Matthew Corbett, Director of the L&Q Foundation explains how they’re going beyond the restrictions of traditional grant making with their Funding Plus programme, designed to meet the needs, challenges and aspirations of developing community organisations.

L&Q have a long history of traditional grant making to fund projects and activities within our communities, for years these have mostly been delivered by charities. Since the creation of the L&Q Foundation in 2011 we have had a strong commitment to supporting the social sector through funding. However, in recent years we realised our existing practices could be better aligned to support sustainability and the changing landscape of the sector.

Historically alongside our grant funding programme, we offered one to one support to our project partners, usually led by our Foundation project managers utilising their years of experience. The support had varying degrees of benefit for organisations – the key learning for us was that organisations were in much need for capacity building support however our approach lacked uniformity and the focus to be truly impactful.

We started to consider more impactful opportunities to tackle sustainability and specifically, the rising issue of grant dependency among our partner organisations.

We wanted to go beyond the restrictions of grant making to deliver an intervention which isolated the discussion of growth, development and sustainability for our partners. Too often social enterprises and charities are asked to deliver to strict outcomes and outputs, usually under a restricted grant, whilst at the same time being challenged to consider the growth and sustainability of their organisation. As L&Q has matured as a funder we’ve increasingly recognised that this approach doesn’t address the development needs of the sector.

We’ve understood that empowering organisations to develop their skills and affording them the time and opportunity to address their growth aspirations would result in more resilient organisations. The vision is that resilient and sustainable organisations can deliver more efficient and effective services for communities.

Strengthening the social sector has clear strategic alignment with L&Q’s focus on building successful places– for the Foundation a successful place includes an active, healthy and diverse social sector. A key part of our communities are the grass roots groups we have worked with since our very beginning. With this in mind the Foundation team led procurement for a programme of capacity building for social enterprises and charities.

In 2018 the L&Q Foundation launched its ‘Funding Plus’ programme in partnership with CAN Invest – the programme was entirely designed to meet the needs, challenges and aspirations of developing organisations.

Over the course of two years, we will offer the free programme to 20 organisations with the aim to strengthen their ability to deliver community projects, at the same time as effectively navigating the challenges they and their beneficiaries are facing. All participating organisations will receive a tailored support package that tackles their individual challenges, whilst enhancing their strengths, resilience and sustainability. During a 12-month period, each organisation will benefit from a combination of group peer learning, expert 1:1 advisory support, a coaching service and access to practical tools and templates.

In addition, L&Q’s partners, Penningtons Manches and Barclays, will contribute to the programme by offering free specialist expert advice sessions on legal and financial matters.

The programme aims to help the Foundation achieve its goal to be a responsible ‘grant maker’ – we want to ensure that organisations are strengthened by an L&Q Foundation grant not unintentionally hindered by it. We’re also keen for the programme to foster a culture of entrepreneurship, customer focus and greater discipline for understanding risks and controls.

The funding landscape is challenging for many organisations but in recent years we have developed our thinking around capacity support with these challenges in mind. What has remained central to our offer is our commitment to our long-standing community partnerships. Our involvement with the CIP is an extension of this commitment – the venture allows us, along with our colleagues across the sector, to support our community groups to understand the world of repayable finance as a method to tackle grant dependency and fund lasting social change.