Since lockdown began, things got crazy for us in weird and wonderful ways. One of those ways was through us realising how well positioned we really are to support our community and how we understand a lot more than we give ourselves credit for. You see, we’ve always thought funding should be different. The power imbalances, the process and the way to reach local communities and groups is, well… all over the place to say the least in the funding world.
As people who have only received funding, we never thought we could be in a position to distribute but why not? We know what the process is like having been through it and also know from experience what we do and don’t like so could easily adapt. We know plenty of community groups and organisations in our network that we could support and we most definitely know the issues that surround us so are well placed to fund what is really needed. With all that experience, it now feels kind of funny that it’s taken this long and a global pandemic for us to to simply think of ourselves in such a way and then go out and ask for the money. That’s exactly what we did.
After a meeting with our mentor who planted the idea in the first place, we then thought of how we could fundraise a small pot of money to make emergency grants to micro/small organisations and/or community groups that are young women of colour like us. We know exactly what they’re going through having been on this journey for years and we were now in a really comfortable position where the threat of COVID-19 was not affecting us in the way that it was unfortunately affecting others. When we heard the statistic from The Ubele Initiative that “9/10 micro-small BAME-led orgs could risk closure in the next 3 months” we were shocked, hurt and determined to do something about it. We then went on to speak to our friends at The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust. We’ve always appreciated how they do things differently when it comes to funding, so we felt comfortable enough to speak to their CEO and pitch what we thought was a really good idea. She instantly agreed, went away, worked her magic and came back to us with £10,000.
Thanks to her and the wonderfully supportive team at QCT, we were now able to launch our first ever fund! This £10,000 fund was going to be just a 4-week process as we knew time was of the essence, so from creating marketing material, to marketing, to the one-week application deadline, to reading over 100 applications, shortlisting, finalising and getting money into bank accounts – it was the most hectic month of the year but also, the most rewarding through this extremely strange year we call 2020.
In the end, we were able to fund 22 incredible groups with small grants of £200-£500 to keep them going over the next few months, but it also meant that sadly, 80% were left unfunded. This was the part of the experience that felt the worst. To say ‘no’ to people who you know both needed the funds and deserved it and we now empathise more with funders who have to do this daily. You just want to help everyone and as the purpose and people of this fund felt so close to home, it was even more uncomfortable having to be in such a position.
However, throughout the experience, we saw how many incredible groups up and down the country were supporting their communities and pushing through the pandemic in creative and hard-working ways. We learnt about the work of other incredible women of colour-led organisations and discovered new amazing young founders. We realised how similar our journeys were and how the path to bring much-needed ideas to life is a difficult one when your work and communities are more “niche”. It really does help having someone else on the other end who ‘gets you’, your life experiences, your culture, your background and your journey. We felt more connected to these organisations despite not knowing them and that made us realise the importance of the funding space needing to be more reflective and representative of the communities served through grants.
Marginalised groups should not just be beneficiaries. We are more often that not, the best people/groups to lead on social change but require that seat at the table in order t0 steer and influence real change.
If you would like to help us to continue supporting the organisations we were not able to fund, you can do so through our “support us” page. Here’s an opportunity to keep these organisations that serve localised groups that have been hit the hardest by COVD-19 going and to allow them to keep afloat during these turbulent times. We’re committed to continue supporting all those that applied, both successful and unsuccessful, through further funding but also through other areas of business support so we can ensure such groups remain sustainable and able to keep doing their vital work and making the world a better place.
A full list of all the grant winners will be shared via our social media soon, so if you’re not already, be sure to follow us on IG and Twitter and if you’re not the social media type then don’t worry, a blog post is coming soooon!