In 2007 there was a Third Sector article which featured an interview with the chief executive of a large grant funder. In the article he talked about the role of funders in encouraging storytelling within the projects they supported – an area very close to my heart.
It took over six months to get a meeting with him, but when we met we had a lively conversation about the role funders should play in skilling up and training the people to whom they give grants to help them capture their stories.
That conversation was nearly four years ago and although a little progress has been made in the funding environment in the intervening years – for example, I have been involved in some marketing and digital media training work with grantees – in general I still believe much more needs to be done.
I met the director of another large funder recently and she felt exactly the same, although lots of discussion on this topic is taking place.
As we all acknowledge, the next few years are going to be extremely tough and there will be more organisations applying for fewer grants. I think it’s the responsibility of grant funders to ensure that organisations are equipped with the skills to tell their stories.
Communications, marketing and digital skills shouldn’t be seen as a nice extra but an important part of the support that is provided. This will give people confidence to keep their stories alive once the funding runs out.
The question is – when organisations write up their funding bids, should they put training as a small part of their budget? Or should it be offered as part of the support package a funder offers?
I think that funders should make it a requirement of accepting a grant that recipients are compelled to keep a blog, capture photographs or produce some kind of content which they should be able to use online. In turn, the charity or community group can use this content for their own marketing, communcations and profile raising.
I know for many charities, particularly smaller ones, this kind of content gathering will be seem as a big ask, especially with feedback forms and other paperwork to fill in, but I have a sneaky feeling that this will be a key part of impact reporting in the year ahead.
I think both parties will benefit hugely, as long as they know how to maximise this content.
Last year I was the very proud recipient of a series of grants for a pilot project I delivered offering a respite break in London for carers. In the budget I included the cost for a professional photographer to capture the trip and other content.
Unprompted, I offered multmedia content to all the funders and corporates who had been involved and most used it in some way – whether on their Facebook, websites or via their Twitter channel. In addition, different media channels including the BBC, The Guardian and regional outlets were delighted to take the content. A real result as far as I’m concerned.
So in the year ahead I’d like:
- To see more funders offering ‘storytelling’ training, in whatever guise that might take, as part of their package for grant recipients. The long-term rewards will be a real benefit.
- To see funders cutting down written feedback forms to encourage different kinds of impact reporting.
- To see people apply for grants, including training, in their budgets so that they can ensure they have the right skills to tell their stories.
- For everyone, whether the funder or fundee, to recognise that there is simply no point in leaving photographs, video footage, or oral history content in an office to gathe dust, and to ensure that this material is used to maximise impact.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.