It’s all about the place, the people, the assets and the ambition

Caroline Masundire (Director, Rocket Science) reflects on how London's Giving schemes have come into their own in 2020, and looks at what's next for the movement...
It was a hot day in June 2017. I was sat in front of a panel made up of staff from London Funders and City Bridge Trust talking through how we could measure the collective impact of London’s Giving.  I did not imagine that three years later, London’s Giving schemes would have generated in excess of £10 million in value for their communities.
When we began our evaluation, London’s Giving was still in its infancy.  Although Islington Giving, the pioneer of the London’s Giving movement, had grown significantly, many schemes were still in an early and development phase. We had to design an approach that recognised the different and complex journey of schemes.

Not all places are equal

The assets and opportunities are very different.

We knew that places were likely to generate different types and level of impact, so we had to find a way of measuring collective impact, recognising that not all places are equalFor example, you could not compare the impact of an inner London borough with a dedicated fund and lots of business headquarters, with an outer London borough with no local funder and a majority of micro-businesses. The assets and opportunities are very different.

We also needed to understand the drivers of success and enablers that enabled schemes to move from development into delivery and how they embedded and demonstrated the principles of place-based giving:

  • Recognising that everyone has something to give.
  • Building a shared understanding of local aspirations and needs.
  • Listening to/sharing power  with local people – including them in decision making.
  • Collaborating with partners, finding better ways to change places together.
  • Independence from any one stakeholder; all partners have an equal voice. 

We recognised that the impact of schemes had to be about more than the numbersBut how to capture and understand this impact across a very diverse community of schemes all at different stages was a big ask.

What have we found?

Perhaps not surprisingly,  the greater and longer-term investment in schemes the greater return on investment and value add they generate for communities.

  • Capturing the numbers was difficult at first, but after the first year we developed a streamlined data tool which enabled us to capture different data, so we could compare trends over time.  For example, tracking interactions with different stakeholders showed us that schemes in outer London had a much wider variety of engagements with businesses - but on the smaller end of the scale - compared to schemes in inner London.
  • Private donations have grown to almost £1 million in three years and after funding from trusts and foundations, corporates are the second largest contributors to local schemes.
  • Need is diverse but schemes have consistently funded activities to support mental health, tackle isolation, bring communities together and alleviate poverty.
  • Different kinds of funders are investing in schemes, particularly those in ‘cold spots’ and where schemes can access hidden communities which funders find difficult to reach and invest in.
  • Most importantly we have found strong leadership and ambition are critical to success, alongside long-term funding for running the scheme.  Perhaps not surprisingly,  the greater and longer-term the investment in schemes, the greater return and value add they generate for communities.

Covid-19 has been a catalyst.

Our findings have shown that Covid-19 has acted as an ‘accelerator of trust.

Early on in our work, someone playing devil’s advocate asked whether schemes would truly add value in places or just displace existing funding.  Learning from Islington Giving and Camden Giving highlighted the importance of being a trusted intermediary, by funders, stakeholders and communities in getting new funding and understanding community need.  But developing trust takes time and patience. 

Our findings have shown that Covid-19 has acted as an ‘accelerator of trust’, particularly for newer schemes which overnight went into delivery. Overall schemes have been trusted with over £2.5 million to distribute to communities.  Although we are yet to measure the impact that Covid-19 has had, indications are that without schemes’ funding and support to communities would have been far more difficult if not impossible to distribute in time.

The future

We have already seen schemes disrupting and bringing innovation into giving and grant-making and they can use their freedoms and learning to be ambitious for the places and communities they support.  London’s Giving schemes could find themselves in the right place and the right time during this period of change and resetting. 

So what is in store for London’s Giving? We should expect impact from donor fatigue and what will likely be further cuts in public spending in the medium term.  But the economic and health shocks from Covid-19 will be rippling through our places and communities for years to come. 
Schemes can play a role in ensuring greater understanding of these shocks,  building on collaboration and accessing resources to meet local  needs.  We have already seen schemes disrupting and bringing innovation into giving and grant-making and they can use their freedoms and learning to be ambitious for the places and communities they support.  London’s Giving schemes could find themselves in the right place and the right time during this period of change and resetting. 
However, we should be mindful of:
How Covid-19 might have impacted on corporate giving and support as we suspect this could reorient to where employees live rather than work,
How national and regional recovery approaches play out in places and the need for local intermediaries to drive collaboration
And whether funders look to schemes to provide the reach into communities they want to help longer-term.
But you can be assured that with London’s Giving support we think the best is yet to come.

Rocket Science are evaluating London’s Giving during Phase 3 and will be developing toolkits and resources to support places measure their impact.  To find out more contact Caroline Masundire