Thea Monk, Chair of the Greater Manchester Funders Forum and Project Manager at Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO), writes:
“What do you know about X?” If members of the Greater Manchester Funders Forum pick up the phone and ask this kind of question to each other, that will be a real win for the group. Ultimately, it’s about building relationships and understanding each other’s trusts and foundations.
The group is made up of over 30 members and has met online since its launch in May 2020. Funders were facing large amounts of stress in an unknown period and knew they had to work together. We meet to listen to speakers and members have the opportunity to share their experiences. The idea is to make connections, build a picture of the funding landscape and share information and intelligence.
Representatives of grant makers, social investors and local authorities are in the group. This includes national ones, like BBC Children in Need and Lloyds Bank Foundation, and local organisations like Young Manchester. The main group decided to form two smaller ones. One sub-group aims to create shared resources for members and another to get more funding to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.
I facilitate the BAME Communities Collaboration Group, which meets online bi-monthly and usually has around 10 members. This allows it to be small and personal. Our purpose is to understand how to get funding to BAME communities in a better way.
Members first wanted to write a guide to minimum standards of good practice for making funding processes suitable for BAME organisations across Greater Manchester. They also wanted to design a charter for funders to sign up to. However, we found that good practice guides written by expert organisations already exist. It would also have been harder for some of the national funders to sign up to something specifically designed for Greater Manchester, as they have a different geographical footprint.
So, after some exploration with the group, we now welcome a guest speaker who talks about what changes they have made to get more funding to BAME groups and then answers our questions. For example, we had someone from the Greater Manchester BAME Network talking about how they distributed funding from Comic Relief and the National Emergencies Trust to grassroots BAME organisations across Greater Manchester. Another talk was led by someone from Comic Relief who talked about how they developed their application processes to be more inclusive and accessible to BAME-led organisations.
Each group member shares what they are going to take away to action in their organisation. For me, this has been about making sure our application processes for funding are as simple as possible so they are more accessible to more informal organisations. I’ve also been thinking about the due diligence we ask of smaller organisations and making sure we aren’t requesting unnecessary documents. For other members, it’s been about the logistics of recruiting more diverse panel members, like where to advertise and what training might be needed.
Collaboration is quite a sensitive job. For example, if someone has a real passion for an idea and you can’t take it forward, it can be difficult. But you can agree what you can do that is similar and still have an impact. We have found that everyone has the same core beliefs and values and a willingness to change. But there has to be a constant co-design element and a checking in of what we are trying to achieve.