At gofod3 this year, Andrea Powell (Community Foundation Wales), Andrea Cleaver (Welsh Refugee Council) and Alison Pritchard (WCVA) co-hosted ‘Working better together to attract funding’. Alison shares some of the key learning from the event.
WHY WE NEED TO COLLABORATE MORE
Through Community Foundation Wales’ trust and foundation project, Andrea Powell has been exploring how Wales can attract more income from trusts and foundations. Andrea has found that one barrier to this is that many trusts and foundations are only able to fund ‘registered charities’.
We know from the WCVA Data Hub that of almost 50,000 voluntary organisations in Wales, only about 6,700 of them are registered charities. Research from 2019 shows that there could be approximately £65 million available for Welsh charities to apply to.
We therefore considered it vital to start a conversation about collaboration and partnership working, to encourage the 86% of the sector that are not registered charities to think differently about how to access some of this funding (see Funding Wales for over 800 grant-making bodies who fund in Wales).
We recognise that this may not be an easy change to make. Wales’ historic reliance on grant-funding has unfortunately created an environment of competitiveness rather than collaboration.
At the event we heard from two organisations who have developed substantial and worthwhile collaborations, both formal and informal. Klavdjia from the Jewish History Society of Wales and Shirley from Stepping Stones North Wales talked about their experiences of developing strong partnerships.
They told us how developing partnerships has taken hard work and commitment. Not all have worked, but those that have been successful have added value to their respective organisations giving them more depth both as an organisation and within the services they provide. They’ve been cost effective and have helped them to broaden their horizons, improving resilience and sustainability.
WHAT MAKES GOOD COLLABORATION?
We are confident that increased collaboration is part of the answer to overcoming these challenges. Andrea Cleaver spoke from experience about what makes good co-production and collaboration. She also shared five considerations for funders when reviewing applications, voluntary organisations can also learn from these and apply them to project designs and funding applications.
- These things take time. Building the relationships and trust needed for the collaborative running of a successful project cannot be achieved over night. Partners should be involved in the journey from beginning to end.
- Are there balanced assets? What is each partner bringing, where is the power balance?
- Letters of support. What do they say, what isn’t being said, where are the gaps? Especially where smaller organisations are providing letters of support for a larger organisation who will be in direct receipt of funding.
- Referral routes. Do they have experience in working with the beneficiary group? Do they understand the needs and barriers?
- What does the budget tell you? Are all partners being appropriately funded for their role in the collaboration?
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
The final part of the event explored collaboration with the attendees. We discussed what motivates them to work collaboratively; we asked them to consider what their current barriers are to working more collaboratively and what support they would benefit from to make collaboration easier. From those discussions came the following considerations:
- Reflect on how letters of support are used and assessed
- Where collaboration is a requirement, ensure appropriate lead time (and development funding as appropriate/representative) is built into funding schemes to allow those trusted relationships to be built and robust governance to be developed
- Raise awareness of schemes that support this type of working and consider what support you can provide to help organisations develop new partnerships (could some of the funding be used to cover development costs?)
- Share examples of successful partnerships within application guidance information
- Ensure that application requirements and documentation are accessible to collaborations (for example, give an option for web-portal based application forms to be downloaded as pdfs that can be shared so that answers can be co-produced, and make sure that forms are formatted to allow information about all partners to be included)
- Make contact with all partners to establish the true nature of the partnership and the depth of relationship between partners
For support and membership bodies
- Provide training on best practice for partnership working and what makes a good partner
- Create networking and mentoring opportunities for organisations based on geography and theme
- Share exemplars and templates for the documentation relevant to partnership working
For voluntary organisations
- Be open to collaboration!
- When planning a project, research what other organisations are doing and see what scope there is to complement the work of others
- Be ready for collaboration; make sure your governance arrangements are strong and you are aware of what you can bring to a partnership
- Share learning, both positive and negative, from your experiences of collaboration where you can
- Be prepared to be challenged and to learn from constructive feedback
- Be resilient – strong partnerships don’t happen overnight, they take considerable time and effort and may not be entirely straightforward. Don’t allow a knockback to prevent you from trying again
WCVA would love to hear from you if you have any experiences or learning that you’d be willing to share from working in collaboration. We hope to develop models of best practise, exemplars, template documents etc that we can share with you all.
Please contact Alison Pritchard, Sustainable Funding Manager at WCVA on email@example.com. We will of course respect your anonymity and will never share your experiences without permission.
A great place to connect with other organisations is the My Network area of the Third Sector Support Wales Knowledge Hub. Register for free and get chatting!