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Listening To Kent and Medway’s Voluntary Sector

Our Response to Voices in the Sector 

A recent survey conducted by Kent Community Foundation sheds light on the challenges and opportunities ahead of Kent and Medway’s voluntary sector in 2024. In our continued commitment to supporting local charitable initiatives through the generosity of philanthropic individuals, families and businesses, we are sharing plans for the year in response to voices from the sector.

Short on time? Below are our commitments. Read the full article for more detail.

In 2024, we will…

1. Create Smoother, Shorter and More Inclusive Processes for Small Organisations by:

a. Further improving our well-regarded application processes, ensuring they are easy to understand and accessible with support readily available.
b. Ensuring that 20% of all grantees are first time applicants.

2. Welcome More Fund-Holders and Strengthen Long Term Stability by:

a. Introducing more individuals, families and businesses to the joy of supporting small, effective charitable organisations in our county.
b. Growing our Endowment.

3. Encourage And Seize Opportunities Through Collaboration by:

a. Maintaining momentum to encourage the delivery of critical infrastructure support for small organisations from those within the sector themselves.
b. Collaborating with other funders and exploring ways to work more collectively.

4. Take Environmental Sustainability, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI or DEI) To The Next Level by:

a. Leading by example, as well as championing those organisations who inspire others in the sector to think and act ‘greener’ and ‘cleaner’.
b. Taking proactive steps to become a more inclusive funder – demonstrating our openness to applications from those reaching the most the under-represented, under-funded disadvantaged individuals and communities.


Here is our response in more detail.... 


You said:

There is a large expectation on grant-makers and other funders; 95% of respondents said they expected these sources of funding to be part of their plans in 2024.

Fundraising and financial planning were both cited as the biggest anticipated challenges for this year, and one of the biggest barriers mentioned when applying for funding was a lack of time available to complete forms.

Our plans for 2024:

We were encouraged by many positive comments about our existing application processes and are pleased to retain existing improved measures. Thanks to a new IT system implemented at the start of 2024, the application process has been simplified for time-strapped, small charitable organisations. We have combined multiple routes to apply into three main streams: Micro, General and Annual. Our aim is to make it as clear as possible who is eligible and how to apply, without jumping through hoops or filling in several forms.

For those with a recent track record with the Foundation, we already offer the opportunity for you to submit a single application in a 12 month period through our Annual route, which will mean you are automatically considered for all eligible funding for the year ahead. Our Micro route has a four-to-six week turn-around time for award decisions, to help the smallest of organisations to plan and have increased confidence in their ability to continue deliver services.

"We evolve and adapt in line with the needs of the county and the voluntary sector addressing these needs" commented Natalie Smith, Director of Grants and Impact and Deputy Chief Executive at Kent Community Foundation. "Hearing directly from the organisations we support is instrumental in guiding our strategic direction. Our commitment to the simplification of processes and more funding signifies our continued efforts to supporting those who create meaningful change in our local communities.”


You said:

Half of those who do have or have had recent funding and / or contracts from local government, told us that it is expected to be reduced or cut entirely this year, or it already has been. As a result, there is added pressure on other sources of funding, including grant-makers and other funders where there is already a large expectation.

Our plans for 2024:

Happily, we continue to see an increase in the number of individuals, families, and businesses who want to help create happier, healthier, thriving local communities. We are looking forward to sharing more about the new fund-holders that are choosing to give through Kent Community Foundation in 2024 soon.

Josephine McCartney, Chief Executive at Kent Community Foundation comments: “We have the privilege of advocating for our county’s voluntary sector and actively encouraging more money to be awarded through us to incredibly effective small charities and community groups. Thanks to an army of dedicated charity employees and volunteers, complemented by our experience of professional grant-making, we can confidently assure our fund-holders that funds will be used to deliver better social outcomes for local people. Giving is a joyful and rewarding experience for individuals, families and businesses alike, and we are committed to raising the profile of the sector’s positive impact to increase support in 2024.”

In addition to flow-through funds where funding is diligently awarded to organisations tackling today’s most pressing needs*, building our endowment is a key part of our long-term planning and financial sustainability. In Autumn 2023, we launched a £1m Endowment Match programme, thanks to The Lawson Trust and are pleased to say that we are well on our way to reaching our target. A healthy endowment means financial stability for us as an organisation, but more widely the voluntary sector and our communities too.

*Flow-through funds are those through which donations are distributed comparatively quickly for more immediate relief and / or shorter-term services and projects.


You said:

Many survey respondents saw collaboration as an opportunity for their organisation in the next 12 months, with 87% saying a partnership with a fellow charitable group was part of their plans.

Respondents also made clear a desire from the sector for there to be stronger alliances and sharing of information amongst funders too, to maximise impact.

Our plans for 2024:

Building relationships with other funders has always been key for us and we should continue to encourage open dialogue through our Funders Forums. These meetings will focus on growing connections, and leveraging collective expertise and resources to better address the diverse needs within the voluntary sector.

Addressing the desire for valuable peer-to-peer support, we will build on our work in 2023 on the Infrastructure Support Fund (funded by Kent County Council). We will continue to offer a platform for organisations who were awarded funding to help them connect with small organisations that will benefit from guidance, training, and solidarity. Collective services and events cover key areas, including fundraising, financial planning, Equity Diversity and Inclusion training, recruitment and more.

To find out more about support available, go to kentcf.org.uk/infrastructure_support_fund.


You said:
Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said that reviewing their approach to EDI was either important or incredibly important, and another 27% said it was somewhat important. Over a third said that undertaking new environmentally focused projects was important or incredibly important in 2024.

While most organisations told us that environmental sustainability and EDI was important because they felt it is part of their social responsibility, 58 also considered it important to help them reach a wider range of beneficiaries, and almost half said it was important (to varying degrees, from somewhat to incredibly important) to improve their way of working.

Our plans for 2024:
We have already begun the year with an Eco Coaching Programme for organisations who have found ‘greener’ ways of delivering existing services. The aim of the programme is to help these ‘eco-champions’ to speak out about what they are doing and how it is benefitting them, their local community and environment, which we hope will inspire other organisations and funders too.

On 27th March this year, we will host our first ever ‘Green Impact Forum’ at the Three Hills Sports Park in Folkestone. The event, open to charities and community groups in Kent and Medway, will centre around peer-to-peer insight and inspiration. Explore the many ways in which you can have a more positive impact on our local environment through small changes. Save the date in your diary and sign up to our Funding Updates and News emails for more on how to register to attend.

If you are a group looking for support with EDI, take a look at the Infrastructure Support Fund page for more information on services, including one-to-one session from Safer Communities Alliance CIC.

As for us at KCF, will continue working towards our goals set out in our regularly reviewed EDI strategy and action plan. This year, those actions will include:

  • Reviewing our understanding of the diverse communities of Kent and the challenges they might face, including those who are potentially under-funded.
  • Increase the reach of our funding and to regularly assess the diversity of our grants.
  • Review our digital accessibility.
  • Training and supporting staff and trustees to be aware of EDI issues and to be proactive in addressing inequality or exclusion.

Josephine finished by commenting: “While we continue to work towards offering the most accessible, open and straight-forward experience for small charitable organisations in Kent and Medway so that they can reach more people and do even greater things, we were very pleased that so many respondents took the time to offer words of thanks and commendation.”

Feedback on Kent Community Foundation from the survey: 

“We are incredibly lucky to have you in our location.”

“Thank you for being there for our community.”

“Your need analysis report has really helped us to secure more funding for our work in Kent.”

“Thank you KCF for your sector representation.”


The following are highlights from the survey conducted by Kent Community Foundation of 100 charitable organisations operating in Kent and Medway, which closed in December 2023.

Opportunities in the next 12 months

• 85% said exploring new fundraising methods was ‘incredibly important’ (54%) or ‘important’ (31%) opportunity.

• 83 respondents said they have collaborated with others in the sector in the last 12 months and a higher number – 87 – said they expect to collaborate in the 12 months ahead.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Environmental Sustainability

For those who said these two areas were important (to varying degrees from somewhat important to incredibly important)…

• Most said they felt it was part of social responsibility.

• Many felt it would allow them to reach a wider range of beneficiaries

Challenges and pressures

• 71% said they are 100% confident they will still be operating in the next 12 months – In May 2021, that was 76%.

• 78% said that demand for services had increased, with 40% of those saying that they had not been able to meet that level of demand. 

• ‘Fundraising’ came out as the biggest challenge with 89% saying they view it as either ‘Challenging’ or ‘Very challenging’.

• ‘Retaining or securing a location to deliver services’, ‘Training for staff / volunteers’ and ‘Recruiting trustees’ were the lowest ranked challenges.

Local government funding

• Of those 55 that have had or do have funding from local government (including contracts for service delivery), many respondents said it has, or is expected be cut entirely (10 respondents) or has, or is expected to be reduced (18 respondents). That’s half of all those who have had or do have funding in total.

o Of those who said it has or will be reduced, answers varied from 25% to 90%. (This excludes one range given (e.g. 5% - 20%)).

• 13 respondents weren’t sure what will happen within funding or contracts from local government in the following 12 months.

• Despite this, there is still a relatively high number identifying central or local government contracts (35% of respondents) or grants (46% of respondents) as funding streams they expect to use in 2024.

Expectations on grant-makers and other funders

• Of the 28 who said local government funding has or is expected to be cut or reduced, 21 said they have or will fill the gap with funding from grant-makers and other funders.

• Of 100 respondents, 95% identified grant-making organisations and foundations as a fundraising method they expect to use this year.

• The biggest barrier cited in applying for funding from grant-makers and other funders is a lack of time to complete application forms (51 said this)

o ‘Other’ answers included:

 The length of time for decisions

 Criteria too narrow

 Lack of core funding

MASSIVE 'thank you ' to everyone at Kent Community Foundation. Your funding support is HUGELY appreciated and has enabled us to get into the heart of local communities with REAL, affordable, healthy and tasty food that does so much more than feed people.

Community chef Mike Spackman, Sheppey Matters

KCF's enthusiasm for what we are doing and hoping to do, coupled with helpful advice, gave us the confidence to take this daunting step which has paid off.

Liz Turner, Octopus Foundation

It's great having a foundation that empowers organisations and charities in our community to make real positive differences and changes!

Tom, MMK Mind