Local Giving recently tweeted an infographic of the findings from a survey about community group sustainability. Headline figures from those surveyed conveyed that:
- 81% expect an increase in demand for their services
- Only 15% felt they have the resources to cope
- 73% report a decrease or stagnation of income.
Not the most joyous of reads and a clear spotlight on the issues facing small voluntary and community groups across the country.
I then heard a trustee of a funding organization questioning the need to fund ‘core’ costs. It begs the question: why, after so much work on this over the last fifteen years, are so many funders still not willing to cover the core costs of charities and community groups? Could it be that:
- There is a poor standard of applications being submitted
- There is an inability to communicate the necessity for a proportion of the electricity bills to be paid or to be able to justify the cost of a manager, for example
- There is a lack of knowledge or understanding of the issues facing the voluntary and community sector by individuals sitting on grant panels
- It is just not ‘sexy’ enough to fund utilities, governance costs, core salaries or fuel for a mini-bus.
If I had a £100 million endowment fund to administer, I would happily fund the ‘ugly stuff’, the mundane things that enable exciting projects to succeed, the day-to-day costs that change people’s lives and the salaries of the unsung heroes trying to make their community a better place.
I have seen first-hand private sponsors fund or donate a mini-bus but never once seen them contribute a years’ worth of insurance or petrol. I have watched a group of employees paint a community centre but never seen people fundraise to pay the centre manager’s salary for a year.
It continues to be hard to secure funding for core costs. Trusts and foundations like Tudor Trust and Henry Smith do what they can but from my experience as a funding adviser they seem incredibly oversubscribed. With less and less statutory funding available and increased pressure on the voluntary and community sector to deliver services for those most in need, I cannot see this easing yet without the core costs these services are at serious risk.
So is it the fault of funders or is it that the sector is becoming too reliant on grant funding? There is no easy answer to this. A key fact is that a large percentage of the voluntary and community sector are concerned about their future. Keeping the lights on and delivering for communities in need will be a challenge for many voluntary and community groups in 2016.