The Funding Challenge - 7th May 2014
As I chat to people at meetings and events our conversation often turns to funding and the current working environment for faith-based and other local community organisations. At times it seems as if the people I talk to polarise into just two perspectives … “there is no money and everything is terrible for everyone” or “there is plenty of money around for those who know how to find it”.
Firstly we need to remember is that the vast majority of faith-based social action is not dependent on money. Much of the day-by-day and week-by-week activities and services provided by faith communities in their neighbourhoods is run by volunteers with minimal costs, or with costs that are able to be covered by small scale local fundraising activities.
Secondly we also need to spell out the obvious response to the polarised positions, which is that the truth is rarely just one thing or the other. Access to finance certainly feels tighter than it was, and many groups previously supported by public agencies are particularly feeling the squeeze. But this is not universal. In some localities, as a result of long term relationship building, faith communities are seen as trusted partners in such areas as health and public safety, as well as more traditional welfare provision.
Maybe some of these comments from faith based organisations ring true for you …
“There is less money around for charities … One of the difficulties is actually finding time to do applications. My volunteer who was really helping with that is the person who is volunteering doing the job club, and because that has now got very busy, he doesn’t have the time to be sitting writing applications.”
“I am not interested in just getting money for the sake of it, if we want to run something in particular, then we will look for some funding to do that.”
“We will develop into a sustainable organisation that isn’t dependant on others … a successful organisation that is run by our users and valued by local communities and trusted by local communities.”
The reality is that there are still many faith based groups who wish to access funding in order to enable them to serve their communities more effectively. But many of these look at the task and decide very early on that it’s just too difficult. Maybe finding the time is a crucial barrier or knowing who to approach with your project or scheme.
Sometimes, it just seems too difficult to know how to present our case to outsiders when the language and understanding we have of our work seems to be very different to that of the funder. But, once we look more closely, we often discover that that underlying values are the same and all we need to do is learn the skills to present – not to distort – our values and plans in ways that also speak to funders priorities.
We’ve referred to excellent resources in our bulletin in the past including the guide written by our friend John McCallum at the St Philip’s Centre in Leicester.
Other resources can be viewed by looking at our resources page – click the ‘select none’ button and then click the ‘funding’ and ‘fundraising advice’ boxes.
We are now offering two introductory workshops on bid-writing to help get you started. The first will take place in London on Tuesday 13th May and the second in Birmingham in the week beginning 16th June. Full details here and you can book through our eventbrite page.
We'd love you to join us and learn from Mohammed Mamdani, founder of the Al-Mizan Charitable Trust (http://www.almizantrust.org.uk/) and an FbRN trustee.