A research project on the BME voluntary sector by the 1990 Trust, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has revealed that a significant gulf exists between funders and recipients.
The report ‘Black voluntary and community sector funding: Its impact on civic engagement and capacity building‘ by Karen Chouhan and Clarence Lusane, has found that:
- Small voluntary organisations, particularly BME groups, find it difficult to access funding, especially core funding, and the grants process takes too long.
- BME organisations feel they are unfairly treated by funders who hold stereotypical perceptions of the way in which they work.
- There is a lack of awareness of the challenges facing the sector, particularly with regard to organisational capacity.
- Funders focus primarily on service delivery and do not recognise the significant role BME groups have in capacity-building and social inclusion.
- Partnerships can be used by statutory agencies in a tokenistic way.
The project’s research conducted in Leicester and London concentrated on the impact of the sector on civic engagement and social inclusion, including capacity-building for individuals. It also examined the degree to which BME organisations experienced discrimination and how funders themselves related to and understood the BME community sector.
Black voluntary and community organisations found fund-raising extremely time-consuming, especially for small organisations. Groups stressed that political vagaries caused fluctuations in funding. They were also critical of the lack of understanding of the principles and philosophy of Black self-organisation among mainstream funders and the fact that there were still assumptions within the funding sector about Black groups being inefficient and financially unprofessional.
However, many funders were beginning to engage in outreach and consultation with BME communities and, as a result, were changing practices. The report recommends that all funders keep adequate, accessible and transparent data on race and ethnicity.