The Foundation commits to being more open and trusting

Foundation News

The Foundation commits to being more open and trusting

11 Feb 2021

Over 50 UK funders have signed a pledge for open and trusting grant-making, committing to be #FlexibleFunders for the organisations they support.


The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland is one of 50 UK funders to support a new campaign launched today [11th February 2021] by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR), in collaboration with London Funders and a small group of UK foundations and charities. They are calling on funders to adopt simpler, more flexible practices that make life easier for those they fund, in light of the ongoing uncertainty caused by Covid-19. Their ambition is to see these commitments extend beyond the crisis: to become standard practice in the sector. 


They are asking funders to commit to being more open and trusting by: 

  • Making grants in a way that reflects the realities facing VCSE and other civil society organisations now and for the foreseeable future. 
  • Managing grants in a way that reflects their confidence in and respect for the organisations they fund. 


Orla Black, Grants Director at The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland said:

‘Charities are vital, and they have, and will continue to, face challenges around generating funding to deliver their activities.  For this reason, it is important that as grant-making organisations we take more risks.’


Eliza Buckley, Head of Research at IVAR said: 

‘When people say “it took a pandemic for the value of unrestricted income and light touch reporting to be felt by trusts and foundations”, it brings home how hard it is to achieve deep and meaningful change. Together, we seek to translate words – ‘trust’, ‘speed’, ‘light touch’ – into visible, practical and durable changes to behaviour and practice. To turn things upside down, so the burden falls on funders to ensure that their systems and their processes are truly simple, respectful and inclusive.’ 


Why now? 

Over the last decade, there has been much talk of funders – particularly trusts and foundations – trying to become less burdensome, more straightforward and quicker in their dealings with applicants and grantees. Then, over a few short weeks in March 2020, some funders overhauled their processes, dismantling onerous reporting structures and proactively offering a range of financial and flexible support. 


Building on 20 years of researching, advocating for and supporting progressive funder practices, IVAR convened a group of funders and charities to look at how the best of these behaviours could be nurtured into the future. 



For funders who sign up to the eight commitments, IVAR is creating a community for dialogue, debate and challenge on the details of day-to-day practice, involving both funders and charities. 


The pledge complements other work aiming to influence change – both in funder practice and improving relationships between charities and funders, such as ACF’s Stronger Foundations initiative. IVAR will continue to collaborate with ACF and others active in this space to ensure work is complementary. 


IVAR, their partners and networks are calling for more funders to sign up to open and trusting grant-making. This means adopting the eight commitments, sharing how they will bring them to life, and joining a community of practice with other funders and charities to adapt and improve practice together. 

We invite both funders and those they fund to join us in championing these commitments and engaging with the campaign as it progresses, using #FlexibleFunders and tagging @IVAR_UK.


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