Video Conference

Evaluating funders’ response to the COVID-19 crisis in Wales

Published: 22/07/21 | Categories: Author:

Alison Pritchard, Sustainable Funding Manager at WCVA, highlights key findings from an independent evaluation of the joint response to the pandemic by funders in Wales.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, senior representatives from WCVA, Welsh Government, National Lottery Community Fund, Community Foundation Wales, Lloyds Bank Foundation, Moondance Foundation and the Wales Funders Forum met to discuss how to get much needed emergency funds to the voluntary sector in Wales.

From these meetings an informal partnership came together to ensure that that the emergency funds that were made available reached as many charities, voluntary groups and communities as possible.

Across four of the funders mentioned above, eight emergency funds were established and made available to applications from voluntary sector organisations from across Wales:

  • Funded by Welsh Government and delivered by WCVA:
    • Voluntary Services Emergency Fund
    • Voluntary Services Recovery Fund
    • Third Sector Resilience Fund (part loan-finance)
  • National Lottery Community Fund:
    • Awards for All (COVID-19 specific)
    • People and Places (COVID-19 specific)
  • Moondance Foundation
    • COVID-19 Relief Fund
  • Community Foundation Wales
    • Wales Coronavirus Resilience Fund
    • Wales Respond and Recover Fund

In total, over £52m of funding was delivered across these grant schemes during the 2020/21 financial year.

THE EVALUATION

Over 800 people responded to the survey carried out by Wavehill Consulting as part of the evaluation, and in-depth interviews were undertaken with over 40 stakeholders including other members of the Wales Funders Forum and County Voluntary Councils.

The full report will be shared with members of the Wales Funders Forum – an informal network of public sector, charitable and corporate funders offering an exchange of information and learning between funders.

The report will help inform Forum members on how they can build on collaborative activities undertaken during the pandemic.

KEY THEMES FOR FUTURE PRIORITIES

The evaluation report has identified six key themes for future funding priorities:

  • Volunteers: Additional volunteers who emerged at the start of the pandemic are now returning to ‘normal’ and organisations are worried about recruiting and retaining the volunteers needed to maintain services.
  • Defining the new normal: Funders should be careful about defining the new normal and being prescriptive about what they will and won’t fund in support of that ‘normal’.
  • Staff burn-out in voluntary organisations.
  • Formalising and building resilience: Some organisations haven’t become incorporated despite delivering more ‘risky’ activities which put individual trustees of unincorporated organisations at increased risk of liability.
  • Funding cuts: Participants raised concerns about the ‘funding cliff edge’ expected in Spring 2021 and how funders’ schemes will be affected in the immediate future.
  • Unknown impact: We still don’t know what the full impact of the pandemic is for the sector. Future response funding might be needed.

 KEY FINDINGS

Some key findings from the evaluation, are listed below.

Applicants

  • 24% applicants from across the eight funds had not applied to funding from these organisations before.
  • Health, social care and wellbeing, and community are the themes that benefited from the highest amounts of funding by far. This reflects the challenges and hardships that communities experienced.
  • Areas that were identified as having the greatest need during the pandemic, such as ethnic minorities, mental health and housing and employment, did benefit from having considerably more funding than they might normally have expected.
  • A majority of the organisations benefiting from the funding had less than ten members of staff and were micro and small organisations.
  • Most grantees were registered charities.

Applying

  • A strong majority of respondents reported finding it easy to obtain information across the whole range of different aspects.
  • Organisations in Cardiff, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire might have found it slightly harder to obtain information on the funding available.
  • Satisfaction rates with the grant processes were also high for both the application process (90%) and the grant management and monitoring processes (86%). Satisfaction with the grant processes was even slightly higher for organisations that had not applied for grant funding previously.Differences in the ease of applying appear to have been in line with different funds’ grant values and target groups. Where application processes were more rigorous interviewees reported that support was on hand.

Needs

  • For about half the respondents, assisting with organisational survival and expanding or tailoring service provision to deal with additional demand caused by COVID-19 were part of their reason for applying for funding through the eight funds (52% and 51% respectively). Maintaining service provision at pre-COVID-19 levels and covering COVID-19 costs were relevant to around one third of respondents each.
  • The funding made available through the eight funds was seen as suitable for organisations’ needs because of the flexible approach adopted, and the amount of funding available.
  • The phasing of the funding was seen as appropriate too, (addressing immediate challenges before looking at recovery concerns) but voluntary organisations remain concerned about wider funding needs going forward.
  • The funding appears to have improved grantee organisation resilience both through the pandemic and moving forward.
  • Retaining staff – who were crucial for the development and delivery of organisations’ contingency arrangements – and being able to recruit and work effectively with volunteers were key parts of the equation.
  • Without the funding, services would not have continued in the same way for most of the interviewee organisations. Adapting services – both operationally and in responding to the particular issues that arose for key target groups – and meeting increasing demand were key challenges.
  • Service adaptations were often innovative responses that organisations are likely to retain after the acute phase of the pandemic.

WHAT NEXT?

Members of the Wales Funders Forum will be using this report and its findings to help inform opportunities for further collaboration between members in the future.

Please get in touch (apritchard@wcva.cymru) if you would like to receive a copy of the full report