With the increased government restrictions having an impact on project delivery for charities across the country we all have a lot to think about in terms of keeping oursleves, our clients and colleagues safe and connected. But we also know that many people will be working on projects with external funding which are being revised, paused and developed daily and are worried about how that impacts their organisation and evaluation plans going forward. So how do we approach funders at this time? What do we need to be communicating? and how do we ensure we keep those supporting our work engaged and informed about how their funding will be used?
Below I’ve outlined 7 key points to think about when communicating with funders. Many of you reading this will already be doing these things and more. Please do share your tips and suggestions in the comments,we’d love to hear your experiences!
Don’t be afraid to communicate with the funder about the challenges and changes which might affect the project and its evaluation. Funders will be aware of the difficulties and many are speaking publicly about how they plan to support grantees at this time. But do make sure you have a plan for what will happen in the coming months, how that will impact delivery and evaluation and make sure you have a coordinated approach as an organisation. Check online to see if the funder has issued any guidance and take this into account when revising plans, and then contact the funder through the most appropriate point of contact who manages that relationship. Having many people update the same funder can cause confusion and look uncoordinated.
Engage with project delivery and fundriaising staff to understand what can be achieved within the funding timescales and the funders objectives. Can the project be delivered in other ways using remote delivery methods? What will this mean for intended outcomes and measurement? If this involves a major change to the project or a significant delay make sure that the funder is aware and agrees to the changes before undergoing a major restructure of the project and evaluation. Remember these restrictions may change dramatically over the coming weeks so flexiblity is key to respond to the changing situation.
Try and think creatively about what might work using online and remote methods. Can online surveys , telephone or skype interviews replace face to face contact? Can online tools like zoom, skype , facebook or the many others faciliate focus groups and replace meetings? Would asking project participants to complete diaries. take photos or make vlogs enable them to track their own progress and help you to access the feedback and insight you need? Remember at this time keeping project participants involved and engaged can be key to helping the project continue once restrictions are lifted.
Review the risks and opportunities for the whole organisation. Can work be done within the funding requirements which strengthens the organisation as a whole to respond to situations like this. Is it an opportunity to try new remote methods and evaluate and understand how they work? Could this be a good time to look back on the project, speak to stakeholders and understand what is and isn’t working?
Ask for advice and support. Many funders , particularly the large funding bodies have introduced special funds and support for charities in the current situations. Large scale funders might be able to pass on learning from other projects and connect you with peers who can share with you how they are responding to the current situation.
Keep your funder updated. Maybe not daily emails! ( they’ll be inundated at the moment with all grantees going through similar challenges) but agree what they’d like to know, when and how. Don't be afraid to share things that haven't worked or didn't go as expected, this is all good learning and can support the project to adapt to changes in the future.
Reach out to peer networks like CHEW. We are here to support you so you never have to feel alone in facing these challenges. The best innovation and learning happens when we share. Please let us know what will support you best right now or contact us via our webchat, linkedin or twitter if you have questions or information to share.
ACF statement from funders http://covid19funders.org.uk/
TNL Community fund guidance https://www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/about/coronavirus-updates
Better evaluation online events and meeting blog https://www.betterevaluation.org/en/blog/quick-primer-running-online-events-and-meetings
NCVO guidance for charities https://www.ncvo.org.uk/practical-support/information/coronavirus