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Covid-19: London's funders have been responsive and agile to help the sector

Specialist Advisor for Funding Mel Antao looks at how funders are adapting their methods during the covid-19 outbreak and delves into the support available for grassroots physical activity and sport organisations in the capital.

Since the beginning of the UK’s covid-19 crisis, civil society bodies across the country have mobilised en masse to provide much-needed support to those most at need. 

And while most people’s first concerns are understandably focused on the real and immediate health impacts of the virus, an important underlying focus on the economic consequences of the associated lockdown measures has quickly emerged.

In the past weeks, one of the main requests received by London Sport from partners working across London’s grassroots physical activity and sport community has been for guidance and support around funding and financial sustainability within the industry.

At a time where the long-term importance of a robust community sport sector for the capital has never been more apparent, addressing these concerns has to be a clear priority.

It’s important to recognise that the covid-19 pandemic has presented real financial and operational challenges to London’s grassroots physical activity and sport organisations. 

Many of these organisations rely heavily on a mixed economy approach of membership income, grants that are often ring-fenced and tertiary income (bars, cafés, hiring out of facilities, fundraising events etc). 

Regardless of how they are set up, organisations are extremely concerned about how they will sustain themselves or be able to commit to running programmes that are funded by grants.

Over the last week or so, a number of grant funders have responded to help the sector by joining forces or changing the way that they fund to ensure that the sector can be responsive and agile. 

More than 250 funders have signed the covid-19 funder statement (including London Sport), coordinated by London Funders. By signing, funders have committed to reassure and support the civil society sector (which includes physical activity and sports organisations) in four ways. More on those here.

As such, if you have not already spoken to your funder(s) about how covid-19 affects the delivery of your grant(s), then please make sure you do and talk through your options with them.

A number of funders have launched specific emergency funds that the sector might find useful:

London Community Response Fund

The first wave of up to £5,000 funding will focus on urgent needs, so that organisations can cover costs that are being incurred right now to support communities affected by the covid-19 outbreak with a focus on food and essentials. 

Later funding will support organisations to deliver services in new ways to support communities, and to ensure that their longer-term needs are considered by the funding community. As this fund is a collaboration of funders, there is a separate application process and no due diligence required on organisations that have been previously funded by the collaboration to speed up the process.

Sport England Community Emergency Fund

Grants of between £300 and £10,000 are available to help community sport and physical activity organisations who are experiencing short-term financial hardship or the ceasing of operations due to the ongoing covid-19 crisis. 

The £20million fund has been designed to complement other sources of funding from the government, such as funds targeted at small businesses and charities. It is also very clear on what it will and won’t fund.

The National Lottery Community Fund

As well as continuing to honour their current commitments, all The National Lottery Community Fund funding decisions made for the next six months will prioritise funding to groups best placed to support their communities at this vital time focusing initially on existing grant-holders and applicants.

CAF Coronavirus Emergency Fund

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has one-time rapid response grants of up to £10,000 for small charities, organisations and social enterprises that are struggling to survive. Due to it being extremely oversubscribed last week, they have now paused the fund but the CAF hope to expand the fund and will reopen as and when they have additional money.

London Sport offers a free Check and Challenge service on completed grant applications and last financial year, influenced over £4m into the physical activity and sport sector through this process. Please email your draft application here.

In the meantime, once your immediate operational fears have been allayed, this is a great opportunity for your organisation to plan for when we come out the other side of this.

What should this look like and what can you learn from this to ensure that your organisation is adequately structured/set up if an exceptional event was to ever happen again?

Support to the sector is constantly changing, and London Sport will ensure that our dedicated covid-19 page is updated with this information.




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London Sport aims to ensure more Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

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