Permacrisis has been named Collins Word of the Year, with many seeing it as an accurate summary of the past few years. It's hard to disagree with that feeling, yet the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis are simply the latest chapters in a far longer story of instability and unpredictability. Years of upheaval since 2008 have destabilised the voluntary sector's operating environment, and everything suggests this will persist.
The cost of living and running costs crises only intensify SCVO's calls for a fairer deal on funding for voluntary organisations, both in terms of overcoming the fragilities caused by years of underfunding and unlocking the sector’s post-crisis potential to help people and communities live better lives. Fair funding is needed to improve and expand services to maintain current delivery and keep up with rapidly growing demand.
'Fair funding' is cited regularly by the Scottish Government and many others. The enduring use of this phrase conveys a sense of progress being underway, but what we hear from organisations suggests otherwise. The lack of meaningful system-wide change over the years has shown this to be a false impression or, to put it bluntly, spin. We must challenge this spin by amplifying our message on the true meaning of, and true progress towards, fair funding.
SCVO's work with voluntary organisations over the past 18 months (see references below) has given us a clear, evidence-based picture of what fair funding means to voluntary organisations. It is this picture that we will be holding up against today's reality and whatever is presented as fair funding tomorrow to confidently say whether fair funding is being progressed, let alone achieved. Our call is for fair funding that is multi-year, flexible, sustainable, and accessible.
Multi-year means longer-term funding to ensure organisations' financial security and good governance, reduce wasted capacity for funders and fundees on annual applications, and help plan and provide certainty to those they employ and who rely on their services.
Flexible means more unrestricted core funding, moving away from command-and-control over every penny spent to give organisations the room to decide how best to spend these funds to meet demand and generate the capacity necessary to seek further funding.
Sustainable means funding that includes inflationary uplifts and a commitment to full costs, including core operating costs. Organisations need to be able to pay staff at least the Real Living Wage and deliver a service or project without having to prop it up by drawing down their financial reserves.
Accessible means streamlined and consistent approaches to accessing funding – such as with applications and reporting – to ensure a level playing field for all organisations. It also means timely processes and payments and partnership between the funder and fundee.
We know that the unique nature of organisations' work and funding makes it impossible to articulate fair funding in a way that means everything to everyone. It's why the final point on partnership is so important. The latest evidence review on partnership by Scottish Government researchers, guided by SCVO, the TSI Scotland Network, and COSLA, reiterates the importance of meaningful collaboration in fair funding relationships.
From articles and interviews to parliamentary evidence, briefings, and social media, we have ramped up our call for fair funding in recent months. We’ve seen politicians from all parties recognise the importance of a fairer deal on funding for the sector, with MSPs raising our asks in parliamentary debates and calling for progress now. Our work continues at a pace as we look to secure progress across all government portfolios in next year’s Scottish budget.
The scale of the current crisis and its impact is causing a great deal of uncertainty across Scotland's voluntary sector. I am, however, sure of SCVO's continued beating of the drum for a fairer deal on funding for Scotland's voluntary organisations. We will need to be pragmatic in the current context, but if we believe strongly that we must make a case for something, then we will. That's why we're calling for fair funding for Scotland’s voluntary organisations, and we’ll do so for as long as it takes.
Find out more about the evidence we have collected from voluntary organisations to develop our call for a fairer deal on funding.