Funders can play a powerful role in supporting social movements. They can offer the resources and support to enable social change from the grassroots. But, often social movements struggle to stay afloat due to an inability to find sufficient funding.
In the days leading up to our 2 day event Losing Control, I caught up with Jess Cordingly from Lankelly Chase - one of the sponsors for the event. We talk about organisational structure, trust, and patience.
JY: What do you think the biggest issue facing funders who want to fund social movements is?
JC: A lot of the time it boils down to organisational structure. Many social movements are incubated by larger organisations because as funders we need that reassurance of a solid organisational structure, rather than just an individual. Of course, this raises the issue that these movements are then owned by other organisations - and who holds those organisations to account?
JY: How have you dealt with these issues at your foundation?
JC: We understand that social movements aren’t necessarily charities. They can’t do the typical charitable fundraising of offering a solid project plan, because as the movement develops, it will begin to evolve and define itself. We recognise that it’s really hard to support something when you can’t see the whole project plan.
What you realise is that funding social movements is based on trust. Many social movements can’t have a project plan because they need that flexibility in their early stages. We work closely with the movements that we fund, so that it becomes more of a partnership rather than a top-down funding approach.
JY: What advice would you give to other funders?
JC: Trust. Don’t just trust blindly - we build a relationship with people, learn about all the aspects and come together as partners. See yourselves as part of those movements - and be patient with them. We understand that not all funders can be like that, especially the larger ones. But I’d emphasise that partnership agreements hold people’s behaviours to account.
JY: Why is this conference important to you?
JC: Change isn’t going to be directed, isn’t going to come from a small group of people who think they have the answers. It’s a fundamental power shift. People creating their own power. Social movements creating their own power. That’s how change happens. If you genuinely want change, if you have any power then you have to lose control and lose power.
Jess raised some important questions. Namely, do we need to think of alternative structures that can offer funders the reassurance that they need, without encouraging social movements to dissolve into larger organisations? This could look like having a neutral body to support the back office of social movements, thus ensuring the autonomy, while reassuring funders.
We’ll be exploring this in more detail at Losing Control in less than 24 hours! If you can’t make the event, you can sign up to content here so you don’t miss a thing.