Do not waste time

We do not ask prospective applicants to contact us with speculative proposals, instead ‘we do the homework’ – using research and referral as our principal route to identify potential grantees and gathering existing information in the public domain before speaking to them.

However, we are trying to pitch messaging about our invitation-only approach in a way that does not deter relevant unsolicited enquiries from suitable organisations we might otherwise not hear about.

To help people judge if they should make an enquiry, we describe our approach and interests in our online Annual Review and have launched a new, expanded website in 2024 to improve transparency and timely communication of our evolving interests. The website will also be clearer about how we find grantees and make decisions.

Ask relevant questions

We do not use an application form but customise the proposal process to suit the context. We gather publicly available information including accounts, reports and websites before inviting an applicant to put anything in writing, and only ask for additional, relevant information where we need it to help us make a decision. We will accept a copy of an application written for another funder if it is current and relevant to the funding opportunity.

We are taking steps to better support organisations we have invited to prepare a written proposal: We aim to be clearer about why we’re interested in them and any particular questions we have about their plans; we aim to build sufficient time into the process to allow us to feedback on an early draft and to have a conversation with us to clarify anything; and to let them be open about how much they hope we can give them.

Accept risk

We only use restricted funding where we feel this is appropriate, and try to keep our funding as flexible as possible as the norm.

We do not require detailed project plans; if we decide to fund an organisation, we trust them to judge best how to deliver the aims and objectives they have set out.

We note grant-related risks in our assessments and aim to make grants in such a way that the risk is mitigated – e.g. by giving more than requested in some instances. For example, we have increased grants recently in the light of risks created by inflation and will discuss this with applicants if not taken into account in a proposal budget. We will sometimes invest in helping fragile organisations remain sustainable and ride out challenges if we think their importance merits it, or support organisational development alongside programme funding.

We recognise that grantees are likely to assume they cannot ask a funder for more help, so are aiming to reassure grantees they can share challenges or bumps in the road with us, so we can explore opportunities to help.

Act with urgency

We do not operate fixed timetables for decisions and make decisions between formal meetings if urgency requires. We recognise that timeliness is one of the things that can add value to our funding.

When we are in dialogue with a potential grantee, we are making more effort to ensure they are clear on our timelines and are advised of any changes.

We are trying to plan ahead for when grants are ending to allow for a timely conversation about the possibility of renewed funding.

Be open

We publish grant-making data using the 360 Giving standard and provide statistics about the kind of grants we make and to whom in our online Annual Review.

Our proactive, staged process leads to few rejections at the final proposal stage – and we always give feedback in such cases.

If we have asked an applicant to spend time providing a bespoke written proposal or hosting a visit for us and we then choose not to make a grant to them, we make an ex gratia payment (usually £250) in recognition of their time.

We operate a real time anonymous feedback system for applicants and grantees, with responses collated and reviewed twice a year. We provide a report to grantees about what feedback we’re getting and what we’re doing in response.

We are developing a new website and plan to adopt ‘working in the open’ principles that will make it easier for people to discover how we work, what we’re doing and learning.

Enable flexibility

We only use restricted funding where necessary and are implementing a more intentional use of what we call ‘designated unrestricted’ funding instead of restricted grants whenever possible. (Read more about our approach to flexible funding here.)

We have included a section in our assessment cover sheet to explain if and why we feel we need to restrict a grant instead of the default of unrestricted. We monitor and report on the proportion of u/r grants annually in our Annual Review. We often include an additional unrestricted ‘top-up’ to grants that are provided to meet defined costs or specific projects if we believe the organisation may have limited access to unrestricted income streams.

Although we are limited in the extent to which we can formally commit to multi-year funding, we are aiming to be clearer at the outset about the intent or expectation to make a repeat grant (or not) when a current grant expires.

Communicate with purpose

We are working to improve the clarity of expectations with all grantees at the grant set-up stage – covering outcomes; communication and reporting; and learning opportunities. We have introduced grant set-up calls as standard to go over these things and also to explain why it is we’ve chosen to make the grant and what we are particularly interested in about the organisation and its work.

We are also aiming to be clearer at the outset about expectations regarding the end of the grant and the possibility of further funding.

We are also aiming to give more insight into how we’re using what we’re learning from reports etc. in our feedback to grantees.

Be proportionate

We continue to take a flexible and light touch approach to both proposals and reports.

We will accept reports written for other funders as a baseline, only asking for additional information if we need it to support our learning.

We are working to ensure greater clarity regarding reporting expectations and what we wish to learn from our grantees at grant set-up and throughout our funding relationship and are producing new guidance for grantees on this.

We are piloting having calls or meetings with grantees to replace written reports in some instances.


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