The speed at which Help Refugees gained traction and formed as an organization was largely down to having the right message, at the right time, from the right people. Beyond this “good timing”, Help Refugees filled a gap not being met by existing organisations. It was able to operate flexibly and reactively, being unhindered by the legal and financial structures of larger, more established organisations.
The energy and responsiveness of agile, on the-ground groups is a vital resource in times of crisis. Funders have an opportunity to get the money directly to these grassroots organisations, where larger agencies might not have the agility to act so quickly.
Models such as co-funding, or the development of ‘arms-length’ partners like Prism the Gift Fund, could enable funders to be comfortable with the higher risk appetite necessary for directly funding newer untested initiative. However, it is crucial that new voluntary organisations develop their own governance processes and/or decision making strategies for impact. Any new arms-length partners need to incorporate a ‘governance for impact’ approach to this effect.
In terms of opportunities to fund specific activities, interviewees point to the need for practical support, training and expertise for new organisations, as well as the potential to provide grants to fund specific overheads, in particular salaries (responding to the needs of the core founding groups), projects requiring capital investment, capacity building (either directly or indirectly), fundraising support and/or operational support.
Funding volunteer-led movements provides an opportunity to support – either directly or indirectly – leadership networks, voice and advocacy at a grassroots level. Much like funding wellbeing and self care, this could be ring fenced in order to ensure that it get parity with other activities, rather than be subsumed into emergency responses.
Choose Love: Insights for existing and future grassroots groups responding to times of crisis