I’m following on from the Minerva June blog to look at the relationship between trusts and small charities.

A recent article by Peter Curbishley (11 July 2019), Trustee of Wessex Community Action and of South West Advocacy Network, highlighted the lack of feedback provided by trusts and foundations when they decline applications from charities (not just the small ones Minerva works with).

Peter suggests that one of the main reasons – if not the only one – why trusts and foundations decline to give feedback is that they do not wish to become involved in angry exchanges about their reasons not to make a grant. I can appreciate this – many trusts and foundations have small staffs, in some cases made up entirely of volunteers. There is no justification in lambasting trust staff, no matter how disappointed you may be with their Trustees’ decision !

However, I think that trusts and foundations could provide brief written feedback on request without the feedback resulting in an acerbic dialogue. The National Lottery achieves this, and charities Minerva works with have received really helpful feedback from National Lottery teams. This feedback has sometimes developed into a dialogue – but a dialogue that is both restrained and constructive on both sides.

Charities interviewing new staff are expected to provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates on request, and are encouraged to keep extensive records of interviews to show that their interviews procedures are fair to all candidates and to provide evidence of this in the event of a complaint. There seems little reason to believe that trust and foundations could not follow a similar procedure with funding application feedback.

Most of the small charities supported by Minerva find today’s fundraising environment challenging in the extreme. Effective and transparent feedback by trusts and foundations would be a small step to make the lives of these charities – and those of the beneficiaries for whom they work – a little easier than it is at present.