Methodology

We surveyed charities, social enterprises and other organisations who have applied for, or received, funding from grant-making trusts and foundations. The survey was open to respondents from Match 4 until the end of the month. It included 25 questions under five headings:

  • Communication
  • Trust and Understanding
  • Conditions and Costs
  • Innovation and Risk
  • Co-operating and the Wider Interest

The sixth area in our literature review, Capacity and Capability, focuses more about the internal and governance arrangements of trusts and foundations and therefore is less appropriate for inclusion in a survey of grant recipients.

We used the following communications channels to invite charities, social enterprises and other organisations who have applied for, or received, funding from grant-making trusts and foundations to complete our survey:

  • Exploiting networks, such as the Charity Finance Group or the School for Social Entrepreneurs
  • Social media (Twitter and Linkedin)
  • Emails to our own contacts asking them to complete the survey

The survey is available here. Respondents were able to remain anonymous.

Limitations and observations

  • We had 59 responses which is a small sample size and does not allow us to draw conclusions which are statistically significant. Our survey offers only a flavour of, or window onto views within the sector.
  • Furthermore, our networks will lead us to a particular corner of the social sector so this is unlikely to be a representative cross section of the sector.
  • Yet there is a broad mix of respondents in terms of size and legal form with many respondents turning over between £100k and £1m, One in four under £100k and one in four over £1 million. Over half were charities while others were CICs, Scottish CIOs, CLGs, societies or sole traders.
  • 95% of respondents had applied for funds and had either sometimes or mostly been successful. Indeed 3 out of 5 were mostly successful applicants so these are far from disgruntled survey respondents.
  • These kind of survey results can be presented in various ways with, for example, “Don’t Know” responses allowing conclusions to be drawn that paint disproportionately positive or negative pictures. In our summary below, we have tended to probably paint a more negative than positive picture where it is possible to portray the numbers accordingly, mainly in order to provoke debate and response.

Summary of findings

An overview of the results of the survey can be found here.

Communication

  • The majority of those receiving funding don’t know whether grant-makers communicate with their peers, other funders or beneficiaries either before (58%) or after (64%) they fund them.
  • The majority of those receiving funding rarely or never tell grant-makers if they have a problem with their funding practice.
  • Just one in seven of those receiving funding report that communication with their funder is generally initiated by the grant-maker

Trust and Understanding

  • Less than a quarter of those receiving funding said their funders totally trust them and only one in 14 said their funders totally understood them.
  • Only 12% of those receiving funding said they totally understand what funders want.
  • Nearly one in three of those receiving funding said the relationship with their funders was transactional and one in four described it as either dependent, begging or abusive.

Conditions and Costs

  • Less than half of those receiving funding received multi-year grants and a similar number received unrestricted funding. Only just over a third reported they received funding which enabled full cost recovery.
  • Over three times as many respondents thought application processes should be less rather than more rigorous or onerous. Similarly, over twice as many thought terms and conditions should be less rather than more onerous or rigorous.

Innovation and Risk

  • Over a third of those receiving funding said that they pretend what they do is innovative in order to secure funding when it isn’t really.
  • A significant majority (68%) of those receiving funding thought funders should take more risks. Only 2% said they should take fewer risks.
  • Over half of those receiving funding said that they didn’t see grant-makers getting any smarter.

Co-operating and the Wider Interest

  • Almost half of those receiving funding said that grant-making practice encouraged them to compete with peers and potential partners rather than collaborate. Less than one in five said funders’ practice encouraged them to collaborate.
  • Two out of five respondents reported that they got nothing in addition to money from their funders.
  • A significant majority of those receiving funding said they believed that grant-makers generally operate in their own narrow interest rather than in the wider interest.