The CEO of Big Lottery Fund’s ideas on grant-making:

  • All grant makers are agents of social change – even the least prescriptive funders are trying to achieve something but key questions are how they define it, what they demand of it and how they deliver it
  • Key themes: grantmaking vs other forms of philanthropy; the importance of partners; funders appetite for risk
  • There is a lot of talk of ‘new forms of philanthropy’ but statistics may not bear this out – it may be more a case of old practice in new clothes
  • Open grantmaking often works because – ‘Random acts of kindness are a strategic choice based on a view that change that sticks is often generated by those closest to need’
  • Big Lottery research shows demand-led small grants programmes like Awards for All are doing most to support early action/primary prevention
  • Underlying philosophy of grantmaking is to enable others – ‘Our money is the oil that fuels other engines’
  • Social change does not just happen because of money – it requires a coalition of the willing and the influential – so grantmakers must think about wider support for the projects they fund
  • Funders need to take risks to test ideas – are grantmakers more risk averse than other kinds of philanthropists?
  • ‘Knotty problems’ need ‘loose funding over sustained periods of time’ but how long is too long to spend funding an approach which is not yet working?

Source: Alliance magazine