Listening to our Communities
To help us have a clear understanding of the needs of our communities, the challenges they face and how best we can support them through our grantmaking, we undertake regular Community Listening Projects (CLP).
Our CLPs are focused research that give us the opportunity to ask local community groups and organisations we have funded, as well as others, about their experiences and pressures on their work. We listen to our communities in different ways, through one-on-one or group conversations, anonymous surveys and through the applications we receive.
These reports, written by independent researcher, Hannah Fletcher, will continue to influence our grantmaking to ensure we are meeting the needs of the sector at this critical time and will also help shape our new 5-year strategy that we are currently developing. We want our grants to be easily accessible and for us to be a flexible, open, and trusted place-based funder, working to the IVAR funder principles.
You can read the findings of our Community Listening Projects below:
- Uncovering the challenges faced by the local voluntary sector following the COVID-19 pandemic
- How is the cost-of-living impacting local charities and voluntary organisations.
KEY FINDINGS SO FAR:
- As a result of the cost-of-living crisis, organisations were experiencing both higher costs and lower income due to increasing bills and demand, a reduction in public and corporate giving, and scarcity of funding.
- The impact of this crisis was perceived to be worse than the pandemic, although the same support mechanisms for community organisations were not in place.
- Financial shortfalls meant staff time was deducted from the organisation’s work due to ongoing pressure to source funding.
- Staff retention was a leading concern, as staff were expected to deliver more work for less money, negatively impacting wellbeing and morale.
- Volunteer capacity was challenged by the number of those returning to paid employment.
- Statuatory reliance on the voluntary sector was more evident than ever. Organisations were feeling undervalued, and in some instances exploited, by commissioning practices that failed to recognise the true cost associated with delivering services.
We are committed to giving grants towards core activity and running costs, including rent, staff costs and utility bills. We want to reinforce the message that we are here to help and encourage local groups to contact us.
- The Structure, dynamics and impact of the Third Sector in Essex (November 2023) – A report we commissioned by Professor Tony Chapman, from Durham University.