Friday 23 October 2009

Grants, Fundraising and a Tribute.

ACEVO has a number of strategic grants. They provide valuable support for our leadership development work with members and for our role advising Government. So I surprised when a member said to me recently "but ACEVO's opposed to grants".

Hardly!! Grants are an important mix in the wide funding spectrum for our sector. Strategic grants have been able to support development. Many good Foundations have made grants to new start up organisations or for daring and innovative projects when the State did not want to know.

But they have their downsides- as do most funding streams. Grants are a gift or a form of patronage- what is given is as easily taken away as we are now seeing in local Councils. The difference with a contract is that a contract establishes obligations on both parties.

The sensible third sector body aims to have diversity of funding streams; earned income, grants and donations, contracts and loans. Being over reliant on just grants or one single contract is problematic.

As we move into an era of large spending cuts we will see grants being savaged. So our advice to ACEVO members is to prepare if grants are the main source of funds.

And for those who preach the dangerous message that grants good, contracts and loans bad beware. I have a salutary lesson for them.

Some years back the DH reviewed their Section 64 grants scheme - a major source of funds for many health charities. They told organisations they were stopping their three year grants after the first year. Whilst others were whinging ACEVO sprang into action. I got M' Learned Friend in Farrers to review the terms of the grants. She said that the conditions in the grant letters actually turned it from a grant into a contract which could be enforced.

So armed with this I threatened DH with legal action if they tried to renege on the three year deals. They backed down. If I had not been able to prove it was a contract rather than a grant a whole heap of charities would have lost their funding. So don't give me blarney on grants good, contracts bad!

The lesson for a CEO is balance. Good fundraising. Good contracts with a variety of tenders . Long term grants. Loans to support growth.

Steve Wyler of the Development Trusts Association said at our Spelman meeting that Development Trusts were reporting overall that grant income is down and declining but earned income has gone up 20% and they are getting up to 12% return on assets. That a lesson for many community organisations.

And ACEVO has battled successfully to get longer term contracts and to ensure commissioning reform. Of course contracts can be problematic too. Too many are for one year only. We have got Government to accept three year contract must be the norm though I think we need longer ones that enable strategic planning and investment. And Full Cost Recovery must underpin contracts. All this will be a challenge next year.

And talking of fundraising I'm getting the train to Charlbury this afternoon with delightful hound and bump into Lindsay Boswell, CEO of the Institute of Fundraising and ACEVO member. He is off to a Memorial Service for the first fundraising Director of Oxfam, Guy Stringer, being held in Oxford, naturally. Guy was one of the pioneers of the modern professional third sector. A former soldier and entrepreneur he helped hone the fundraising and commercial activities of Oxfam. ""More shops than Sainsburys" was his cry. And he was one of the pioneers of Fairtrade. His Obituary ( see here) makes marvellous reading. What a superb example to us all working in our incredible sector.

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