Short-term pressure, long-term learning
The short-term aim of the ‘new’ WFF was to distribute emergency funding efficiently during the pandemic. But the longer-term aim is for the Forum to establish a clearer sense of direction and collective impetus. Sharing learning (e.g. around emergency funding), helping one another solve problems (like due diligence) and thinking more strategically all play a part in this.
One of the WFF refrains during the pandemic has been, “Oh, we’ve done that!” Because we meet more regularly, have a clearer focus on key issues and are more openly sharing funding activities, as funders we are in a stronger position to identify ways to learn together and support each other. The formal conversations we’ve started around our three focus areas are testament to this. And, although we don’t track such activity, the WFF is now catalysing more informal conversations and cooperation beyond formal meetings.
Tech has been really helpful here. Meeting online makes meetings more accessible, more efficient and better attended. Being able to digitally share collective funding activity across the Forum has also been surprisingly powerful in allowing funders to see who is doing what and where they might support. Although initial alignment and access was a bit tricky, given lots of funders with different tech requirements and capabilities, the benefits have far outweighed the challenges.
More generally, our direction as funders now has more focus and momentum. Speaking in concert also makes it possible for us to share information about the collective impact of what funders in Wales are doing, though we do recognise the danger of larger funders, with their louder voices, being seen to speak 'for' smaller funders - especially given that collaboration, while ultimately designed to save funders time and effort, can add to smaller funders’ workload in the short term.
Ultimately, us funders cooperating more only benefits those we support and fund. Some funders have referred organisations on to other funders through the WFF, for example, meaning more opportunities and streamlined processes for organisations seeking funding. And funders helping each other improve their practice can mean more effective and efficient funding.