Turning words into action: what we’ve learnt from being more open and trusting
Katy Beechey, Programme Director of Texel Foundation, was recently invited to write a blog post for the London Funders Network, reflecting on what they have learnt since signing up to IVAR’s open and trusting funding commitments.
Who we are & what we do
Texel Foundation is the philanthropic arm of The Texel Group, an independent political risk and trade credit insurance broking firm, based in Europe, the US and Asia. Since 2015 the foundation has looked to support initiatives promoting health, education, social mobility and more recently, artistic opportunity.
Each year The Texel Group allocates a percentage of net profits to the Texel Foundation, which is then granted to partners operating in Africa, Asia, Europe and the US. The foundation team consists of three Trustees, a Programme Director and at least one Texel Foundation Representative in each region (employees engaged with the foundation’s work and responsible for organising staff fundraising events).
Each member of staff is allocated one day’s paid leave each year to volunteer and we partner with local organisations in each region to provide opportunities for this.
Why we joined IVAR’s Open & Trusting Commitments
We first heard about Institute for Voluntary Action Research’s Open & Trusting Commitments through London Funders and were keen to learn more about how some of the positive actions taken by funders during the pandemic, could be employed longer-term.
It was great to have the opportunity to join calls and speak to other funders about their experiences, most notably the adaptations they had made in response to the pandemic and how they had subsequently refined their giving model. Some common themes were streamlining the application and reporting processes, removing perceived hierarchies, and promoting trust.
This seemed to us like the perfect opportunity to not only join a network of like-minded funders but also to adopt a structured framework to ensure that we continued to reflect and evolve with an open and trusting approach in mind
What changes we made as a result
It’s in our best interest to ensure that we receive strong applications, so consulting with our partners on the application process helps to ensure that our grant-giving is as effective as it can be.
We asked our partners to send in examples of their preferred application forms. From those, we noticed some common key elements: suggested word counts rather than word limits, lack of repetition, space to write free-form responses, and ability to upload multimedia. We drafted an application form that took this on board and asked a trusted group of partners for their comments.
This year we have adapted our application process even further, following an anonymous survey to existing partners at the end of 2021. Our application form is now even more streamlined, with a view to reducing the administrative burden at the first stage and giving partners the freedom to share their aims and requirements in a less restrictive format.
We also invited partners to include photos or videos to illustrate their responses, if they wished and asked them to share details of areas they typically struggle to fund. We highlighted the fact that we were happy to offer unrestricted funding and asked partners to share how this would make a difference to them.
We then had video calls with shortlisted applicants, making sure to share any key questions ahead of time.
Our application form is now even more streamlined, with a view to reducing the administrative burden at the first stage and giving partners the freedom to share their aims and requirements in a less restrictive format.
What we learnt
As a part of our ethos on what works best for our partners, we tend to take a “professional but personable” approach to funding. Building a relationship with our partners based on trust and empathy strengthens relationships so that if anything does impact their application or funded work, we can have an open conversation about it and get back on track.
Signing up to IVAR’s Open & Trusting Commitments has helped us to remain focused on nurturing reciprocal relationships with our partners and to constantly reflect and review our processes
We’ve learnt to help smaller organisations develop to a stage where they can apply for bigger institutional grants or statutory support. For larger partners, offering matched funding often helps them access more support for a specific campaign, whilst leveraging our limited funds.
Signing up to IVAR’s Open & Trusting Commitments has helped us to remain focused on nurturing reciprocal relationships with our partners and to constantly reflect and review our processes, to ensure that we remain open and accessible. We also feel encouraged to know that there are many other funders who adopt a similar approach, working towards more open and trusting relationships in the sector. It gives us hope that positive changes are afoot.