Look at creating something like an online fashion show of the outfits and/or outfit matching service. Could the donor of the outfit also spare £10 to help with the travel to interview cost etc? Get creative. Get your clients involved and use their ideas – it will help them prepare for returning to work.
Watch the full KindLink webinar here.