What we’re learning from our Individual Grants programme
Over the last two-years we have seen that any projections we made about the expected demand for the Individual Grants we provide to residents within the properties and schemes of our originating donor have been exceeded. Between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial year we saw a staggering 725% increase in Individual Grants paid out. And, by the time we close the current financial year we are expecting that we will have doubled again that massive increase we saw last year.
This is helping us learn a number of key lessons. The first one is that the financial distress of many, many individuals and families to get what many would class as ‘essential’ items is real, it’s severe and it’s widespread across different locations, age ranges and situations.
We simply can’t accept that a woman fleeing an abusive relationship, with children to care for too, won’t have a fridge or a cooker or be able to afford new school uniforms due to relocating. We can’t feel ok that someone with a history of homelessness, who has worked so hard to be ready for their first independent tenancy, won’t have a bed. There comes a point where there’s no metric or impact-measurement methodology needed to just know that these Individual Grants are doing exactly what they were meant to: be a short-term, practical intervention to provide a foundation upon which lives can be transformed.
The second key lesson is that our relationship with the staff of our originating donor organisation is a critical factor. Our process requires that all Individual Grant applications have to be supported by a member of staff which means we’ve had to put in the hard-miles to build awareness of the Individual Grants programme and build strong relationships. If a resident and the support they want via the grant meets our eligibility criteria, we work with the supporting staff member if there is some information missing or are additional pieces of information required. One of our key aims is to be an integral, strategic partner to our donors – we’re continually showing how we can do this well via the Individual Grants programme.
And, third, we’ve learnt that administering an Individual Grant programme – and, especially doing this in a relational and not just a transactional way – is time and resource intensive. This invariably leads to the (often inappropriately approached) issue of ‘admin costs’. We don’t believe you can simply ‘business-wash’ what we do by expecting standard metrics to work in this setting. There comes a point where you simply have to ask people whether they get that some things just make sense to do because they are the right thing to do as befits a charity.
We believe it just makes sense to provide carpeting for a property where there is a resident with a diagnosed disability that affects their safe mobility. Just like it makes sense to help someone take up a hard-earned place at university by helping them get a basic but new laptop on which to start their studies without having to take on high-interest debt.
Here at Longleigh, we’re focused on the transformative effect of our whole grant-making activities. We’ve chosen to provide Individual Grants because of the difference they are making to the life stories of the people these grants support; stories that we often hear and that never fail to humble us and inspire us to keep working better. But, there’s the additional value from this activity – we see patterns and themes because we’re staying close to the very individuals and communities we say we are committed to. Through this, we can look at how we evolve our Project and Research Grants programme and share our learning across the social housing and charitable funding sectors.