Learning from Covid-19 pandemic grants programmes: Lessons for funders and support agencies

During the Covid-19 pandemic, funders (local and national) gave extensive funding to the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector to provide emergency aid to support communities in need, resulting in a substantial number of previously small and micro-organisations scaling up their activity.

In this research, we sought to clarify:

  • The impact of this funding environment on small VCSE organisations and the common challenges they are facing

  • The ingredients that allowed organisations to successfully expand and cope with the added pressures this brought

  • What support VCSE organisations need to help them sustain services

  • What lessons can be learnt to inform how funders interact with the sector

GMCVO undertook the research with small organisations who had received grants from us during 2020 and 2021.

Although most organisations reported that they had expanded activities during Covid-19 and that grants had a positive effect on their organisation, 64% of organisations reported they are now facing significant challenges in maintaining their services and activities. Some of these challenges are related to how they are funded and the support they receive.

Recommendations for Funders

  • Working together at a Greater Manchester and locality level would allow funders to deliver a coordinated approach to grant programmes and monitoring. This would ensure there is the right combination of the different types of grant funding needed by the VCSE sector. Local Infrastructure organisations that manage grants funds, on the behalf of funders, play a vital role supporting a coordinated approach.

  • Investing time in developing longer-term relationships with the VCSE organisations they fund would create a better understanding of the development, challenges and successes of those organisations. A relationship rather than transactional approach. Framing application questions and due diligence processes around the five key areas identified above would support the development of VCSE organisations and identify any areas of help needed

  • Developing closer working relationships with VCSE support agencies and local networks would help VCSE organisations get the right support at the time in their development that they need it most.

Recommendations for VCSE Support Agencies

  • Proactively offering organisational health reviews to VCSE organisations, framed around the five identified ingredients for success; people, community, funding, support and partnerships would highlight and address any areas of concern in the structure of VCSE organisations.

  • Providing one to one practical support to build organisational capacity and helping them to implement any areas of development they may need, will help VCSE organisations to be sustainable.

Download the report below.


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