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Report urges funding model changes to help Scottish charities navigate challenges

Melanie May | 1 March 2023 | News

Cover detail of Cranfield Trust report

A new report from Cranfield Trust outlining the challenges facing charity leaders in Scotland is calling for funding models to change to better provide support during the cost of living crisis.

Demand, Change, Survival outlines the challenges facing charity leaders in Scotland, which the Trust says mirrors what it is hearing from charity leaders across the UK.

In the survey, conducted during December 2022, Cranfield Trust heard from over 70 charity leaders in Scotland about the impact the cost of living crisis is having on them, their charities and their beneficiaries. It highlights:


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Summing up the challenges, one respondent to the survey said:

We only support women not able to access services and who are at risk or who have children at risk. This means that if we don’t keep them safe they have nobody else to turn to.  Demand in Glasgow has almost quadrupled and almost doubled in Edinburgh.  We lost 80% of our funding at the end of March 2020 due to Brexit and various [reasons].  We can’t recruit enough childcare staff to respond to demand.”

Cranfield Trust heard that while charity leaders are determined to keep going, they are fearful for their future and that of their beneficiaries. They are finding the increased demands on their services and burdensome funding and commissioning requirements overwhelming, and are asking funders and commissioners to reconsider their funding models.

Respondents commented:

Change funding assessment mechanisms, make them more human and person-centred.  Small charities struggle to carve out funding for Funding Officer functions, which often become part of the CEO role.”

We need multi-year funding of 3-5 years so that we can properly plan and develop our service.  Funding is mostly from short term grants which creates great deal of administrative pressure during already very busy times.” 

Charity leaders also calling on Government to recognise the valuable contribution and support charities are giving to the public sector.

In response to the findings, Cranfield Trust has outlined advice to charity leaders to support them in overcoming the management challenges they are facing:

  1. Do not neglect leadership and organisational development – having strong operational leadership and a capable board will be key to navigating the current crisis. Leadership support and development will help to unlock innovation, collaboration and exchanging knowledge and insights. 
  2. There is a future and it needs to be planned for – the skills of forecasting, horizon-scanning and effective business planning are vital for every charity leader.
  3. Look for similarities and synergies that could be achieved with other charities, including sharing resources – charity leaders should look closely at their resources to identify what is being underutilised and where collaboration could deliver better combined outcomes.
  4. Make it easier for funders/donors to engage with you – review communications and routes to funders/donors and tailor messages to be make them more engaging. 
  5. Focus on managing risk – becoming adept at assessing risks is another core tool that every charity leader needs to master.

Amanda Tincknell CBE, Cranfield Trust CEO, commented on the findings, saying:

“We are deeply concerned about what we have heard from charity leaders through our survey, which reflects what we are hearing across the country. The challenges faced by the sector need to be tackled urgently and at scale.


“We accept that funders and government at all tiers have limited funds, their own objectives, and the need to set criteria to access these funds.  However, we feel that it’s vital for all of us supporting the sector to continue to find ways of working that are less demanding on the resources of often small organisations. We support and would like to encourage better dialogue between the charity sector, corporate sector and local and national government.”