One month in – What I’ve learnt about the funding sector, what more I’d like to learn and what needs to change

London Funders’ newest member of staff, Alisha Pomells (Funding Collaboration Coordinator) has shared her views on what she has gained from the 2027 Programme so far, and barriers to learning in the funding sector.

Why I joined the 2027 Programme and London Funders

As someone who has only been on the receiving end of this relationship, I was excited to see how the other side works.

When I started the 2027 Programme, I was unfamiliar with the funding sector and uncertain of whether I would be able to make a positive change. I was informed the Programme would give me and others the skills to navigate the grantmaking sector. As someone who has only been on the receiving end of this relationship, I was excited to see how the other side works.

I became interested in grantmaking when I started volunteering for a small community charity that was unable to access funding - this was something I was tasked with and I was unable to help, which left me feeling deflated and disappointed. Since then, I have been increasingly interested in how philanthropy operates, and why some people can access support easily whilst others cannot. 

When I was asked to have an interview with London Funders, I was nervous and was concerned I might not fit into their team as I didn’t know anything about either collaborating or funding – the two aspects of my job title! Since joining, I can now see that my job is a lot more interesting and fluid than I initially thought – this will allow me to grow in lots of different directions and I’m enjoying meeting lots of different people. Already I have taken part in some thought-provoking sessions where some important discussions have happened, and within these I have been able to exercise my knowledge. Members have wanted to listen to my experiences, and I feel valued and listened to.

I chose the 2027 Programme because I have found it incredibly hard as a Black working-class female to navigate and access funding. When I saw what 2027 was trying to do – penetrating the sector and influencing change by encouraging diversity, inclusion and equity (amongst other things), I knew automatically that I wanted to be a part of that. Funding is crucial for civil society, and I think that having worked within the sector and seeing how not receiving sustainable funding can negatively affect communities, I want to contribute and facilitate change.

Barriers 

There are so many ways of saying the ‘third sector’

Thinking now to some of the barriers I have faced since starting my work with London Funders, the jargon and acronyms can sometimes make me feel alienated. I find when I am in certain meetings I am writing down things and then searching them later so that I can understand some of the sector-specific wording. Whilst I am sure that these words are important for funders, sometimes I feel like they are quite unnecessary and complicated for no reason. For example, there are so many ways of saying the ‘third sector’. Another barrier I have faced is going to meetings and being the only ethnic minority in them, or sometimes it is me and maybe one other person. It can make me feel like I am not meant to be there, and I do get imposter syndrome sometimes.

What next? 

Whilst working for London Funders I would like to improve my communication skills and build rapport with the various members we have. I would also like to learn more about the role of funders and how encouraging collaboration between funders can facilitate change within the sector. I have seen the effects of swift collaboration through the London Community Response, and I believe keeping up that momentum will improve not just the lives of the communities London Funders’ members serve, but will change the sector as a whole. Over the next 12 months I want to be part of this change and conversations on what next, and to be able to give a different perspective and to help Londoners in some way, no matter how small.