2021 marked the tenth anniversary of the Berkeley Foundation.
As well as a chance to celebrate and thank the many colleagues, donors and partners who have been part of our journey over this first decade, we wanted to use the milestone as an opportunity to reflect and learn.
We have worked with the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) to carry out a ten year evaluation of the Foundation’s work: reviewing records and impact reports, holding interviews, carrying out a (fully anonymous) survey of past and current charity partners, and convening four focus groups with the organisations we support to hear about their experiences of working with the Foundation.
The experience of stepping back, listening, and reflecting has been crucial in the development of our forthcoming 2030 Strategy. In this blog, we share some of the key insights from the evaluation, and how these have influenced our thinking about the future.
The evaluation found that the Foundation has contributed to a wide range of outcomes for young people and their communities across London, Birmingham, and the South of England, including:
Finding and helping young people to access suitable, temporary accommodation and wraparound support;
Building the confidence and skills of young people who are disengaged from mainstream education or at risk of exclusion;
Job creation and apprenticeship opportunities;
Easing the stresses on children and the families of children with long-term illnesses.
In some cases, the Foundation has been the only funder willing to fund certain youth services, suggesting that without our investment, these services would not have been able to operate. We believe that our ability to take risks and support our charity partners to try new things is one of our strengths.
Trust and flexibility
A number of partners talked about our flexible and relational approach as being a hallmark of our funding. We were really pleased to see that 98% of charity partners surveyed said that they felt they had an open and honest relationship with the Foundation, in which they could share the challenges as well as the successes from their work, and 94% said they felt trusted to make the right decisions.
Building long-term, trust based relationships is right at the heart of our approach to grant-making – and we know there is much more we can do to make sure we are applying this consistently across our partnerships and across all areas of our work. We have recently signed up to IVAR’s Open and Trusting Grantmaking initiative, and we’re looking forward to working with a community of like-minded funders to take this forward.
Funding in complexity
The evaluation highlighted the growing complexity of the challenges facing young people and the environment our charity partners are operating in – particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. In these circumstances, it is more critical than ever that charities have the ability to respond and adapt – even if this means that services look different from what might have been envisioned when the funding applications were originally written.
Partners described how our flexibility during the pandemic and commitment to funding core costs had supported them to adapt their services in response to what they were hearing from young people and communities. Going forward, we will be building on this with our new Resilience Fund, which aims to help 30 small-to-medium sized charities navigate change and complexity over the coming years.
Our relationship with Berkeley Group
The Berkeley Group funds the Berkeley Foundation’s work, and covers all our overheads. The relationship between the two organisations runs much deeper than this, however, with Berkeley Group staff supporting our charity partners directly through fundraising, volunteering and payroll giving, by providing work placements for young people and giving pro bono advice and support.
The evaluation found that the blend of practical and financial support we are able to provide by working closely with our Berkeley Group colleagues distinguishes us from other youth sector funders. It identifies a number of opportunities to strengthen this added value – including by making sure that this type of additional support is available to all our charity partners, across the board.
This evaluation has been critical in informing the Berkeley Foundation’s 2030 Strategy, which will be launched in the coming weeks. Some of the actions we are taking in response to its findings are set out below:
We know that flexible, long-term and unrestricted funding is highly valued by the charities we work with. We were able to increase the amount of unrestricted funding we gave during the pandemic, and have committed through our new strategy to increasing both the average length of our partnerships, and the proportion of our total funding going to unrestricted grants and core costs.
We have signed up to IVAR’s Open and Trusting Grantmaking initiative. Our first area of focus will be a holistic review of our approach to grant monitoring and reporting, to ensure that this is consistent, flexible, proportionate, and useful to all parties.
We’ll be hiring a new Engagement Officer into the Foundation team (watch this space!). This role will be focused on driving the opportunities for Berkeley staff to engage with our charity partners – and vice versa – maximising the added value we are able to bring to our work through our close relationship with Berkeley Group.
Many of our partners fed back that we could do more to convene the charities we work with and create opportunities for them to connect and learn from each other. We’ve held two such collaborative learning events in the last six months – with many more to come.
You can read both the full evaluation from IVAR and the ten-page executive summary here: