Place-based approaches to funder collaboration

Event date: 
November 19, 2020

ACF’s Head of Policy, Max Rutherford, opened the event, highlighting that strong connections between funders, donors and recipients made for impactful funder responses to the pandemic at a community level. A short poll of attendees showed that although there is unanimous agreement that collaboration can achieve greater impact than working alone, retaining independence is seen as a significant barrier.

The event was chaired by Sufina Ahmad, Director of John Ellerman Foundation and ACF Trustee. Sufina emphasised that collaboration is more than just sharing money: it is sharing time, talent, and expertise as a sector in order to best support civil society organisations. She reflected on her own experiences of place-based funding collaborations having a strong impact on local individuals and communities.

Paula Reynolds, CEO of Belfast Charitable Society, discussed how the outbreak of Covid brought together the Funders’ Forum for Northern Ireland. She stressed the value of creating a space for funders of all sizes to talk, listen, exchange best practice, signpost and share practical guidance, and coordinate a rapid response. Paula explained that the success of this collaboration relies not only on the wealth of experience, information and knowledge brought together, but also on trusted partnerships and an understanding of each other’s roles, responsibilities, and limitations.  

Ronnie Brown, interim CEO of Quartet Community Foundation and a member of Bristol City Funds, spoke on how the current funding model “encourages competition rather than collaboration, short-term rather than long-term, and fragmented rather than aligned resources”. Ronnie called for a coordinated system that can best support overstretched voluntary sector organisations, and encouraged funders to look beyond funder collaboration to collaborating with the wider voluntary sector as equals. In this, clarity around a common purpose, priorities, and outcomes is a must, so as to circumvent issues of autonomy, alignment and ownership.

Katie Le Quesne, Chair of Lloyds Bank Foundation for the Channel Islands, reflected on how the Jersey Funders Group – which she also chairs – adapted its work following the outbreak of Covid. The Group had initially functioned as a space to share processes and concerns, supporting training for charities and trailing new models of funding. When Covid hit, the Group met weekly, became a single point of contact for emergency funding applications, strengthened its relationship with Government by distributing funds, and tracked funding to avoid duplication. It plans to build on this going forward, expanding to include wealthy individuals on the island too.

Following a Q&A with attendees, Sufina closed the event by listing her five top takeaways:

  1. Relationships and shared values matter;
  2. Leadership is important;
  3. The need for patience and tenacity;
  4. Agency alongside collaboration;
  5. The value of catalyst moments, such as the outbreak of Covid, which result in strategically responsive collaborations.

Chair's closing remarks:

Learning and Resources