Friday, 19 April 2024
Friday, 19 April 2024

Short term versus long term: a necessary balance

By Rosemary Macdonald, CEO at UK Community Foundations

I have spoken with many funders recently about the type of support charities need at the moment. There seems to be a narrow tightrope we are all carefully stepping along, balanced between two very different types of needs. 

The first need is short-term crisis relief

The UK is currently experiencing its worst fall in living standards since records began, with a recession projected to last for over a year, rampant inflation, increasing unemployment and an acute drop in household spending power. Urgent support is now crucial for the smaller charities and community groups trying to stay afloat while meeting an ever-growing rise in demand.

To make a short-term meaningful impact on these frontline services, funders must open up their programmes now. Today’s urgency of unrestricted financial help means funders must be more trusting with grants, utilising local expertise that is already in place and distributing money where it is vitally needed. 

A new national fund, the Communities in Crisis Appeal, has been created by UKCF to do just this. Money raised through the appeal is being distributed evenly around the UK into community services that need it. Through the community foundation network, money is going out to food banks, warm spaces, debt advice lines, mental health groups, crisis support charities, community hubs, and many other services that local people are relying on.

Cross-sector collaboration like this is essential in the emergency phase of a national crisis. UKCF knows from its work during the coronavirus pandemic that to get to a recovery phase, as much support as possible must be injected into communities early on. UKCF did this in partnership with the National Emergencies Trust nearly three years ago at the start of the national lockdowns and adapted its funding to synchronise with the needs of communities.

The second need we must look at is longer-term social investment

How will society recover after the cost-of-living crisis and future crises? Was Covid-19 a one-off? How can communities build resilience to tackle environmental challenges?

In order to progress local infrastructures and learn more about what type of grant-making works, funders must make bolder moves to plan longer-term grant programmes. With the constant flow of crises hitting the UK, now is not the time to shut our eyes and hope for the best. 

Multi-year programmes enable charities and community groups to explore new ways of working, expand their services and provide stronger platforms for communities to thrive from. 

One of the multi-year projects I’m excited about right now is the #iwill Fund we are delivering for DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport). This programme is running for over 2 years to support young people to make a positive difference on the issues that affect their lives, their communities and broader society. We are also soon to be launching an urban fund which will work to reduce air pollution in some of our larger cities over 18 months; the lessons learned will help UKCF and our partners to develop further environmental initiatives. 

It is understandable that, in today’s economic climate, many investors are unsure of their next steps. I know that there is much to be done in creating longer-term placed-based funding, and risk-taking is a big part of it. Yet, by balancing ourselves between tomorrow’s possibilities and today’s challenges, funders like UKCF can help to strengthen the path for a more sustainable and equipped society.

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