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Simple & Accessible Grants

What is power shifting philanthropy?

 

-Aug 2023

Case Study: Thirty Percy

The Movements Trust has been running for just a year – and in our first year as a movement funding catalyst (we act as a charity intermediary, or ‘fiscal sponsor’ and as an experimental re-granter to help develop ways to better fund informal social movements), we were given the amazing opportunity to act as re-granter for the collaborative and relational foundation, Thirty Percy.

Our mission, and why Thirty Percy wanted to work with us, was to create a positive experience for movements through movement-aligned re-granting approaches and to test the best ways to support social movements. .  By social movements, we mean loosely organised, but sustained campaigns in support of a social goal.

 

We believe social movements are an essential building block for a new economy and a sustainable world. People-powered change has the potential to create a sustainable society by calling out the existing system, and imagining a new one - and such organising in itself helps to strengthen and rebuild society. 

Barriers for movement funding  

The philanthropic sector seems to be waking up to the value of movements but is it set up to fund them sufficiently? Lots of aspects of social movements present a challenge to donors: 

  • They are often not registered or formal entities 

  • They are often at the start of an idea - they know what needs to change and often how to change it, but are at the early stages of marshalling the resources (people and money) and navigating the territory they want to influence 

  • They are volunteer run and have limited capacity - and their capacity needs to be focused on seizing opportunities when they arise, which is not necessarily predictable, nor does it allow for lengthy funding process. 

 

Therefore, they are probably the grant recipient  most in need of flexible, unrestricted funding but practice and regulation exclude them from this type of funding. And at the early stages of fundraising they have limited core income so no safety net or financial reserves, and low tolerance to long delays in decision making, or in releasing funds.

 

TMT often hears from movements and their issues with funding - including complex and long running rounds of applications, often ending in a ‘no’; reliance on project funding which is short term, and prevents agility, and little access to smaller sums which are not just one-off. 

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Green House

Regranting mission

Our mission, and why Thirty Percy wanted to work with us, is to be a movement-aligned re-granter and to test the best ways to support social movements. 

We agreed with Thirty Percy that we would;

  • Allow a group of movements with common ground  (in this case, UK based agroecology movements) to determine how the grant pot was to be distributed 

  • Use a simple process, with minimal stages

  • Take responsibility for diligence regarding charitable use in order to give maximum flexibility to the grant

  • Minimise administrative steps for the movement by using existing diligence records, including from other supportive foundations 

  • Ensure that movements would receive funds within a month of receiving the nominations.

  • Use of a relational approach to follow up grant use, with maximum flexibility.

Positives

In our follow up discussions with the movements, we were enthused and inspired by their work, in particular the positive and helpful impact that the process had on their operations, for example: 

 

  • The speed of ‘concept to decision’ and to grant distribution, meant that movements deeply involved in the process of influencing critical environmental legislation could be agile and leap into action without being held up by lengthy grant decision making and distribution times. 

  • The flexibility of the grant meant the small everyday necessities difficult to cover in project grants could be covered, meaning they could focus on building movement momentum, and  were able to respond to opportunities to mobilise movement participants around focal points, such as events. 

  • One movement experiencing project delays due to attacks on a participant environmental defender, were able to focus on formulating an alternative strategy to keep the work on track with zero need to negotiate or resubmit information 

  • Ease of application process: One movement was entirely a new movement entirely run by volunteers - so most grant application processes required input beyond their capacity. This rapid access grant allowed them to take on staff so they have resources for the first time ever. 

  • The discussion-based review, process was helpful, as progress for movements often feels elusive, or a matter of ‘preventing bad things from happening’, rather than demonstrating concrete change.

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Writing on Sticky Notes

Learning points 

The movements who took part in the nomination process valued the opportunity to influence the decision, and saw the contribution of their expertise as particularly important in helping arrive at a swift decisions

However, as movements committed to transparency, they were very aware of the dynamics of ‘who gets to be included in the process’, and were concerned newer, less visible movements could be excluded.  Together we concluded that the purpose and function of participation in grant making - often offered in the spirit of power shifting, is no substitute for power shifting in the form of easy and fast trust based grants with maximum flexibility, and preferably over the long-term.

Get in touch with us if you’re interested in developing similar approaches to mobilise funding to movements

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