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Key challenges and opportunities facing the Third Sector, communities and funders

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.

Earlier this year, I blogged about how we were engaging our grant holders and with the wider third sector to inform our strategy renewal process.

With contributions received from over 600 organisations, collected through a combination of surveys, focus groups and interviews facilitated independently by New Philanthropy Capital, your input has helped us to develop a better understanding of where and how The Robertson Trust can really make a difference if  our vision of a fair and compassionate Scotland is to become a reality.
One finding from our engagement is that you would like The Robertson Trust to share more of its own learning and thinking on an ongoing basis.  As we have now had time to reflect on your responses, we are pleased to share some of the key themes which emerged and are helping to inform our thinking around our new strategy. The full report can be downloaded here and I've summarised some of the key points below.
Key challenges and opportunities facing communities and Third Sector
While there was a high degree of alignment on the challenges for the third sector and communities more broadly, responses highlighted the increasing complexity of need and inter-relationship of several issues which made it difficult for respondents to identify a top three challenges or opportunities. 
For Scotland’s communities, loneliness and social isolation emerged as the most significant challenge along with rising inequality and poverty. Access to appropriate services and facilities was also a prominent theme.
For the Third Sector rising demand for services coupled with financial uncertainty are the two most significant challenges. From the applications we receive we have seen at first hand just how many charities are under significant pressure to address the immediate pressing needs of individuals, families and communities as they struggle to cope.
Partnerships and Empowering Communities
Increased collaboration as a way of better addressing need was a key theme which emerged from all respondents. Many grant holders spoke of their desire for greater collaboration between funders, particularly when it comes to shared application processes, and see funders like The Robertson Trust as being well placed to facilitate this. Stakeholders were united in the opportunities they saw around working alongside communities to enable them to identify and address their own needs in the context of an increasingly supportive policy environment.
What should funders do?
A priority for grant holders was longer term funding approaches for both core and project costs.   All respondents wanted funders to take a much broader approach which included supporting capacity and leadership within the 3rd sector, building relationships and convening conversations to amplify the voice of the Third Sector. The Robertson Trust has always been committed to using our resources in the most effective way possible. However, we do recognise that our current funding mechanisms need to change in light of the challenges identified.
We will shortly be making important decisions on our new strategy, which we will communicate to you. Until then it is very much business as usual and applications for support remain open.