Learning from the London Community Response Fund
Nat Jordan, Funding Manager at City Bridge Trust, reflects on the successes and lessons learned from the London Community Response Fund
The London Community Response (LCR) coordinated by London Funders and supported by City Bridge Trust and more than 60 other funders, launched on 27th March 2020, shortly after the start of the first national lockdown.
A collaborative funder response to support the civil society sector and based on eight funding principles, LCR was anchored in trusting and equitable grant-making, and drew on learning from previous joint-funder emergency collaborations. It offered a common application form to allow civil society organisations to make applications for emergency support.
The London Community Response Fund (LCRF) was established to enable donors (including independent and public sector funders, livery companies, and city businesses) to donate to a single fund as part of this response, rather than individually assessing grants themselves. This fund is administered by City Bridge Trust, and a total of 20 funders contributed over the course of the LCR’s five waves of funding.
The LCR brought together 67 funders and distributed £57.7m through 3,381 grants. LCRF was responsible for distributing £31.4m via 1,685 grants – 54.4% of the total funding distributed.
As 2021 draws to a close, we reflect on the last 21 months, on the successes of this programme and what we have learned.
What were the successes of The London Community Response Fund?
LCRF enabled national, regional, and local independent funders, philanthropy networks, public sector funders, and corporate funders to donate to a single fund.
City Bridge Trust also contributed 50% of a grant to two learning partners, The Social Investment Consultancy and Reos Partners, who supported the wider LCR collaboration and made recommendations on ways of working, strengthening equity and inclusion, and key areas of focus as we look to renewal.
Commissioned by London Funders, LCRF funded four Equity Partners to provide strategic and operational support to the wider LCR, and invited them to join the LCRF Advisory Panel: Ubele Initiative (with the Council of Somali Organisations and London Gypsies and Travellers), LGBT+ Consortium, Inclusion London, and the Women’s Resource Centre).
We prioritised funding to organisations led by and for women, BAME, LGBT+ and deaf and disabled organisations, refining our criteria and assessment approach as we learned more from our partners to ensure that we were supporting those organisations with the best reach into communities disproportionately impacted by the crisis, and which were embedding a human rights approach in their work.
Responsive and iterative design
The design and delivery of application assessments, decision-making and grant management adapted live as new information emerged. For instance, as we tracked the proportion of grants that were reaching each of our prioritised communities, we realised that LGBT+ organisations were receiving a proportionately low percentage of the total grants awarded. The Advisory Panel agreed to revise the prioritisation criteria for this group ensuring more organisations would be eligible.
Flexible and light touch grant management
We committed to a simple approach to monitoring that was shared across the LCR collaboration. Working with Ecorys Ltd, our monitoring partner, we asked a handful of straightforward questions, and offered funded organisations the option of reporting back to us through a short online survey, or over the phone.
Take up of the telephone option has been low so far (with an average of 3–6%), but we know that providing accessible alternatives in reporting is of the utmost importance, and we are trialling further approaches in how to offer this format.
Reaching more organisations
The success of these approaches is demonstrated in one of my favourite statistics from the LCRF: that 61% of organisations funded by LCRF had never been funded by City Bridge Trust before. This shows that the flexibility, understanding, and emphasis on equity meant we reached beyond the “usual suspects”.
The summary report, linked at the bottom of this blog, outlines a number of recommendations that are already being incorporated at City Bridge Trust to best ensure that we don’t lose these successes and return to the pre-pandemic “business as usual”, and we will continue to apply our learning across all our work.
After five waves of funding, the London Community Response is no longer accepting new applications. However, we are committed to collaborative funding and will invest in London’s communities over the long-term, supporting the recovery and renewal of civil society beyond Covid-19.
The following links may also be of interest