Unrestricted fundraising and its unlimited potential

At its best, fundraising is a landscape of opportunity, storytelling, impact, collaboration, innovation and change. Great fundraising is the building block of bridges that connect internal with external audiences. A great fundraising organisation leverages the positive potential of society and utilises the donations of its supporters to go above and beyond for its cause. 

For FBB, this cause is to ensure that all young people, regardless of background or circumstance, thrive in school. 

We believe that mainstream education should foster the positive potential of all young people. However, while the number of school exclusions remain consistently high and the GCSE attainment gap widens, this will remain a significantly entrenched social issue. 

To achieve our mission, we must operate in a way that maximises the drive, the knowledge, the expertise, the energy and the passion of our workforce. In practice this means the impact of our work stems from the direct delivery (e.g., FBB Practitioners working with young people) as well as the work from members of our support staff (e.g., H.R, Operations, Finance, and Fundraising). 

Since 2014, we have grown from a small-scale charity operating in one school in South London to working with over 2,000 young people in 50+ schools across the country. This rapid growth has been underpinned by an ability to consistently strive for more and could not have happened without the donations of corporate partners, grant funders and community supporters. 

Our diverse range of donors equates to a diverse funding model, which all charities strive for. However, they all fall into one of two categories: restricted and unrestricted. The former means that donations are restricted to a particular project or to a particular expense - for example a funder may choose to restrict its donation for the delivery of a project supporting girls in schools in South London. There are many legitimate reasons as to why a funder, whose raison d’être may have emerged from individuals with a shared life experience, would decide to focus on this one particular issue. It might be that a funder has set-up a strategy, or a theory of change, that provides a framework for funding allocation based on measurable outcomes that they believe will ensure their money has the largest possible impact. 

Restricted funding has been the dominant type over the last few decades, and though there has been an increase in funding available for ‘core costs’, genuine ‘no-strings attached’ funding has been harder to raise. Then the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the status quo and with it brought about a lot of uncertainty and change across society. Funders recognised the need to provide an unprecedented amount of unrestricted funding to help charities through an unprecedented circumstance. 

As we wrestle with the legacy of COVID-19’s disruption in a precarious economic landscape, embodied by a cost-of-living crisis, this uncertainty has not gone away. Unfortunately, just as society has attempted to return to ‘normal’, funding streams have also returned to their more traditional restricted formats. 

Unrestricted funding unlocks the potential for organisations to successfully navigate the dynamic, and often unpredictable, needs that their beneficiaries face. In our case, unrestricted funding would enable us to more efficiently respond to the impact that the cost-of- living crisis is having on schools, parents, and ultimately on our young people. Unrestricted funding, which enables organisations to be flexible with their resources, would unlock the creative potential of our staff to find the right solutions at the right time.

With unrestricted funding we can ensure that the elements of our programmes that are essential to our impact are not locked into prescriptive budgets that ‘restrict’ our ability to deliver. 

We will always prioritise providing young people long-term trusted adult relationships, therapeutic mentoring and the real-world opportunities such as residential trips, nature excursions and Premier League matches that are the keys to unlocking real change, but not necessarily in-line with the strategic frameworks or desires of certain funders.

To become the trusted go-to experts for disengaged secondary students across the country, we champion the conversation from the sector that questions whether restricted funding merits its dominant position.

For those who wish to read more about the evidence behind more unrestricted funding, we recommend reading IVAR’s ‘ Evidence Review: Why restrict grants?” published in March 2023.

Adrian de Leon, Senior Grants Manager

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