A sensitive job

The Greater Manchester Funders Forum helped its members respond to the stresses of Covid-19 - and explore ways to make their funding more inclusive.

Thea Monk and Henry Ngawoofah
Greater Manchester Funders Forum

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.

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.

A portrait photo of the author
Thea Monk
Chair, Greater Manchester Funders Forum

Henry Ngawoofah, Grants Officer at Young Manchester, writes:

I’m part of the BAME Communities Collaboration Group. Being a member has helped me to create change in my organisation.

I’ve learned about the challenges funders face engaging more effectively with smaller grassroots organisations so they can successfully apply for their funds. These organisations often don’t apply because of a lack of capacity, time and expertise to develop strong funding bids. They often have a very limited reach and cover a wide cross-section of causes that don’t quite fit specific funding criteria. The lack of representation from BAME communities in decision making is also a challenge.

I’ve taken this knowledge to my organisation to influence our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy. I helped develop a small funding stream for tackling racial injustice in the youth and play sector.

We set up a focus group with leaders of small Black-led organisations to shape the funding stream and develop a collaborative approach to delivering the work. The focus group helped us to map initiatives tackling racial injustice and workforce inequalities across Manchester. The group has been an open space that offers capacity building and guidance.

Funders need to work together to share challenges and the best approaches to overcome them. By pooling resources, they can identify specialist-led organisations and those with lived experience. Then funders can shape policy and shift some power and influence to communities.

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