FCH and Philanthropy – a new team spirit

4th December 2020

The voluntary and community sector will be critical to the UK’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic – delivering vital services and rebuilding communities that have been fragmented by lengthy lockdowns.

Experienced funders know that getting money to the organisations that need it most will require an unprecedented level of collaboration. With resources tightening everywhere, grant income is a lifeline to the organisations we can’t afford to lose. Finding them, minimising duplication and funding appropriately will be an unparalleled coordination task for the UK’s funding community and the Funders Collaborative Hub will be a central pillar in this effort.

Designed as a collective resource for all, the hub creates an opportunity connect new funders with the wider effort. Philanthropists, who may have operated entirely independently in the past, are stepping forward to ask: “what can I do?”

It is hard to measure the precise scale of their financial contribution to the effort so far.

The Beacon Collaborative’s quarterly survey of giving among wealthy individuals shows a surge of giving among those with investable wealth between £1 million - £5 million in September. The number in this group giving £1,000 - £5,000 during the quarter doubled from 10% to 20%. Those giving gifts >£10,000 also almost doubled in this group from 5%  to 9%.

Those who work directly with wealthy donors are reporting similar patterns, suggesting giving by the wealthy has increased by several hundreds of millions in response to the crisis.  

The question of how to harness, engage and maintain these new funds as part of the collaborative Covid-19 response is highly relevant to the wider effort.

Smart money

For those wealthy individuals who are looking to make their first significant gift toward the Covid-19 crisis, a general response fund is unlikely to appeal. They are more likely to be seeking the “smart money” options, where they know their gift will count.

Even though these gifts are likely to be in the region of £1,000 - £10,000, these funders can benefit from tapping into the resources and expertise of established trusts and foundations. The Funders Collaborative Hub can offer an easy entry point and an instant network where they can find others working in the field and pinpoint emerging issues and needs.

Going further and signposting smart money philanthropists in the direction of trusts and foundations working on particular themes will help align capital among like-minded funders to get their money where it is needed most.

Adaptability

More experienced philanthropists, who are likely to be giving £10,000 - £100,000 to the Covid effort, will probably already have a portfolio of charities they are supporting through the crisis. It is likely they will want to divert any additional funds earmarked for recovery effort toward organisations that need working capital to plan and prepare for the longer term.

With the knowledge and flexibility to offer unrestricted gifts, they can kick-start new thinking. There is an opportunity for these philanthropists to work alongside established trusts and foundations that are more accustomed to offering programmatic funding. The deep thematic expertise of established funders will help pinpoint organisations that need flexible philanthropic support to plan, to adapt, to advocate and to thrive in a future that is being shaped by the pandemic.

Leverage

Meanwhile, philanthropists who have set aside a once-in-a-lifetime amount for the Covid-19 recovery will want to make a significant difference to the wider effort. They will be seeking leverage.  Whether they plan to make large gifts to a small number of frontline organisations or a transformative gift to a single organisation, they will seek a ripple effect of partnerships to the same or supporting organisations.

This group will be most open to capital alignment for this unique commitment. They are therefore more likely to plug into the hub to share their opportunity with trusts and foundations, rather than seeking opportunities in which to invest.

These examples highlight that there is no typical behaviour for philanthropists. There are different ways that they can work alongside trusts and foundations reflecting their experience and circumstances.

The pandemic has created a moment in time where philanthropy can be re-defined from a solo sport to a team effort. If thought is given to how the hub can connect philanthropists to other funders – whether they are seeking collaboration opportunities or offering them – then there is an unique opportunity to enable those who have traditionally worked alone to achieve more by working alongside others for collective and holistic impact.  

Cath Dovey is Co-Founder of The Beacon Collaborative and a member of the Funders' Collaborative Hub Strategy Group. She also chairs Rosa, the UK fund for women and girls, and is a trustee of Philanthropy Impact.