‘Just writing a cheque’ has become a disparaging remark in philanthropy. Terms like ‘beyond chequebook philanthropy’ are used to describe more strategic and involved forms of giving. The assumption is that writing a cheque is a thought-free act. But giving money as a one-off donation does not necessarily mean that the donor has not thought long and hard about their gift.
The purpose of grant assessments is to determine the quality and eligibility of a proposal. It is these judgments that help a funder decide how best to allocate their resources. Reviewing the application form and supporting documents such as annual accounts, business plans and policies, gives an assessor one picture of the organisation. But if, as they say, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” then it is worth assessing culture as an important factor of a successful organisation. So how do we assess this?
Congratulations, your hard work has paid off and you have secured a grant. You now need to get on with delivering whatever activity you set out in your bid. But you have another job to do: to maintain the relationship with your funder. Just how much of a relationship you can develop will depend on the size and length of the grant and the nature of the funder.
It must be Autumn as I have started to see various campaigns urging me to write a will and remember a charity (generally a large national one) when I do so. It’s Free Wills Month in October and then there’s Will Aid in November. The awareness campaigns are important as research shows that although 35% of people want to leave money to charity in their will, only 6.3% do. But just how significant is legacy giving?
This brings me to my favourite read so far this year: the report “A Whole New World: Funding & Commissioning in Complexity” from Collaborate (link below). It “challenges the idea that an intervention (project, organisation or programme) can be held accountable for the impacts it makes in the world.” Instead “outcomes are created by people’s interaction with whole systems”. It puts forward the case for a complexity-friendly version of funding which puts people back into the heart of funding approaches.
Philanthropy is often framed as oppositional: either ruled by the heart or by the head. At one extreme, donors are characterised as easily moved by emotive stories and thoughtlessly giving money to whatever causes they care about. At the other end philanthropists are described as dispassionate and objective, keen on impact and effectiveness and looking to scale up social change using business approaches and technology.But of course, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
If philanthropists just fund projects, the risk is that they are weakening the very organisation they want to support. To avoid joining in with this dance, philanthropists can give unrestricted donations for a charity to use on whatever costs they wish. But the desire for a tangible result runs deep, so if you still want to know exactly how your money will be spent, I have a suggestion for you...