Funding: a hot issue in politics and policy

Charlotte Stuffins blogs about policy. Charlotte no longer works for NCVO but her posts have been archived on this site.

Funding policy areas

Funding is a hot issue in politics. It is also a hot issue in the voluntary sector. Of course, this is nothing new. But now, with the backdrop of a recession, cuts to public expenditure, and the general acceptance that the voluntary sector (along with the public and private sectors of course) must strive for increased efficiency and innovation, funding is now (if possible): even hotter.

The term is often used in a variety of contexts to cover a number of activities. But there are three main areas of funding that NCVO’s policy work focuses on, which this blog will run through:

Number 1: Giving

The Coalition Government has committed to promoting giving both time and money, and set this out in the Giving White Paper in May 2011. Whilst NCVO welcomed this commitment, we pointed to the discrepancies between the sizes of some of the new funds in comparison to their ambitious scope.

Yet the more crucial question that we are asking ourselves (and our members) is:

What should the Government’s role be to encourage giving?

And, perhaps even more interesting questions would be:

Should the voluntary sector be doing more to promote giving?

And how can we improve our asking strategies?

Once you really get into it, there are of course the varying types of giving such as philanthropy and legacy income, as well as varying methods, such as gift aid, online giving, ATM giving and payroll giving.

All of these present different opportunities for different organisations, so it is important to share experiences and advice on how best to utilise them.

Number 2: Funders

Cuts have meant that there is less money available from statutory sources for voluntary organisations, heightening the demand for money on offer from trusts, grant makers and lottery distributors. Seen as many organisations come into contact with these bodies and processes on a regular basis, the question is:

How effective are these bodies and how can application processes be improved?

What is more, the relationship between the voluntary and private sectors has come into particular focus of late, which begs the questions:

Should the private sector work with the voluntary sector more?

And ideally, would this be primarily as a funder, or through more partnership and pro-bono working?

There are also interesting debates to be had surrounding lottery funding, in particular on the post-Olympic distribution of funds, the principle of additionality, the entitlements of social enterprises and the emerging society lottery market.

Number 3: New forms of finance

There is a lot of innovative activity occurring in our sector at the moment, which is of interest to many (but of course not all) voluntary organisations. Social investment has the potential for organisations to continue to deliver on their mission in a flexible way, whilst also investing in the future, but:

How relevant is social investment for organisations on the ground and how can it be best utilised?

And is there a role for the Government to play in enabling social investment?

There are also a number of other forms of finance cropping up such as loan finance and social investment bonds, which are already transforming parts of the sector.

In the medium term, there will be funds available from the Government’s Big Society Capital (formerly the Big Society Bank). This is something to consider for future planning, although it is not an immediate solution to funding issues.

How to find out more

So there you have it, a run down of the likely activity that will take place both within our sector and in the political arena that will affect funding.

To find out more, there is an afternoon workshop at NCVO’s annual conference on 5th March entitled “Hot issues in politics and policy” with our Policy, Research and Foresight experts Karl Wilding, Nick Wilson-Young and James Allen. It’s filling up fast, so book your place here.

In addition, here in the Policy, Research and Foresight team, one of our key policy areas is funding. As part of our on-going policy review, we have a member-only discussion group on the social networking site yammer, where you can discuss these questions (and any others that take your fancy) to help shape NCVO’s policy lines. Drop me an email or tweet me to join the discussion now.

NCVO also has a Sustainable Funding project, which offers practical advice and support to help organisations create sustainable funding strategies.

Charlotte Stuffins

NCVO Policy Team’s blog

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