Collaboration amongst funders in Wales has been critical in supporting communities through COVID-19
John Rose, our Director for Wales reflects on the response of funders to the immediate challenges of COVID-19 and the longer-term implications for civil society in Wales.
The National Lottery Community Fund has moved quickly and decisively during the COVID-19 pandemic in Wales by supporting our grant holders and keeping money flowing to communities across Wales.
Both National Lottery Awards for All and People and Places are helping the communities and organisations that have been most affected to respond to the challenges caused by COVID-19. Last month, we awarded just over £5 million to 164 charities and smaller voluntary-led community projects across Wales, many of which are helping people to support each other, and in doing so bring hope for the future.
However, it is the collaboration with other funders in Wales that has been a critical strand to our approach and helped maximise National Lottery funding across communities in Wales.
Collective leadership in a time of crisis
While there are many organisations and communities in need of the support that we offer, our funding only reaches so far. This is why we were very quick to reach out to colleagues in other funding organisations to ensure that our individual responses were coordinated and effective. By working together and showing collective leadership we have been able to strengthen our responses to the impact of COVID-19 on Civil Society and communities in Wales.
Working through the Wales Funders’ Forum, coordinated by us and by working closely with colleagues at Wales Council for Voluntary Action, Community Foundation in Wales, Welsh Government, we have been able to:
- signpost organisations to the best funder to meet their needs;
- share information on the awards to help maximise the impact of our collective funding
- share vital insight on the emerging needs that we are seeing so that we can collectively think about how best to respond.
It is a level of cooperation and collaboration that has seen over £10 million distributed to communities across Wales. It’s been inspiring, and welcomed by Ruth Marks Chief Executive of Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA): “Working with others as part of the Wales Funders Forum has helped us to ensure that essential funding is reaching as many organisations as possible at this really challenging time.”
As we move out of the crisis and into the recovery phase maintaining this collaboration will continue to be vital. It is only by working together that we can begin to hope to provide Civil Society in Wales with the resources to address the significant challenges that they will face in the future.
The challenges for Civil Society in Wales
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented pressure on organisations to offer additional support to vulnerable citizens at a time when they themselves are grappling with the existential threat that it poses to them. Faced with a sudden and dramatic loss of revenue as a result of the ‘lockdown’ there will be significant long-term implications for organisations of all sizes, even those with sizeable and diverse sources of income. The estimated loss to the voluntary and community sector (VCS) in Wales alone is between £200 million and £230 million.
It is difficult to point towards a positive longer-term outcome associated with financial resilience. The VCS may well be smaller, and while there are voices that will argue that a leaner VCS with less competition for funding may be more sustainable in the longer term, their loss would leave our communities all the poorer for their absence.
But it isn’t all gloom and doom. It is to the VCS’ credit that it has adapted quickly to maintain current services and respond to the immediacy of the COVID-19 pandemic despite the problems it faces. Many organisations have turned to digital technology for the first time to deliver services, while others seek to meet demand by collaborating with each other when they would normally compete for funding. Whilst not underestimating the enormity of the pressures they face, there are lessons to draw upon that will strengthen organisations in the future. As funders, it is important that we continue to work together to support organisations to maximise the positive outcomes whilst providing them with some resource to mitigate the negative ones. We must, listen, learn and respond effectively to the longer-term challenge.
Learning and Insight about COVID-19
Right across the UK we have drawn together learning from grant holders. Much of it is on the Insights pages of our website and it captures learning from the period after ‘lockdown’. Our recent Third Sector Insight podcast, which you can listen to here, draws on the COVID-19 response of Invest Local, a 10-year programme that builds on the strengths of individuals, groups and organisations across 13 communities to create positive and lasting change, all funded by The National Lottery.
The insight that we are gathering is as significant and as far-reaching for us as it is for Civil Society. COVID-19 has made helping communities to thrive much harder. The Pandemic has accentuated existing challenges as well as creating new ones, and it will shape the response of funders for some time to come.
For details of funding currently available in Wales, including to support groups respond to COVID-19.
We’re bringing together what we're learning from our grantholders about their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Visit our COVID-19 Insights page for the latest information.