Sticking to your (funding) principles

Funders are increasingly thinking about how they can ensure they get the most for their money. For some that means providing additional support such as training or volunteering support. For others, that means designing an approach to funding that ensures the funding is maximised.

When The Mayor’s Fund for London was set up, it carried out a consultation to look at how it could make sure its funding had the most impact. This consultation revealed that while problems facing children living in poverty are interconnected, the funding and services that address them are not. The consultation also found that the basis for making funding decisions is not always clear, and that services sometimes continue to be provided even when they are clearly not working, while other effective work has to stop because it doesn’t have enough funding.

This lead The Mayor’s Fund to put into place four key principles for its funding:

  • Implementation—encouraging good practice and high quality implementation of projects.
  • Evidence-based—using evidence rather than opinion to determine what needs to be done and how.
  • Partnership—creating partnerships with communities, local authorities, service providers, employers, public services, central government and other funders.
  • Connectivity—providing a better experience for children and families through improved connectivity of projects and services.

These principles naturally mean a higher cost model in terms of The Mayor’s Fund’s time and that of the projects it funds. Therefore it was important for The Mayor’s Fund to know whether the extra effort they were putting in was worth it. Since 2010 it has been working with NPC to see whether it is putting in place the principles as planned and what improvements it can make, what value its grantees place upon the principles, and how much of the benefit that is created by the projects can be attributed to the principles.

Our evaluation, which is released today, shows that in general the principles are being put in place, but there are still some ways the fund could improve. In particular, we found that grantees really appreciated the partnerships aspect of the funding, and the way The Mayor’s Fund connects its grantees. In fact, the grantees would like even more partnership work. You can read more about the benefits of each of the principles in the report.

The economic analysis of three of The Mayor’s Fund’s projects looked at whether it was creating value through the projects it funds, and how much of that could be attributed to the fund’s principles rather than the work of the projects. From our analysis of how the principles are being put into place we believe that some of the value that is being created can be attributed to the principles, particularly to connectivity, but also to partnerships and to being evidence-based.

The Mayor’s Fund’s approach, like other ‘funder plus’ models, is designed to ensure charitable giving is as useful as possible, and opportunities are not missed because of the way it is distributed. Our evaluation shows that the fund’s efforts to add value through its approach to grantmaking is working. Perhaps setting out firm principles when grantmaking, and then sticking to them, is a path other funders should follow to maximise the impact of their money.