Cost-of-living crisis: How one foundation is responding

 

Sonal Sachdev Patel

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‘We seem to be going from one crisis to another.’

When I first read this line – written to me in an email by the CEO of a frontline charity we support – it stuck with me for days afterwards.

It was a small moment in a piece of correspondence that otherwise demonstrated the same sense of purpose, passion and ‘getting-on-with-it-ness’ typical of so many of our grassroots partners.

But amid all the hope and optimism, the strategic planning and draft budgets, those ten words were a major reality check.

They spoke to something bigger and more urgent that our family foundation had to address; something I knew was true.

That all of us – you, me, our foundations, our partners and the people they serve – are lurching from one crisis to another. Health, social care, energy, climate. It’s relentless. It can be devastating. It defies best-laid plans. It demands creativity.

Of course, our partners are incredibly creative and brave, rising to the challenge and responding to each crisis with empathy, agility, and new ideas.

It’s us donors who could use a refresher.

But you already knew all this.

It’s probably right there in your inbox – just like mine. 

Here are a few more pieces of correspondence from our partners that get to the point:

‘We are feeling the burdens of these times impacting on our running costs. Following the April price cap increase we have seen the cost of heating our hostels more than double. We simultaneously face an increased demand for our services, with our helpline receiving its highest ever number of calls in August from young homeless people.’

‘The struggle this year is real and acute.’

‘Survivors have told us that abusers are now using the cost-of-living increase and concerns about financial hardship as a tool for coercive control including further restricting access to money.

We have heard it so many times this season: demand keeps growing, costs are increasing, and the value of money is shrinking. The numbers just don’t add up.

At GMSP Foundation, we often talk about the importance of centring lived experience, listening to local leaders, and providing a platform for their organisations to thrive.

It’s the reason we moved our funding from project-based to unrestricted years ago. It’s the reason we provide well-being grants to grassroots leaders and their teams. It’s the reason we made emergency Covid-19 grants to our partners when we saw the impact of lockdown. 

It’s also why we’re providing a 10 per cent cost of living increase to all our grantees from November.

Responsive funding, emergency support – call it what you like. The platform 360 Giving has launched a new Cost of Living tracker for grants published by funders to respond to the crisis. 

We call it spiritual solidarity – a manifestation of our belief that we’re in this together – even if our experience of these crises is not the same. 

I don’t want to overstate what we’re doing here. This is a modest gesture from a small family foundation. But as we face yet another crisis – and the emails I get remind me of the incredible resilience (and real exhaustion) of our partners, I find myself asking what more we can do.

Spiritual solidarity is our answer. It’s a feeling of shared humanity – that we are all linked. It can look different for everyone,  but it always makes doing the right thing rather clear – reminding us that our role as funders is to move quickly, to unlock as many resources as we can, and to not get in the way of progress. 

What does it look like for you?

Sonal Sachdev Patel is CEO of GMSP Foundation, a fund set up by Pratibha and Ramesh Sachdev to support frontline organisations working with marginalised communities in India and the UK.


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