Older and Wiser: Funder Collaboration on later life

February 1, 2021


minute read
David Terrace & Mark Hayward
Grants Programme Manager for Older People and Housing at The Mercers’ Company | Head of Grants and Programme Development at Independent Age

Despite a third lockdown, there is some hope on the horizon with the vaccine rollout. Uncertainty, in at least the next year, is here to stay however, and third sector organisations will bear the brunt of this uncertainty in both their services and fundraising. Organisations working with the older population face particular issues, many having shifted their services to a largely outreach or remote model and working with many more people without their normal income streams. Clearly the pandemic has had a devastating impact on older people; even with vaccines coming available, many need extra help and the lockdowns have exacerbated feelings of loneliness and isolation and had a negative impact on physical, as well as mental, health. There is not one neat solution that provides a silver bullet and it is recognised that solutions will be as diverse as those within the older demographic.

As a funder, it is a constant challenge to know where to focus efforts and our resources. In the short term, organisations working with older people across the country need capacity and funding, as they face an unsustainable situation of rising demand and lowering income.  But systems change is clearly needed to tackle the larger, societal issues impacting on older people in the longer term. It is virtually impossible for funders to make informed decisions about priorities if there isn’t at least some information sharing. One of the positives of the lockdown has been funder collaboration, for example in the London Community Response Fund, and as we start seeing the light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel, funder collaboration should be something that we seek to develop further to maximise the impact of our collective funds on older people themselves.

The starting point for the collaboration will simply be for funders to share their insight and priorities relating to their older people work.

David Terrace and Mark Hayward

But it is not just around the process of distributing funding that funders can collaborate. The Mercers’ Company and Independent Age are working together to further understand and evaluate what works around befriending services for older people and will publish a report later this year. There are also opportunities for funders to support efforts to improve capacity and capability across the older people services through, for example, hosting joint learning and development sessions; simple things are often the most valuable.

The Funders Collaborative Hub now provides a focus point for funder collaboration. This isn’t the first time funders will have joined forces on funding of older people specific issues and services, however we are keen to engage as many funders as possible in the work. The starting point for the collaboration will simply be for funders to share their insight and priorities relating to their older people work. It is hoped that this will be the foundation of further collaboration, whatever that may look like. At the very least, organisations will understand the focus of other funders and the insight in this area, which will allow for better decision making.  But let’s aim to be more ambitious; let’s use our positive experiences of the past and the hope we have for the future as a driver to develop a new and improved “system”, with older people and the organisations working with them, at the heart of everything we all do.