Consistency through crisis: Staying the same when everything’s changed
New Year, new start – or rather, for many, picking up where 2020 left us, and trying to work out what is the same and what has changed in Lockdown 3.
Much has changed, of course. We have observed with renewed respect how impressively the charity sector has quietly risen to the soaring, changing needs in our communities, in this strange new world. Our language has changed as a result, we’re all now being agile, nimble and having to ‘pivot’. Adaptability, reinvention, ‘flipping services online’ are all vital ‘new ways of working’.
But despite all this change, not everything has been thrown into the air. We have constants in our sector. Whilst many have been forced to operate in different ways, the process of re-formation has perhaps focused minds more sharply than ever on the question of ‘what are we here for?’. Organisations for whom daily activity has changed radically, remain steadfast in their fundamental purpose.
African Rainbow Family are an example of a grassroots organisation doing just that: like so many others, they are delivering food parcels and SIM cards to vulnerable clients these days, but their vital role as committed, determined advocates has not changed at all. Our friends at City of Trees have had one of their busiest planting seasons ever, and remain on target to meet their pre-Covid tree-planting goals; creative arts continue, thanks to the imagination and drive of organisations like HOME, the SICK! Festival, The Lowry and others. Clearly, all of this comes at a cost – high levels of exhaustion and anxiety, and we are still very much in crisis – but the sense of purpose, resourcefulness and commitment demonstrated throughout 2020 and today, seem to be amongst the principles that have always underpinned this sector.
As a charitable Trust, the important things for us remain unchanged. We too have been doing things a bit differently recently, but the same golden threads continue to run through our giving strategy: being people-focused, valuing impact, building long term relationships – and adding value by sharing connections and resources where we can.
In practical terms, we have been able to honour all our multi-year commitments and will continue to do so. As discussed previously we made an additional Covid response fund available to grant-holders in 2020, which is still live. In short, we are continuing as our founders intended when the charity first became active, 18 years ago. We have made around £3m of grants each year for the last five years, and this will continue. Sound financial decision-making in the past has provided the OCT with the flexibility and reserves for the rainy day that shockingly has now arrived.
Making funding decisions in a crisis comes with renewed sense of responsibility: to reach people and communities in need, to find effective interventions, to be both imaginative and realistic. But this again reminds us of what we’ve always tried to do. In November 2020 we, alongside over 150 other funding organisations, refreshed our pledge that we are Still Standing with the Sector. We’re working harder than ever to ensure that we and our partners use all the resources available to us to add value to the sector. We have no choice – the VCSE is #NeverMoreNeeded, and as this too is unlikely to change, we will continue to seek out ways in which our role as funders can be most effective, today and into the future.