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Insights from our response to COVID-19 Insight Report 5 August 2020

This report summarises our response to COVID-19, insights into what we have learnt about ourselves as a funder, the sectors we support and what the organisations we fund have done during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with some of the risks they now face. We reflect on our 545 Fast Response Grants as well as drawing together learning from 323 organisations we fund.

We want to publish this report as a record of this extraordinary moment in time; to reflect on what we did, but also to share our thinking with the people we work alongside, so that we can make sense of this situation together.

What’s in the report

We welcome your feedback – if there is anything that resonated or seems wrong to you we would love to hear about it.

What we’re hearing from organisations ……. 6

Timeline of our response…………………… 3 Fast Response Grants……………………….. 4 Emergency Funds…………………………… 5 Future risks for organisations ………………. 7 Where are our sectors now ………………... 8 • Arts ……………………………………… 8 • Children and Young People ……………… 10 • Environment and Food …………………... 11 • Social Change … ………………………… 13 What have we learned ……………………… 15

FareShare Insights from our response to COVID-19


13 March

9 April

We contacted everyone we support to reassure them that our funding is flexible and intended to help them deal with challenges.

Esmée’s Trustees agreed an additional budget of £16m for our emergency response.

We offered to move payments, give Grants Plus support and relaxed our reporting requirements.

• £14m in Fast Response Grants • £2m to contribute to Pooled Funds.

This included:

24 April

9 June

All Fast Response Grant offers were sent out.

All 545 Fast Response Grants were approved.

Our offer was so simple, we had several emails in response to check it was not a scam.

Payments made to everyone who did not request a delayed payment. Five organisations declined our offer.

Some of this budget has been reserved for later in 2020 when social investments are likely to need additional support.

Timeline of our response

Insights from our response to COVID-19


With the onset of COVID-19, the need for support amongst organisations we already fund was so great that we chose to concentrate our time and funds on supporting them in the short to medium-term. We decided that the best way to do this was to offer the equivalent of six months of our funding, capped at £60,000, to 540 of the 750+ organisations we currently fund. We chose to share our full rationale for allocating our Fast Response Grant budget publicly as we made decisions. We did not want to ask organisations to compete for funding, so we made some difficult decisions and allocated the support ourselves.

Our approach for allocating Fast Response Grants We prioritised organisations that: • are experiencing negative effects of coronavirus on their costs or income streams; • are working with a vulnerable group; or • are increasing their services in response to increased demand.

How much of our support went to organisations led by Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities? We wanted to show what proportion of these grants went to organisations which self-defined as “BAMEled” when they applied for funding.


With a limited pot of funding, we did not prioritise support for: • One-off or time-limited projects where work has mostly been completed or could be delayed; • Organisations with relatively large reserves, or the majority of whose funding is generally secure or comes from trusts and foundations; • Organisations to which we have recently made new grants. For organisations that we are funding with social investments, we decided to consider requests for support on a case by case basis.

Fast Response Grants

49 out of 545 Fast Response Grants went to BAME-led organisations.


Whilst the proportion (9%) is higher than in our active grant portfolio (7%), this is still low. We will be working to increase this in our new strategy.

Insights from our response to COVID-19


As a foundation, we were able to respond quickly to try and mitigate some of the immediate needs and concerns being faced by organisations we were currently funding, and the communities they serve. However, we fund relatively few grassroots community-based organisations, and in order to meet the acute needs they were facing, we recognised the need to work with others to reach them. Our funding team have been working collaboratively with other funders to help ensure that we have a joined-up response to the pandemic.

Our approach - we supported emergency funds which: • Relate directly to the crisis – either the alleviation of shortterm needs or positively shaping the way things are done at scale following the crisis.

• Focus on needs that are pressing (e.g. by virtue of the beneficiary need or where a sub sector of organisations faces existential threat). • Focus on an issue that is core to our strategy.

• Operate with trusted partners and are timely, efficient and a low burden for both applicants/recipients and funders). • Are transparent in how funds will be distributed.

We used £2 million of our additional budget to contribute to joint pooled funds with other UK funders. To date, we have contributed to three funds: COVID-19 Respond and Adapt Programme

Rosa UK Women’s Sector Response Fund

Rosa/Imkaan Black and Minoritised Ethnicity Women’s Sector Support Fund




Run jointly by Refugee Action, NACCOM and Migration Exchange, the programme will support the refugee and migration sector by providing emergency funds and grants to support longer term recovery.

Run by Rosa, the UK fund for women and girls, the fund will support specialist women’s organisations offering vital support to women and girls in need.

Emergency Funds

Alongside the open fund, Rosa has worked with Imkaan to develop a targeted fund for BME women’s organisations. Statistics show the disproportionate impact of COVID19 on people of colour. Taken alongside the gendered impacts of the crisis, this has left many specialist services struggling to cope.

Insights from our response to COVID-19


While we have not been asking for grant reporting during the last 4-5 months, 40% of our funded organisations have been in touch to update us on their response to COVID-19.

Moved online

Increased demand

Furloughed staff


Temporary closure 1%


We have been recording their responses and the risks they face. In total, 186 organisations got in touch with us between 31 March and 31 July 2020. The share of organisations we support which have been temporarily closed and have furloughed staff is likely to be much higher, as they are less able to have been in touch with us.

Staff across the sector have been furloughed wherever possible, leaving mainly leaders and front-line workers. However, hard decisions have had to be made by organisations who support vulnerable people directly and furloughing all of their staff is not an option.


32% 14%

Actions organisations are taking


17% 22%


Most organisations we have heard from have moved services online to try to maintain a connection with and amongst the communities they support. Ensuring that services continued was and is a priority to reduce the risk of isolation or lack of support. Environment organisations are providing free online resources for people to take action on conservation from home. In the arts sector exhibitions, plays and films are now online and some organisations are also doing online participatory work.


What we’re hearing from organisations we fund

Insights from our response to COVID-19


To allow us to reflect on the risks caused by COVID-19 that are impacting the organisations we fund, our team have made judgements on what those key future risks are.


Temporary closure

Online safeguarding / data risk


Largely earned income


Threats to fundraising




5% These figures are snapshot from a specific time period and will allow us look at how they change over time and learn.




Our view on the risks organisations face 16%


The organisations we support tend to be larger, less community-led and often do not rely on face-to-face fundraising or events. The uncertainty of when funders will re-open to applications and what they will then be open to funding was mentioned. Transparency on funders’ plans to re-open, and to what, will be key to helping organisations plan and to try and mitigate the loss to their cashflow. Many organisations rely on earned income and are largely unable to function unless the situation changes for them.

Future risks for organisations we fund

Insights from our response to COVID-19


We fund across four sectors: • Arts • Children and Young People • Environment and Food • Social Change

Each of our sectors is facing unprecedented challenges and will continue to be impacted in different ways.

As we prepare to launch our new strategy in October, we hope to break down the silos in our funding portfolio and tackle these challenges in a joined up and collaborative way.

Arts: a sector on the brink Of all the organisations we support, those working in the arts are facing the most future risk. Despite extensive closure and furloughing, arts organisations have been in touch more than any other sector. In addition to reviewing our own strategy from the autumn, we are working with other arts funders to share data and co-ordinate our response to aid recovery.

Sistema Scotland Sistema Scotland paused face-toface delivery in March of its intensive, immersive ‘Big Noise’ music education and community regeneration programmes across four centres in Scotland. Its priority was to maintain relationships between musicians and participants to continue to support the wellbeing of the children and young people it works with and help support families through signposting to additional services, including access to food vouchers etc. Over the spring and summer months Sistema Scotland ran a virtual After-

Where are our sectors now?

School Club, live online individual and group lessons, social activities and a summer club. It provided IT equipment and data packages to a number of families, as well as addressing the safeguarding issues that arise through creating a direct digital link into a child’s personal space. As lockdown restrictions change, the charity is continuing its rapid redesign to provide the most effective programme possible with a blend of online and face-to-face delivery to children and young people.

Case study: Sistema Scotland

Insights from our response to COVID-19


Temporary closures, redundancies & social distancing When all cultural venues closed in March, many organisations had to completely rescope financial projections. Those organisations with a high proportion of earned income have struggled the most. Although some museums and galleries are able to re-open and indoor performance venues are about to be able to re-open, many will not as they cannot make their operations financially viable with low audience numbers due to social distancing. As a consequence many performing arts organisations are beginning redundancy process and in July we offered Grants Plus funding to two organisations to help navigate restructure and redundancy.

Moving Online

Reaching Communities

Freelance Workforce

Art exhibitions, concerts, productions and films have all been made available online as well as participatory and learning programmes. Whilst many organisations already offered a degree of digital engagement, many have had to upskill very quickly to meet demand, negotiate copyright issues and produce new content.

Arts organisations have been reimagining how they interact with their communities. Some are working to meet immediate community need, for example by providing food parcels for vulnerable people or free lunches.

Although we do not support individuals directly, we are very aware of the impact on the freelance creative workforce, reliant on organisations we support for their income through performance fees or commissions.

Others have delivered creative activity packs door to door in their neighbourhoods. Many have provided regular online creative projects and learning activities to support home schooling.

We have encouraged the organisations we fund to uphold contracts with freelance artists and are working to consider how we can support the workforce going forward. We have seen many talent development programmes move online, offering pastoral and funding application support as well as artistic mentoring/masterclasses.

Many organisations are finding that online provision is widening and strengthening their audience base. We repurposed an element of the EsmĂŠe Fairbairn Collections Fund to support museums to engage with communities over the next year. Many of these grants have supported digital engagement work with museums.

Arts: how organisations are responding

Many organisations have begun to work in a more collaborative manner to support artist development.

Insights from our response to COVID-19


Children and Young People: increasing disadvantage Big picture concerns for children and young people dominate our learning: the widening attainment gap, threats to mental health, and access to support for the most vulnerable. There were also repeated worries about keeping children and young people safe online. This sector is likely to see most mergers or takeovers, and we are considering the best way to support this using our new strategy. Youth Activism continues to present a more optimistic picture. Young people have moved their campaigns for change online, and led the push for change on racial injustice and issues affecting young people during lockdown.

How organisations are responding Growing attainment gap Charities working in schools or nurseries have had to put their work on hold. Private schools’ ability to offer uninterrupted remote teaching and online resources meant that the most privileged avoided the significant gap in education experienced by the majority of students. Progress made to close the existing attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils is likely to be reversed with the most vulnerable young people’s needs being amplified.

Reaching those who are most at risk Online services have benefits but bring new privacy issues. They do not allow space to build new relationships and exclude the most vulnerable. Charities with strong existing relationships have been able to help reach the most at risk young people.

Worries around physical and mental health and safety

fears around basic physical needs not being met and future employment and education opportunities. These issues are particularly acute for care experienced young people.

Collaborations and mergers There is likely to be an increase due to increased need and inability to furlough front line staff. We have also seen joint work being done to tackle new safeguarding issues for example around online safety.

Increased demand for family mediation, advice services and concerns around safety. There are

Insights from our response to COVID-19


Children and Young People

West London Zone

Case study: West London Zone West London Zone (WLZ) have seen an increased demand for their services but many of the families they support remain vulnerable as they cannot access the tech or other educational resources required for their children to engage in developmental and learning opportunities to stop them falling further behind at school. From a recent survey WLZ conducted of parents, children and young people they found that keeping up academically has been the greatest concern for parents, as well as mental health and wellbeing.

The West London Zone Link Workers have been a huge source of support during these times as they have provided a regular channel of communication between schools and families and given much needed practical assistance, as well as providing tech and resources via a hardship fund WLZ set up.

Compared to our other sectors, the picture for environment organisations is less worrying so far. People are reconnecting with nature and green spaces, cycling and walking more, and growing and cooking more of their own food.This is opening up potential for future engagement and giving the sector a chance to engage on an individual level. In many cases, where projects could not progress, funders have been flexible, and organisations have been able to make use of the Government furlough scheme to ensure they are able to restart when conditions allow. Emissions have been reduced significantly from aviation and road traffic and people are reporting improvements in physical health as a result. Lockdown has also put a spotlight on issues such as food poverty and littering, raising the profile of both issues and potential for change.

However, for organisations dependant on visitors as well as income from training and events and memberships, negative impacts are likely to emerge further down the line. The viability of many organisations in the environment sector is dependent on securing project funding and the decision by major funders to close to non-COVID related applications poses challenges for them.

Environment and Food:

Biggest challenges may be still to come Insights from our response to COVID-19


How organisations are responding Cautious positives Many have been able furlough staff without losing too much income and others are using temporary closure to strategise.

Connecting people with nature at home People have been encouraged to connect to nature from their homes and gardens with online resources. There is a growing recognition of the crucial role green spaces play in our health and wellbeing.

Shift for food charities towards supporting the most vulnerable Fresh food organisations have refocused to meet the sudden surge in demand to ensure vulnerable people are able to eat and be nourished.

Green recovery from COVID-19 Public response to COVID-19 has included a desire to move away from ‘business as usual’ and recognise that human health is intrinsically linked to the natural world and our treatment of it. A green recovery could reorientate the UK to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss and offers the potential for substantial jobs creation.


FareShare worked with Marcus Rashford to highlight their essential work, getting more than twice as much food to those in need during the pandemic. Rashford went on to campaign for the extension of free school meal vouchers during the school holidays, building on FareShare’s provision of food for children and families in need. Rashford’s letter to MPs also used data from the Food Foundation’s survey which showed that more than 238,000 children were already skipping meals during lockdown due to their families not being able to access sufficient food.

Case study: FareShare and the Food Foundation Insights from our response to COVID-19


Social Change: Inequality exposed The coronavirus crisis has revealed and exacerbated already existing economic, health, and racial inequalities throughout the UK.

All people we support are finding life harder, but two issues cut across much of the work we fund: racial inequality, and migrants with no recourse to public funds. The organisations we fund are working together to tackle both these issues but will need more support from funders to do this. Our Social Change funding covers a broad range of organisations that are working to both tackle the causes and alleviate the symptoms of systemic and social inequalities.

As such inequalities have been enhanced by COVID-19 we have received a large range of updates from organisations about how they have responded and managed the increased demand on their services, while working with less resource and within lockdown restrictions. For front line services furloughing staff and temporary closure has not been an option.

Case study: Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) report that the hostile environment for migrants results in fear of seeking medical treatment, lack of access to safe housing, no recourse to public funds and exploitative working practices. Undocumented migrants have been unable to keep their families safe and healthy and are disproportionately exposed to the virus as they have to continue working as care-workers, cleaners, and nannies. JCWI have been providing support such as cash, clothes, and food to migrants for the first time in their history. They have also temporarily recruited a support worker who has been helping their clients to access vital public services including healthcare and to engage with local authorities about housing and care.

Insights from our response to COVID-19


How organisations are responding Campaigning for change and lobbying government This has included: the release of pregnant women from prison during lockdown, easing evidence requirements for legal aid, increasing asylum support rates and providing accommodation for all those sleeping rough.

severe illnesses and deaths because of long-standing racial and socio-economic inequalities. In the light of this, and because of historic injustices given new attention by the Black Lives Matter movement, many organisations at the forefront of race equality work have seen public and media interest in their work increase and capacity challenges have been acute.

Working together

No Recourse to Public Funds

Organisations have worked together to pool resources and deliver services, to access funds, to share expertise with one another or to open up services to each other’s communities.

Introduced as part of the hostile environment, restrictions on access to public funds affected many vulnerable groups during lockdown.

Racial justice COVID-19 has starkly exposed racial inequalities in the UK. Black and ethnic minority communities have been overrepresented in COVID-19

Migrants with a right to work but subject to NRPF rules and employed on casual contracts found themselves with no source of income, and increasingly families required support to prevent them becoming destitute.

Organisations ordinarily providing advice services for example, found themselves providing cash, clothes and food. NRPF rules restrict access to refuges for migrant women, at a time when those experiencing domestic abuse were at increased risk as they were locked down with their abuser.

Where are we now The last 4 months have taught us a lot about our role in the sector and how we operate as a funder. We have also gained insight into what kind of changes and pressure we find challenging, and where we are more adaptable and responsive. We are still learning.

Insights from our response to COVID-19






When needed we were able to rapidly adapt our internal process to meet the needs of the organisations we were currently funding. Our processes should be adaptable in the future to respond to need.

We have again been reminded of the benefit of open communication at all times particularly around our decision making and rationale and will continue to share this going forward.

We have never been more aware of the security we have as a rich funder, and of the power that gives our decisions in a time of immense pressure for others. We have eased the pressure on some organisations, but we know that many, many more will struggle. We take inspiration from the 5 organisations that, in the face of real uncertainty, turned down our Fast Response Grant offer so that the money could be given elsewhere. We need to continue to ask ourselves “are we doing enough?”

We are learning from others in the sector rather than asking organisations we fund for our own data, which has worked well. IVAR’s peer support briefings have offered us valuable and up to date insights into the shifting challenges faced by organisations we fund. We are now in a better position to understand what reporting we really need from those we fund and what we can most usefully share with them.

Quick and streamlined We set up a new process for making Fast Response Grants and get the money out of the door within two weeks. We streamlined our standard process to allow for faster payment releases and less ‘back and forth’ with organisations – many of these changes will be used in our new process in October.

Relational We have been having a greater number of conversations with organisations that we fund about their changing needs and priorities. We will carry on working in a more relational way under the new strategy.

Closed While we have offered additional support in response to COVID-19, this has only been for the organisations we fund. We know we would not have responded as rapidly or flexibility with organisations we did not already support. We closed to new applications in March ahead of our planned May strategy launch; we then delayed the launch until October when we will reopen to applications. Many other funders have also closed to applications over the past 5 months or shifted funding to short emergency grants. This will create real problems if it continues.

What we’ve learned

Black Lives Matter In response to ACF’s Stronger Foundations project, and then the Black Lives Matter movement, we have committed to understanding, tracking, improving and sharing our progress on diversity, equity and inclusion both as an organisation and through our work. Our Trustees agreed that diversity, equity and inclusion is fundamental to our upcoming new strategy: to who and what we fund, to how we operate as a staff team and Board, and to how we use our influence.

Strategy We are putting learning to use quickly, in order to change our strategy. We were due to launch a new strategy in May, but decided to delay it, at first in order to respond to the immediate need. Then we quickly realised that the world was changing so much we would need to review our strategy to ensure it was fit for purpose.

Insights from our response to COVID-19


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Insights from our response to COVID-19  

In this Insights report, we share what we've learned from our response to COVID-19 - about us as a funder as well as what organisations we f...

Insights from our response to COVID-19  

In this Insights report, we share what we've learned from our response to COVID-19 - about us as a funder as well as what organisations we f...

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