At a conference to review the NCVO’s Value of Infrastructure programme (25 April), a workshop provided a chance for second tier organisations to meet some funders and talk about two-way traffic – how each can work differently to support the other. Funders were given the floor to start with. Dan Paskins talked about some of the responses to Big Lottery Fund’s Building Capabilities consultation. Whatever the outcome of the consultation he predicts it unlikely that BIG will in future fund large, multi-year infrastructure proposals. Alice Wallace talked about her borough’s approach (Tower Hamlets) to infrastructure, not just the funding relationship but the value of good support services in providing borough staff with access to local knowledge and detailed links into the VCS.
Kristina Glenn (Cripplegate Foundation and Chair of London Funders) threw out some challenges to second tier organisations. “Funders want an offer we can understand”, she said. So often infrastructure services can be quite invisible and their funding proposals may not bring their work out into the light. What are you good at? How can you help shape new services? What do you offer (including the intangibles like leadership)? What solutions are you offering your constituency, which funders could help you achieve? Kristina believes that there are funders prepared to invest in infrastructure agencies so long as they are modelling good solutions, keeping themselves and their networks up to date with the changing environment, earning and evidencing trust in their knowledge and services. Both Alice and Kristina used language more familiar to investment than grantmaking – showing funders’ willingness, especially in these tough times, to work through development issues with the organisations they fund and to fund for constructive change.