As the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, the West Midlands is the second region in England that is experiencing the greatest increase in cases of people acquiring the virus and those not surviving it.
WM Funders Network (WMFN) has undertaken a short telephone and email survey with a selection of our members to find out how they are responding.
Members operational changes
Most of the larger Network members that operate nationally and have a presence in the West Midlands with a staff team, have moved all their staff to work from home.
In the case of smaller and medium sized members, most of them have done the same, with a couple having a skeleton staff (with physical distancing measures in place) that rotate when they come to the office to keep some key back room functions operating (e.g. finance/accounting). Those surveyed had also explored online platforms to hold video conferencing instead of face to face meetings or they continue to communicate on grant making matters by phone or email.
COVID – 19 Funders commitment
Several of our larger members have also signed up to the COVID-19 Funders commitment which pledges to offer support to civil society groups affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Members currently signed up include Barrow Cadbury Trust and BBC Children in Need. Non-members in the region who have signed up include West Midlands Police.
There is a full list of funders who have signed up to the commitment and this is being updated regularly as more funders sign up.
Keeping grantees and applicants informed
Smaller and medium sized Network members have looked to reassure current grantees of their continued commitment, and some have been open to being more flexible about reporting and payment schedules for grants, as have the larger Trusts and funders.
Those smaller funders that have developed strong ongoing relationships with their grantees as part of their grant making approach feel in a confident position to make quick decisions on the change in use, payments and reporting requirements, without requiring written information immediately. Others are, however, mindful of a need to be able to record and document changes in use of grants or delivery of services, as part of their view on due diligence.
Some smaller funders have decided that they need to place a moratorium on receiving any new applications during this unprecedented situation, and they have informed potential applicants about this through their websites.
A new pooled fund the Coronavirus Resilience Appeal has been launched by member the Heart of England Community Foundation (HoECF) to support small community groups in Birmingham, Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire in their response to the impact of COVID-19. The fund will be available to constituted groups who are providing services such as food banks, social eating projects, emergency food parcel deliveries and those engaging in outreach activities. Members such as Barrow Cadbury Trust, Eveson Charitable Trust and South Birmingham Friends Institute Trust have contributed.
Several WMFN members, both large and small, have decided to divert some of their available grant giving income to establish an emergency fund. This is in response to requests from charities and the voluntary sector to help with continued service delivery, or with changes in service delivery in response to the impact of COVID-19. A much simpler application form and process is being introduced for these emergency funds to reduce the burden on and quicken the process for applicants.
Giving to individuals in need
Some of our members give to individuals in need, and some of those surveyed wondered whether a pooled fund in response to the COVID-19 might a more effective way of getting resources to individuals and families most in need across the region by working with key referral agencies.
If you are interested in exploring this further, please contact Dipali by email on email@example.com
Pandemic and charitable investments
The global pandemic is affecting the economy and the value of investments held by charities and trusts. For many members, their grant giving income comes from the returns on investments. For some there has been a drop in value already reported by their own charity investment managers. If there is a global recession, then there will be longer term implications for the value of investments and the level of income available in future years for grant giving.
Some of our members are thinking of their longer investment strategy in maintaining an income to help now, as well as how they play a role in the recovery and rebuilding of the sector beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope to report more about this in a future bulletin.
There are a number of conversations going on between funders in the West Midlands working on different issues and in different areas, both members and non-members of WMFN. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to make connections through us.