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A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund Impact and learning one year on

Insights Report 7 May 2021


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

Summary What we did

£13.8m

given in Fast Response Grants for unrestricted or core costs to

545 6 weeks organisations we fund, with;

from first contact to payment. There was no application or formal reporting process.

We also contributed £2.3m towards emergency Pooled Funds.

Home

Summary

Introduction

Impact of COVID on organisations we fund in 2020

How our Fast Response Grants were used

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

Income loss hit hardest in the Arts sector, but many said that the true impact of COVID is still to come.

• Keeping vital work and people going at a crucial time.

What organisations told us:

What we learned about the way funders usually work.

• 55% lost organisational income, with Arts organisations suffering the most: 83% lost some income, and 23% lost more than half. • Many organisations reported that they expected income to fall dramatically in 2021.

• Enabling adaptation, innovation, and development of new work. • Meeting increased demand through practical support, new services, and increased advocacy. • Moving services online, digital innovation and reaching more people.

The pandemic offered funders like Esmée the opportunity to make a difference by giving more, and giving with trust and flexibility. Many funders embraced it. Our challenge now is to carry the lessons of this emergency giving into our regular funding relationships. Fast Response Grants

About the survey

• Acting quickly and decisively gave them vital stability in the early stages of the crisis.

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

• Offering grants with no paperwork showed that Esmée understood the challenges they faced, and that we had chosen to stand beside them.

• Funders usually move slowly: when we say “quick”, organisations assume that just means “less slow”. • Grant reporting is difficult and time-consuming, and has an effect on what is delivered.

• Because of the way they were made, the impact of the grants was worth more than just the money.

• Funders often put up frustrating barriers and caveats to giving out the actual money.

• Offering funding with no restrictions gave organisations more flexibility to change and respond to the pandemic.

• Not all funders have been flexible about the use of their grants during the pandemic.

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

• The cost of applying for COVID emergency funding has been high.

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A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

Contents

Introduction This report shares feedback from a survey of 396 organisations we fund on Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s 2020 emergency funding response to COVID. Our ‘Fast Response Grants’ were unrestricted, given without applications or reporting requirements to organisations we already funded, and payments were made within six weeks.

2 Summary 4 Fast Response Grants 5 About the survey 6 Impact of COVID on organisations’ income in 2020

As we expected, the feedback on the grants shows the power of unrestricted funding for charities and non-profits, as well as the potential of decisive action and clear communications for funders.

8 How organisations used the Fast Response Grants 13 Worth more than money

What we did not anticipate was that such positive feedback would hold a mirror up to our current funding practices, showing up all the barriers and hurdles that funders – including Esmée – routinely put in the way of the people and organisations trying to make a difference. This has left us with some hard questions, but also plenty of ammunition for change, which we want to share with other funders as well as the brilliant organisations we support.

16 Challenging how we fund

Home

Summary

Introduction

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

3


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

Fast Response Grants In April 2020, we gave £13.8m in Fast Response Grants to 545 organisations we fund (median grant £23k), to help them respond to the pandemic. Grants were offered in addition to existing Esmée funding, with no application or formal reporting process, and were unrestricted (unless the recipient was not a charity). All requested payments were made within six weeks.

We did not offer grants to everyone we fund, but prioritised organisations that were:

Read our September 2020 insights report into our COVID response to learn more about how and why we made these grants as well as information about our contribution to Pooled Funds.

• Experiencing negative effects of coronavirus on their costs or income streams. • Working with a vulnerable group. • Increasing their services in response to increased demand.

13 March

9 April

24 April

9 June

We contacted everyone we support to reassure them that our funding is flexible, relaxed reporting requirements and offered Funding Plus support.

Additional £16m agreed for our emergency response:

All Fast Response Grant offers were sent out.

545 Fast Response Grants were approved and payments made totalling £13.8m.

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Summary

Introduction

• £14m for Fast Response Grants • £2m for Pooled Funds

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

4


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

About the survey The survey was short, and asked: In January 2021 we surveyed everyone we fund who was contacted in April 2020 about our ‘Fast Response Grants’ (545 organisations who were offered grants, and 72 who were not). We ran a survey to find out more about how our Fast Response Grants were used, and what organisations thought of the way they were made. Responses were anonymous.

• If you received a Fast Response Grant from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, how have you used it so far? • Have there been changes to your organisational income during 2020/21? • What was the most useful thing Esmée did as part of its COVID response? • About your organisation: income band, and sector. We received 396 responses, including 27 from organisations we fund that were not offered a Fast Response Grant.

Home

Summary

Introduction

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

5


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

Impact of COVID on organisations’ income in 2020

25%

Have there been changes to your organisational income during 2020/21? Number of organisations

99 organisations (25%) had not lost any organisational income in 2020/2021. 78 organisations (20%) experienced no change.

55%

Many organisations reported that they expected income to fall dramatically in 2021. We anticipate that most of the impact of COVID for us will be in 2021, as project timelines are extended (but funding not increased to cover this); we are anticipating to run a significant deficit in 2021.

Summary

99

No change

78

Lost 1–9%

However, most (55%) did lose income, with 38 organisations losing 50% or more of their annual income.

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Gained income

Introduction

36

Lost 10–19%

55

Lost 20–29%

52

Lost 30–39%

24

Lost 40–49%

14

Lost 50% or more

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

38 Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

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A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

Impact of COVID on organisations’ income in 2020 continued

69%

Income loss by sector Social Change

Of the organisations Esmée funds, those working for social change were most likely to have gained or maintained their income in 2020 – 69% of the 118 respondents had not lost any income. Many of these organisations work in campaigning, casework or policy change and do not have a high proportion of earned income.

83%

4 2 1 10

32

48

Environment and food

3 24 7

18

2 4 10

9

14

8

18

24

10

15

25

Gained income No change Lost 1–9% Lost 10–19% Lost 20–29%

Introduction

10

20

Arts

29

Summary

6

Children and young people

Arts organisations were most likely to have lost income – 83% lost some income, with 23% of the 127 respondents losing 50% or more.

Home

13

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

14

Lost 30–39%

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

13

14

Lost 40–49%

Challenging how we fund

7

Lost 50% or more

7


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

8

How did organisations use their Fast Response Grants? 65%

36%

35%

Keeping vital work and people going

New work and adaptation

Most organisations used some or all of their Fast Response Grant to meet ongoing running costs, with 28% of organisations using all of the grant for this.

The next most common use was for innovation or delivering new work.

24%

Moving services online, and digital innovation

Meeting increased demand

If you have received a Fast Response Grant from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, how have you used it so far? (Choose up to 3 that apply)

132 128

Moving services online, IT equipment, or digital innovation

87

To meet increased demand

65

Used for adaptations required by COVID (e.g. social distancing)

46

Held it in reserve

27

We did not receive a Fast Response Grant Introduction

12% of organisations are holding some of the grant in reserve, with 13 organisations not yet spending any of it.

239

For innovation or delivering new work

Summary

Reserves

Number of organisations

Regular ongoing staff or running costs

Home

12%

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

How did organisations use their Fast Response Grants? continued

Keeping vital work and people going at a crucial time

Grants provided time and space for organisations to make decisions. They also gave peace of mind – taking the pressure off financially by replacing lost earned income. Funding enabled organisations to avoid redundancies or furloughing key staff, and helped top up furloughed staff salaries. Additional staff could be brought on to meet increased demand, or reduce pressure on staff home schooling or caring or covered for isolating staff. Grants also helped organisations in the Arts sector to honour freelance fees for cancelled events, or support struggling freelance artists directly.

Home

Summary

Introduction

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

The unrestricted Fast Response Grant was absolutely crucial to carry core cost and wages during a very difficult time and has significantly contributed to us managing this period with only one redundancy. We have used the grant generally to support continued delivery of services across the whole charity – as opposed to specifically linked it to the programme that Esmée Fairbairn grant funds. This has helped us maintain services to vulnerable households, help more people suffering as a result of the pandemic and continue to support communities. All of our activities have been harder to deliver and taken longer in lockdown and the grant has helped us to minimise anticipated losses in the year.

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

It stopped us being forced into making knee-jerk decisions, particularly about making staff redundant, and provided some short-term support for our core costs whilst we were exploring how we could continue to operate. It allowed us to keep going, and to hold our nerve – especially when writing cheques to support many of our artists, who were facing real and immediate hardship.

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A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

10

How did organisations use their Fast Response Grants? continued

Enabling adaptation, innovation, and development of new work

Grants enabled organisations not just to respond quickly to the emerging needs of the pandemic and adapt their existing services, but also to deliver new ones. People experimented with new ways of working, listening to the communities they serve more closely, developing services alongside them, and working in a participatory way.

We split the grant. £10k went into increasing capacity within our support service and to help move to online. With the £20k we started a participatory decision making [process] about how best to use this with our members. This launched a fully participatory and collaborative fund that we have since agreed with Trustees will continue.

The difference that small amounts of money can make is inspiring, and many of the changes made will have a lasting legacy.

We helped a group of young disabled people to explore and communicate their personal experiences of lockdown. This included working with media relations experts to make a series of podcasts and to work with an artist to produce a ‘quaranzine’ magazine, a collection of images, writing, screen caps and other medium that represents their everyday experiences of lockdown. We researched, published and developed a policy to treat and prevent obesity, given the emerging evidence highlighting obesity as a risk factor. This was a new stream of work we would not have been able to pick up without support from Esmée.

Home

Summary

Introduction

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

The grant enabled us to adapt our work to respond to the way COVID was affecting those in immigration detention, in particular expanding our advocacy work and running a legal challenge which led to 70% of detainees being released. We brought together our emerging artists as consultants and paid for their time to begin to develop a co-created project with them to support those who had recently chosen a career in the creative industries and were impacted so strongly by the pandemic. We listened to families who accessed [our service] pre-pandemic, and they felt isolated, disconnected, unsupported with their children’s home-schooling and emotionally drained. The Fast Response Grant enabled us to develop a quality programme of artist-led activities (through Facebook videos, activity kits and image-led instructions) to support low-income families to creatively engage with local green spaces in the neighbourhood during their permitted time outside.


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

11

How did organisations use their Fast Response Grants? continued

Moving services online, digital innovation and reaching more people

Made in the early stages of the pandemic, grants were particularly helpful with the costs of shifting work online. From buying equipment to designing new platforms, the whole range of digital support was covered. Innovation was particularly widespread in the Arts, where organisations expanded their reach by offering work to huge audiences free of charge, and are now experimenting with ways to make this offer more financially sustainable. The shift online does not work for everyone, however, and we are reminded that new digital services must also reach those who aren’t able or willing to be online.

Home

Summary

Introduction

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

We used the money to purchase Google chrome books for the young people so they could continue to work with us remotely – it was fantastic as many of our young people are isolated in the community. We used it to shift our work online and for the first time curate a digital programme – paying artists for their work, premiering work, exploring monetisation with different payment or donation schemes, exploring different types of curation and accessibility. This has included a rapid shift to online delivery including over 5,000 video call lessons, recording over 500 teaching videos, orchestral group lessons and socials via video call and sessions for babies/toddlers and their carers via video call. Our musicians have had to rapidly upskill in order to offer the best possible teaching and emotional support through virtual means.

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

We moved quickly to adapt our programmes to online delivery to ensure we could meet the needs of some of the UK’s most vulnerable young people. We now have a suite of digital programmes and toolkits which mean young people and the professionals and family who care for them have constant access to our support resources. We also adapted the digital content to be available as hardcopy guidance which we have distributed to offenders in prisons, many of whom have been confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day. We utilised the grant to buy camera equipment and trial live streaming by hiring in specialists to record, edit and digitally present work.


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

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How did organisations use their Fast Response Grants? continued

Meeting increased demand through practical support, new services, and increased advocacy

Grants helped organisations to give more support to people in need: from practical help like mobile phone data and food, to adapted or new services for those experiencing hardship or abuse. Vitally, campaigning organisations were able to increase their advocacy in order to prevent problems from becoming worse during lockdown.

We mainly used the grant to purchase things for our beneficiaries to help them get through lockdowns and support them with social distancing e.g. mobile phone data to help them stay connected, craft and wellbeing materials to help them stay happy and active and, where necessary, practical things such as food and warm clothing. We used 50% of it to upscale our capacity to open new member-run food clubs to increase the capacity and sustainability of local community responses to increased food insecurity, along with funding research to assess the scale of the problem and into innovative cash-first responses to household food insecurity in Scotland.

Home

Summary

Introduction

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

Families faced significant pressure during the national lockdown, and we supported families with the challenges and struggles via our helpline. When we received the emergency funding, we launched a livechat service, so parents could access support more confidentially during the lockdown conditions. This meant that we could bring on a new communications officer that could work on the communications of our prevention programmes. This was a crucial hire that allowed us to meet some of the increased need for our prevention programmes in vulnerable communities.


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

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Worth more than money We asked organisations for feedback on how Esmée made the grants

91%

42%

30%

Extra money

No grant reporting

Most named Fast Response Grants as one of the most useful things we did.

We were surprised to see how many organisations valued not asking for grant reporting. It is an important reminder of how much time and energy reporting to funders takes up – something we have been working to change with our IVAR project on Better Reporting.

Making funding unrestricted

What was the most useful thing Esmée did as part of its COVID response? (Choose up to 3 that apply)

166

Not asking for grant reporting

120

Making existing grants unrestricted

70

Offering more Funding Plus support

48 46

Sharing our learning in COVID insights reports Being flexible about applications

13 10

Bringing payments forward Giving other emergency funds through partners

Summary

Introduction

Fast Response Grants

Number of organisations

362

Giving extra money through Fast Response Grants

Home

We know this makes a difference in uncertain times, and have continued to make funding unrestricted whenever we can.

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

14

Worth more than money continued

Why did the way we made the grants make such a difference? We have never had such a positive response to anything we’ve done. We asked organisations to tell us more about what was most useful about our response and the key messages were clear. Acting quickly and decisively gave organisations vital stability in the early stages of the crisis.

The speed of the response was extremely reassuring – we had contact from Esmée within 1-2 weeks to say that they would be supporting the grantees in a variety of different ways, and more news would be coming. This was so valuable during a time of lots of confusion and stress!

Home

Summary

Introduction

This support came at the moment of maximum uncertainty for us and gave us some stability. When a new festival was cancelling every day, and we had no idea how we would manage cash flow over the next 6 months, this grant enabled us to know that we could continue to pay staff and pay the bills. The swiftness of the offer really helped as it meant that it impacted our financial planning very early in the pandemic and for us brought some very early security to build other planning around.

Offering grants with no paperwork showed that Esmée understood the challenges organisations faced, and had chosen to stand beside them.

Fast Response Grants with no paperwork and no red tape were a lifeline and, more importantly, felt like an arm around the shoulder from a friend saying “we trust you” at a crucial and difficult time. It made us feel that our funders were alive to the situation, switched on, and living in the real world. It helped give us confidence to proceed with what we simply called ‘Plan B’ – in other words, the best we could do because Plan A was impossible – and know that our funders would support us in a creative response to new circumstances. It was incredibly helpful to receive immediate support, both from a financial perspective, but also psychologically to know you are standing by us and others at this difficult time.

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

15

Worth more than money continued

Because of the way it was made, the impact of the grant was worth much more to organisations than just the money.

The emergency grant was the single most useful and meaningful action from a funder. The money has been invaluable. We would have been at risk of losing staff posts without it. And the sentiment – of having our backs – just made the most enormous difference to my and my teams’ morale.

Offering funding with no restrictions gave organisations more flexibility to change and respond to the pandemic.

The money was obviously vital but I think the most valuable aspect was *how* you did it – at no point did we feel we needed to justify or explain any struggles COVID may have caused... you assumed you could do something to help and just offered to. It makes a world of difference! The support from Esmée Fairbairn felt more than financial, it created a sense of encouragement for staff as we realised in between all these terrible things happening in the world, and the exploitation we hear about daily, there are still people supporting us and wanting to change the world together.

Home

Summary

Introduction

The response grant gave us belief, confidence to focus beyond the now and concentrate on what is important.

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

Esmée’s openness and flexibility has been absolutely vital to our ability to innovate. Without this we would simply not have been able to take the risks we have, nor adapt and change so rapidly. This level of trust in allowing us to revise our approach has been so important and has allowed us to evolve into a much more resilient, relevant and responsive organisation.


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

Challenging how we fund What this tells us about the way that funders usually work We often receive feedback that it takes hard work to get a grant from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation – something we are looking to change – and from some of the positive responses to this survey, we could infer the negative costs of our usual practice. More overtly, responses often called out the costs of funder demands around emergency grants.

Home

Summary

Introduction

Funders usually move slowly: when we say “quick”, organisations assume that just means “less slow” The swift response really was swift.

Grant reporting is difficult and timeconsuming, and has an effect on what is delivered The understanding around reporting on existing funding was also useful as it allowed us to rethink our strategy and not panic about reporting. The absence of a requirement to apply for / account in detail for the additional funding was extremely helpful as it enabled the time to be spent on providing the support needed, rather than on paperwork.

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

Funders often put up frustrating barriers and caveats to giving out the actual money

The lack of admin requests was utterly refreshing. Paid the full grant quickly upfront.

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A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

Challenging how we fund continued

Not all funders have been flexible about use of their grants during the pandemic Not needing to report was a massive help as we were up to our eyes researching, applying for funding as well as in a continuous and very stressful process of renegotiation with our other funders.

The cost of applying for COVID emergency funding has been high

Once the pandemic hit and COVID grants were available some of the paperwork took an awful long time to complete and then you had to await replies.

From reading each of the 396 responses, it is clear that the way funders give their money can be as important as the money itself. The pandemic offered funders the opportunity to make a difference by giving more, and giving with trust and flexibility. Many funders embraced it. Our challenge now is to carry the lessons of this emergency giving into our regular funding relationships.

COVID funding has tended to incur much time and paperwork and is short-term. The flexibility and light-touch approach to the grant has been so hugely appreciated in a year where workload around applications, reports and budgets has grown so much.

Home

Summary

Introduction

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

17


A fast response to COVID – challenging how we fund

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Summary

Introduction

Fast Response Grants

About the survey

Impact of COVID

Organisation use of Grants

Worth more than money

Challenging how we fund

18

Profile for Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

A fast response to COVID - challenging how we fund.  

In a new Insights report, we share feedback on our emergency response to the COVID pandemic, one year on. We also reflect on how it's challe...

A fast response to COVID - challenging how we fund.  

In a new Insights report, we share feedback on our emergency response to the COVID pandemic, one year on. We also reflect on how it's challe...

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