Every week a well-meaning person forwards me an email about a restricted funding opportunity. Usually they are for around £20,000 over a year and broadly in our arena of work.
Five years ago I can remember winning our first £20,000 bid and it felt incredible. There’s no doubt that all the incremental steps along the way have lead us to today.
But below are my six reasons why it’s thanks, but no thanks.
1) I set up a social enterprise and not a charity (they are not mutually exclusive). I naively wanted to be majority trading within two years. This wasn’t and isn’t the case, but in my stubborn way, absolutely remains the ambition.
2) Restricted income simply doesn’t excite me. I have to accept that to put in the hours I do and take the personal risks I do, that there has to be something in this for me. Restricted funding is was it says on the tin and is the opposite (mostly) of innovative and exciting.
3) It’s usually very short-term. We are working in one of the most complex sectors there is. The idea that you can deliver quality and complex change to lives in the space of a year is a deceit we are all complicit in.
4) It’s often set by someone who doesn’t know the local scene, the local needs or even care that much beyond reporting back to trustees or investors. External cash will often not meet the needs of people locally. If it did we wouldn’t be having the same conversations about social mobility for decades.
5) It’s not outcome focussed. Too much funding is generic, output focussed and many funders just aren’t great at demanding great outcomes – because it’s hard.
6) It feels counter to our value of Equality. We believed in ‘hands up’ and not ‘hand outs’ and much funding feels like a sop to the poor and needy and just a bit Victorian.
The people we are and work with deserve better than spare change in a bucket and cake sales.
As a business, if the customer buys from us (including the public sector) through partnership, dialogue and track record, the customer gets what’s the customer wants.
And this means we have the impact we want to have.
Nothing is binary and funding has and will probably always have its place as long as we make a strategic decision on fit.
Many organisations do amazing things with it. Just not us.