The Covid-19 pandemic has brought disruption, challenge and change in pretty much every aspect of our lives. And there’s little doubt funders have responded to meet the challenges: there has been funding to tackle needs and support sustainability; an increase in flexibility from funders; and much more listening that should build better understanding.
And yet…the power dynamic between funders and charities, as the funded, lives on. It’s really difficult for charities when they’re seeking funds, or reliant on a funder, to question and challenge the ways in which funders work. Like many others, I’ve been very struck by the power differentials - and the impact this has on funders’ ability to really understand what matters to charities.
Since I joined The Gannochy Trust in 2020 we’ve been developing our connection with Perth and Kinross Association of Voluntary Service (PKAVS). The Trust has awarded funds to PKAVS and we’ve been working out the ways in which we, and our respective work, connects. Paul Graham, CEO of PKAVS, describes the charity as a ‘unique combination of third sector interface and service delivery’. That service delivery includes hubs for carers, minority communities and mental health – and the impressive tampon taxi. This means PKAVS understands what’s happening in the Perth and Kinross third sector – and is steeped in the reality of delivering needed services.
In an initial conversation with Paul we had the realisation that we could help each other be better connected with charities, and that working together might also reduce established power dynamics. We didn’t start off knowing what we wanted to do other than having a vague idea that some sort of joint effort would be useful. But PKAVS invited me to speak at one of their events and we ended up in a discussion about the importance of human connection for health, but also to collaborations between charities.
That idea of connection then grew into a series of #BeConnected events which (quite literally) connected over 100 charities in thinking about strengths, challenges and the changes they need. The key messages were important for us to hear as a funder – and for PKAVS to hear as a third sector interface. But, through the connection of working together, we could also see what funders and charities could do together, and do better.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted, and worsened, shared social issues. From gender-based violence to child poverty, we can see that charities, and the funding that enables their work, has never been more needed. But, funders have to up and change their game. The difference we make is dependent on charities – and they are dependent on us doing better. If funders are going to deliver, that means a lot more connecting with charities realities then going beyond listening to taking action. Or to quote Lori Hughes from PKAVS, writing for Third Sector News ‘…there is an opportunity to forge a new way. Be bold in your assertions, have courageous conversations and embody the collective leadership you wish you had’.
Joanna McCreadie is the Chief Executive of The Gannochy Trust, which provides grant funding to charities, housing for people in Perth and Kinross and manages their estate.