But missing… gaming trusts, and the Council. It’s difficult to have a discussion about the whole ecosystem if those who are part of it don’t see it as important.
Here were a few things I found interesting. Firstly, most of the tables identified that “Relationships” with funders were desirable. I kept quiet: frankly I do what I can to avoid said relationships: every conversation about the grants process puts cost onto the charity I do things for, and cost onto the grant maker.
I was seated next to a woman I admire a lot. Her job is to find grants to fund a fabulous charity. She sources money from over fifty grant makers every year. 50 funders. Ferreting all these obscure sources of money to keep an essential underfunded service helping families. This is a similar figure for many of the larger charities. What value does a relationship with a grant maker add to the organisation? Does it ensure funding will continue? Well, no. Those decisions are generally not within staff discretion. And just because the grant is a high amount for a specific grant maker doesn’t mean it’s a significant amount for the charity. What purpose do relationships serve? If its transactional (how do I fill this form in) then fine. And if both parties get something out of this, then fine. But if cost is forced onto the charity because the grant maker thinks it’s the right thing to do, then perhaps no. Or perhaps if the grant makers share the job of strategic partnering the it could make some sense.
Secondly, information. We talked a bit about this, but I guess it’s difficult to understand what could be if the information was available. Benchmarking, across sector, region, within code. Sliced data: there is so much rich information available if only there was a model to support its creation. We talked about reasons for declines, and all the costs replicated in many NGOs on understanding who gives to who.
Thirdly, I think we should take process away from the discussion. What is the purpose of community grants? To fund organisations which service the community (dur). And what is the purpose of those organisations? Well, to serve the community I guess (again, dur). So, rather than a grant maker centric model we have now, how can we create a community centric one. One where communities get to decide which groups actually deliver worthwhile stuff within their communities. I pitched this idea to my table: comment from one was “What say we don’t get supported”. Well, that’s sort of the point. If you are not actually delivering worthwhile stuff, then perhaps it’s time to do something else. Our communities deserve a strong NFP sector, and healthy constructive critique beyond brand and into substantive delivery, is one way to help achieve this.
The new reporting standards help identify this, with the development of the Performance Report. These can provide some great reading (for charities anyway), and staff should totally be aware of what they do and how that impacts what is achieved by the group.
Part of the challenge is having the discussion challenging status quo at the right level. We can see many organisations (by no means limited to NFP) where the needs of the staff are put before the needs of customers.
So lunch? Was it worth it? Yep. A great appetiser to an exciting and potentially disruptive future, and refreshing to feel the discussion and engagement is being held. However, hard to have substantive discussion and development of concepts in such environments. However, I am heartened that the Minister “gets it”, having had considerable experience with the sector, and he can certainly see some of the challenges and opportunities. Feedback will be communicated by September (hopefully sooner), and then we will see if we have a chance for something more substantive than the appetiser enjoyed yesterday. And, from Delfi’s point of view, it would be amazing to contribute to a better, stronger ecosystem which really delivers strong communities.
Love to talk with you if you think this is at all interesting. Check out my website www.delfi.co.nz.