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Giving blog - Reflections on our latest funding cycle

Please note that The Robertson Trust has published its new Giving Strategy. This sets out the priorities we will have when awarding funds through our open grants programme. The existing application form and guidelines can still be used until July 31st. In line with our existing procedures, we will aim to assess and present all applications received by this date to our September Board meeting. In the event that we are unable to do so, your application may be held until our November meeting. In such cases a member of staff will contact you and provide any assistance required to realign your application with the new Giving Strategy. Find out all you need to know here.

Whilst we have previously communicated externally about the kind of trends we are seeing across our open awards at the end of a financial year, the introduction of a quarterly Giving blog gives me an opportunity to share information more regularly.  

It is fair to say (and fully endorsed by my team!) that I’m not a natural ‘blogger’, but I believe that sharing observations from each funding cycle may be of value to: 
  • potential applicants, in terms of understanding our priority areas and what we look for in applications; 
  • and other funders, who may well be observing similar trends in their own work.  
As funders we often talk about the need for transparency and I hope that this exercise, adopting a more proactive approach in our communication with the sector, is a tangible example of this.  

March Giving Committee 

Our latest Giving Committee was held last month and, in many ways, actually wasn’t typical of the trends we have seen through the 2018/19 financial year. 

For instance, since the launch of our current strategy in 2016, our Realising Potential strand has consistently been an area in which we have seen the fewest number of application and subsequent awards.  However, at this most recent Giving Committee it was pleasing to see that our Realising Potential funding strand was highest both in terms of amount awarded and number of recipients, with £923,000 being awarded to 19 organisations, which included a diverse range of organisations including Forth Valley Disability Sport, Glasgow Film Theatre and Upward Mobility..

The Trust has a longstanding record of funding universal youth work which is largely captured within this category. As a Trust we try to ensure that inclusion lies at the heart of everything which we support.  We are particularly interested in funding projects and activities which take a proactive approach to including those young people who face personal challenges on a day to day basis. During our visits and in our conversations with charities we may, for example, ask questions about how you include young people who perhaps have learning difficulties or have caring responsibilities, to ensure that the activities and services you provide are accessible by all young people.  

Initial reflections on 2018/19 

The data presented at our March Giving Committee, the last of financial year 2018/19, showed that Strengthening Communities has, once again, been the strand in which we have made the greatest number of awards and the largest amount of funding throughout the year. This is not surprising and reflects the huge amount of work we see being delivered in communities across Scotland to mitigate the impact of poverty and inequality. Much of this is designed to support people who have been disproportionately affected either economically or due to the marginalised nature of their peer group. The challenge for all funders is in knowing how best we can work collectively to help address these enormous societal issues. Although much of our funding is requested by charities providing responsive services, we all know that there also needs to be more investment in identifying and resolving the underlying causes. We are always interested in hearing about innovative ways of supporting communities and individuals to develop their own solutions to some of these problems.   

In terms of numbers of applications received and the success rate, there has been little change from the previous year.  We now assess applications for Small and Continuation funding on a monthly basis and are pleased that this has enabled us to significantly improve our response rate - hopefully this is something which is being viewed positively by the sector! We will be carrying out more detailed data analysis of the past year in the coming weeks and share the most interesting findings across our digital channels. 

We still continue to see a significant number of organisations which are struggling with governance issues.  Governance relates to the way in which an organisation is run and the principles against which it carries out its work and processes for decision making.  In line with most funders, we want to invest in strong charities which recognise the importance of this and I would advise anyone thinking of applying to the Trust to look at the ‘Good Governance’ resources signposted on our Links and Resources page.  

Within our team we recognise that there is still more we can do to help support the third sector and our collective thoughts on this, together with those of other funders, have been gathered to contribute to the Scottish Government’s consultation of the Charity Law Review. We are hopeful that the outcome of this will be positive and beneficial both for charitable organisations and funders.  

Future Support for the Sector 

During the forthcoming year we want to continue being more strategic in our approach. This basically means that we want to get better at “joining up the dots”.  It will involve more data analysis from our end; convening and supporting the delivery of training in key areas to help the sector with applications and impact measurement.   

Third Sector Interfaces play an important role in helping local organisations develop their capacity to achieve positive change. The Robertson Trust, in partnership with the Scottish Government, is planning to launch a training fund later this year for TSIs. We hope that this will further enhance collaboration within the TSI network and increase their training provision in areas such as governance and financial planning to support the capacity of third sector organisations. We will be in a position to share more information about this shortly. 

We are also trying to be more proactive in sharing learning from our funded projects. Already this year we have launched our “Capacity Building” blog channel and #TRTAwards funding stories, both of which will be used to share great examples of working from some of the strongest organisations we fund. 

We hope these will become useful resources for the sector and would encourage anyone who wishes to write guest blogs or suggest a topic to get in touch with our Giving Team!