Climbing the Covid mountain

22 July 2021

The 16 months of the Covid pandemic have been both difficult and differentially felt. While some have come through relatively unscathed, for others there have been lifechanging events that will cast a long shadow for many years to come. As a society we have been forced to look ourselves hard in the mirror and see the impact of inequalities on life chances play out in front of our eyes. And amidst the grief and despair, there is real hope that as we build back to our new normal, we will learn the lessons that Covid has taught us and truly build back better — for everyone.

The challenges we have all felt have been compounded over the past year by a chronic sense of uncertainty about ‘when this will end’ and when freedom from the strictures taken to deal with Covid will finally come.

At times it has felt to me like climbing a mountain. One of those frustrating mountains in which you reach what you think is the summit, only to find that it is a false summit and your journey is not yet over.

The current ‘third wave’ of the pandemic feels a little like that. It turns out that the long-anticipated freedom from lifting the main social restrictions, brings with it a third wave of unprecedented problems - another mountain to climb. The challenge of keeping services running while so many people have to isolate. The additional responsibility placed on businesses and charities to decide how to keep their staff, customers and clients safe. And as charities and employers, foundations face these decisions too.

As a sector, foundations have been profoundly affected by the pandemic. An ACF members’ survey in April found that 96% had changed the way that they work in response to Covid last year, including new grant programmes, increased funding, closer collaboration with other funders, and offering increased flexibility to grantees. The same survey indicated that while many foundations planned to maintain or return to their usual funding programmes in 2021, they were applying a ‘coronavirus lens’, to their work or offering additional support to those most affected. More than 8 out of 10 stated an ongoing commitment to increased flexibility for grantees and reduced administration for funding applicants. All of the indications thus far suggest that this flexibility will be called on for some considerable time to come.

We know that foundations have stepped up over the last 16 months, and that flexibility has been a key element in that. I am sure that ACF members will continue showing their commitment to those they work with through their own processes — such as increased flexibility for grantees and reduced administration for applicants — into this next phase of the pandemic.

Carol Mack OBE
Chief executive
Association of Charitable Foundations