Supporting organisations to survive and thrive – Responding to COVID-19

With a huge funding gap looming for the non-profit sector, Shalni Arora took the view that there are organisations we simply cannot afford to lose as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of these organisations is Belong, for which she has committed unlimited core funding.

Established shortly after the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017, the network works on cohesion and integration bringing people and organisations working in this space together. It is about developing neighbourhoods, workplaces, institutions and shared spaces where difference is welcomed and celebrated.

“As experienced funders, we have already invested in finding innovative solutions to social challenges. We have identified those, such as Belong, that can a have long-term sustainable impact on society and therefore we have to follow our investment and ensure they are able to survive through the crises,” she says.

Social mixing has been curtailed by physical distancing measures but new connections are being formed at neighbourhood level and through online communities. This will have an impact on intergroup relations and integration. Belong will be involved in a major research study exploring how the pandemic might help or hinder integration and cohesion, the lessons of which will influence integration policy and practice in the future. Belong is also part of the ‘Connection Coalition’ and is also putting forward evidence on how the marginalised are experiencing social isolation.

“We cannot let charities like Belong shrink or close. They have a platform through which to deliver key messages that will help rebuild our society as we emerge from this crisis.”

‘”The non profits most likely to survive are those that have a strength in their management and governance, and flexible resources. As funders we can support management and also strengthen their balance sheets.” she adds.

In her view, there are immediate funding needs out there but also a requirement to partner with organisations for long term recovery. Therefore Philanthropists must also look beyond the short-term crisis. Funders must enable organisations to transform how they work in response to the crisis by focusing on outcomes not activities.

Philanthropic capital can mobilise quickly, be proactive and provide flexibility.

Working on this principle, Shalni has made core funding available to other organisations too. They have provided core funding to the British Asian Trust, which only recently launched the first social impact bond in India and is now in discussions on what an impact bond post-COVID could look like. They continue to support Transparency International’s Healthcare Initiative which is hoping to undertake a project on the increased risk of corruption and diversion of resources in the healthcare supply chain during and after the pandemic.

Matching words with deeds, Shalni and her husband Simon have also adapted the family business to provide relief in the community. The business has donated £1 million to Foodbanks, some of which is being channelled through the Trussell Trust. They have extended a 10% discount in their grocery stores to NHS staff nationally. They have also donated essential items such as tea, coffee, toothpaste and energy bars to hospitals in Liverpool and Manchester. Their Foundation has also made a grant to organisations in Manchester combating food poverty, domestic violence and looking after vulnerable children.

She believes the pandemic has brought communities together to support those most in need. She hopes that by funding with a long-term perspective in mind, that this momentum can be sustained beyond the current acute phase of the crisis.

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