Elizabeth Balgobin Blog BAMEOnline Securing the bag

BAMEOnline – Securing the Bag

by Elizabeth Balgobin

BAMEOnline was a huge success last year, not least because no one had seen a curated fundraising skills and knowledge event like it before. Back this year, but now owned by Black-led JMB Consulting and hosted by Fundraising Everywhere, the content has moved from opening the door to what happens behind that door.


We, at the National Emergencies Trust, were delighted to be invited to participate in the Securing the Bag session. Our distribution partners, Bedford and Luton Community Foundation and Comic Relief, were joining this panel. We know they share our aims of ensuring our funding reaches Black, Asian and racially minoritised organisations and people, with Comic Relief distributing this through the Global Majority Fund. Along with London Funders and Trust for London, it was an unusual panel covering local, pan-London and national funders. Our CEO, Mhairi Sharp, had to drop out and I stepped in to represent the Trust.


We were given a very tight brief: 20 minutes to decide the criteria we would use to make out decisions, deliberate each application based on the criteria, select a clear winner and, feedback on the winner was chosen and why the others would be let down. Four organisations had been selected from the BAMER Hub and Avocado+ Programme, run by Carol Akiwumi’s MoneyForYou, to secure unrestricted funding of around £5,000. Three were registered charities, Renaissance Foundation, Sickle Cell and Young Stroke Survivors and, Black and Minority Young People’s Project, and we also saw one CIC, Asian Single Parents Network. All have been operating for some time but Asian Single Parents Network had only registered as a CIC in the last year.


This short session was very real to life in several respects: too many excellent applications doing different things competing for limited funds. Unlike a standard process, the criteria had not been set before the applications were made. Choosing whether to support a papaya, carambola, mango or plantain is not easy, especially when all are so tasty! The discussion at the panel can help to narrow the choice, usually alongside data like area demographic, gaps in previous funding rounds, financial management and reporting on time. Track record plays a part too. This is a difficult one for new organisations or new project ideas as it is not always possible to evaluate an idea if it appears too niche and unique. The information provided in the application is critical in helping us to understand what will happen and the difference the project will make.


The panel decided to focus on:


      • Impact – clarity on the change they want to see through their funded actions
      • User-centred communities of benefit – clear involvement in design of the service or project
      • Challenges on the community – why this solution and why now?
      • Sustainability – life beyond the grant
      • Realistic expectations about what can be achieved with the grant available.

Whenever I sit on a panel or assess a grant for a grant panel, I learn something new, either about an approach to a familiar problem or about an issue I did not know about.  It is always a privilege and this panel was no different.


I was shocked to learn that prescribed medication for Sickle Cell is not on the prescription fee exemption list.  As Sickle Cell is more common in people of African descent in the UK this is an equity issue.  I found about the Renaissance Foundation’s 3-year model of work with young people.  I learned that BMEYYP was created and set up by young people and was really pleased to learn that their volunteers and mentors are trained in equity issues, trauma-informed practice and Mental Health First Aid.  I learned about the safety, support and advice that has grown from one MeetUp for Asian single parents in 2011 to a thriving network ready to reach more Asian single parents.


It was a short session, but we covered nearly every conversation that happens in a grant panel.  We did not cover issues like conditions for the grant, such as recipients having a safeguarding policy.  We could have gone on for longer, because we were interested in every project and because we were looking at four and not 250 – 750 (not uncommon for a grant panel).  I learnt that my frustration of not having enough money to fund everything has not lessened over the years, but I hope each organisation takes up the help offered by panel members.


I won’t say which project we chose as BAMEOnline participants will be voting for the project they want to get the funding.  BAMEOnline is available after the event for 30 days so you have plenty of time to learn what happens to your application when a panel meets to discuss it. In the meantime, here’s a helpful video explainer about the Securing the Bag session: