What does resilience mean in the context of organisational growth and development? How can funders help to build the conditions for a thriving voluntary sector?

The crises of the past few years have shown just how much we all need a resilient voluntary sector. Through meaningful collaboration and long-term partnerships over the last 10+ years, the Berkeley Foundation has supported organisations to build sustainability, allowing them to step up and respond to the needs of their communities. They have demonstrated unmatched resourcefulness and creativity whilst facing extreme external pressures that have threatened their own survival.

The rising cost of living is not only increasing demand for services but is also placing an unprecedented burden on charity operations, finances, and staff. We are learning that the external face of an organisation is only as strong as its infrastructure. This could be a diverse governance structure, a thriving workplace culture, or a strong strategic plan underpinning service delivery. Like bamboo scaffolding, these structures need to be strong but flexible in times of crisis. They provide the foundations for organisational growth and resilience.

Through the Berkeley Foundation’s £900,000 Resilience Fund, launched in 2021, we are beginning to see the impact of offering organisational development grants alongside a wraparound learning programme, which brings together a group of partners working in similar and complimentary ways.

In partnership with Social Innovation Exchange as expert facilitators and process designers, we have developed a community of learning among a group of 10 small-to-medium-sized organisations working in the youth employment sector, including Women into Construction, Berkshire Youth, and Salaam Peace. A full list of Berkeley Foundation’s Resilience Fund partners can be found here.

Through the delivery of a series of learning events, we explored what resilience means to organisations working with young people, and what it means to the voluntary sector more widely. We then moved on to an in-depth discussion on the topic of charity governance, which was identified as a common challenge among the organisations.

The four-year learning programme is only in its second year but we are seeing results that will inform our future funding programmes. Here’s what we’ve learnt so far:

  1. Grant-making is more than money.
  2. Organisational resilience is a journey that can often be complex.
  3. Resilience is more than a metric.
  4. Creating an open and trusting space for our partners to come together is invaluable.
  5. The learning programme helps to create a legacy beyond our funding.

Read the full article about organizational resilience by Clare Maddison at Alliance Magazine.