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Covid-19 - an update on our response so far

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.

During the Covid-19 crisis, the Robertson Trust wants to support organisations, communities and individuals as best we can. One of the ways we want to do that is to communicate clear, up to date information as soon as we have it available. Below we have outlined some of our main responses so far in relation to Covid-19.

Our responses to date have been focussed on meeting the immediate needs of our partners and grant holders.   However, we recognise that the situation is changing continually and that we will need to evolve our responses as new areas of need and opportunity emerge.  Our approach going forward will be guided by a commitment to listening and learning, and working with our partners to develop appropriate responses that meet their needs.

Supporting our existing open awards recipients

The Trust recognises that Covid-19 presents extraordinary challenges to the third sector. During the last few weeks our aim has been to reassure existing open award recipients that we will continue to support them financially, and to ease some of the conditions attached to our awards, particularly in relation to how awards are used, and reporting back to us on them.

In short, we want the focus of our open award recipients to be on serving the communities and individuals that they support, rather than reporting to us. As such, we notified all grant holders that as a result of the current crisis, we would not be asking them to return any unspent funds to us, for example, if a project or services can now no longer be delivered or had to be postponed. We also offered organisations whose award with us is coming to an end withan unrestricted funding extension, equating to 50% of the final year’s instalment.

We also notified those with restricted revenue awards that should they need to use the funds in a different way, we are happy for them to do so, without needing to speak to us. This was done with the aim of easing some of the day-to-day pressures on organisations and with a clear goal of freeing up organisations to do what they do best – helping communities and individuals in need.

We also changed our reporting requirements for our open award recipients, enabling them to send us shorter reports, or versions they had prepared for other funders.

We continue to have conversations with grant holders and applicants and to develop ways of working with them. In doing so, we hope to support the third sector through the current challenges, to build the entire sector’s resilience as well as harness the opportunities that lie ahead, when the time is right.

Our open awards are currently closed for applications as we prepare to launch our new strategy later this summer. In the months ahead we will be considering what impact Covid 19 has had in communities – particularly in relation to our strategic focus areas of poverty and trauma.  This will be used to inform our our open awards with the aim of reopening them for applications alongside our strategy.

Supporting our scholars

In the same way we have sought to support, listen, and respond to the needs of our open awards recipients and applicants, we have been working hard to stay in touch and provide wellbeing guidance and emotional support for our scholars within the Journey to Success programme.

We are proactively engaging with more than 700 scholars, using a variety of communications channels and tools to ensure we continue serving their needs during a time when many may be facing heightened anxiety and pressure. We are focusing not only on their education and progression through the programme, but also on taking the time to address with them the importance of wellbeing, mutual support and community.

The application process for the next year is well underway and we are currently looking at training the next cohort of second-year ambassadors over the summer, having adapted our working to adhere to current government guidance.

Engaging with our wider partners and stakeholders

Strong, open relationships have always been a key part of how we work across all areas of The Trust, including within our Social Impact work where we often work with organisations and partners on developing programmes over periods of time. Our priority over the last few weeks has been to reach out to our programme partners to listen, to learn and to reassure them of our flexibility during these unprecedented times and to listen to what challenges they have been facing.

We understand that the external context in which we develop our programmes will continue to change in ways we can’t yet know, and that this will have an impact on our partners work – projects may need to adapt and organisations will need to focus on resilience. We will continue to keep an open dialogue with our partners in the months ahead to understand this better and to explore where we might be best placed to support.

We have also been engaging with wider groups of funders and intermediary organisations working with the third sector to help inform our response to date. This is to help ensure our responses match the needs of communities and individuals, and the organisations working tirelessly to support them through this period of extreme uncertainty.