The empirical evidence was gathered through the GrantNav 360Giving site. GrantNav is 360Giving’s search engine for grants data. It brings together all grant data published by funders in the 360Giving Data Standard. This tool provides grants data published by 222 funders across the UK. It was possible to extricate this data in order to provide an accurate picture of the London funding sector in 2020, with a relational focus on the women’s voluntary and community sector. We applied the following filters to the search in order to get the dataset needed:

  • Currency: GBP,
  • Award date: 2020,
  • Location: Location
  • The funder ‘Sport England’ was excluded from the search, as they were a large funder who we deemed not to be a relevant funder for the women’s voluntary and community sector, and thus would create a greater disparity in the results. 

It is important to acknowledge that as a pilot piece of research, it is not fully comprehensive in gathering data from every funder in London, as it only features data from funders who are registered with the 360Giving Data Standard. Moreover, even though stringent checks to validate the data were taken, it is possible that when applying filters, some organisations and funding streams may have been excluded by these filters unintentionally. However, the 360 registry is still the most comprehensive database of organisations that openly publish their grants data, and thus is the most reliable dataset to provide an accurate view of the funding landscape in London.

Based on GrantNav data, a total of 8,950 grants from 120 funders were given out to voluntary and community organisations in 2020, to 4,714 recipients totalling £553,840,378.

By comparison, only 310 of those 8,950 grants were given out to women’s organisations from 40 funders, to 165 recipient organisations, totalling £16,293,935. This means that of the total funding given to the voluntary and community sector in London in 2020, as recorded by 360Giving, only 2.94% went to women’s organisations.

In addition to the 310 grants made to women’s VCSOs, a further 82 grants were given out to generic organisations that were not led-by-and-for women, but specifically for the running of women’s projects.

Of the 310 grants that went to women’s organisations, 130 went to 61 Black and minoritised women’s organisations. The accumulative funding they received amounted to just 0.86% of the total funding that went to the voluntary and community sector in London in 2020 (£553.8 million).

6 of the 310 grants that went to women’s organisations, went to four disabled women’s organisations, meaning they received only 0.08% of the total funding to the voluntary and community sector in London (£460,940).

Another key finding from the data analysed was the lack of majority core or unrestricted funding grants awarded. Of the 310 grants given to women’s VCSOs, only 62 went to those that specified core or unrestricted funding in their application description as reported on GrantNav. Of those 62 grants, 30 of them - 48% - were made by one funder, indicating the reluctance of funders to fund core/unrestricted costs.

Based on a literature review and evidence gathered through WRC’s role as the leading national umbrella organisation for the women’s sector in the UK, we suggest that the barriers for London’s WVCOs to access funding are the following:


One factor identified as a barrier for women’s organisations in London accessing funding, is the lack of equality impact assessments undertaken by funders and consequentially their lack of understanding of the distinct specialism of women’s organisations and in particular the led-by-and- for organisations. It is notable that many grant making organisations do not specify women as a priority equalities category for funding. This is particularly worrying when the state of women’s rights in the UK is getting progressively worse.

Furthermore, when filtering by projects for ‘women’, of the 392 grants given out under this criteria, 82 grants were given to non-women’s organisations. This suggests that funders are either prioritising non-specialist, generic providers to deliver services to women, contrary to the clear evidence that women are best served by specialist women-only provision, or that they are unaware of the distinctions between these different types of organisations despite it being something the women’s sector has marched, lobbied and educated on for decades. As there is already such a limited amount of funding going towards supporting issues around women’s human rights, it is remarkable that a considerable proportion of that is going to generic non-specialist organisations.


Our research and evidence shows that funders tend to fund larger generic providers at the expense of smaller, specialist women’s organisations who cannot compete with the competitive undercutting of pricing and lack of full cost recovery that larger organisations can cover with their reserves. Funders need to acknowledge this and not simply look for the most cost efficient service when considering applications, especially when considering competitive tendering processes. Cost effective does not translate into most valuable or genuinely effective service. In many cases, larger organisations are awarded funding for work that is not their speciality and need to go to the specialist organisations for their expertise and advice and to refer cases they are not properly equipped to deal with, without financially compensating them for it. This perpetuates a cycle of oppression and fundamentally undervalues women’s work and specialist expertise. Furthermore, cost efficiency focus on numbers and do not recognise the long-term support needed for many women that receive services from the women’s sector.


Funders are reluctant to fund core work and are instead prioritising project-based work. This has detrimental effects on women’s charities, which we are having to manage within our day-to-day operations. Focusing on project-based work reduces the chance for smaller organisations to build their reserves and thereby their sustainability. Project-based work also often comes with high monitoring and evaluation demands and requirements, sometimes requiring as much as 20% of staff time. Project-based work also has a tendency to be rigid and inflexible, which doesn’t suit the nature of WVCOs work. Even when funders are willing to fund core activities, they nonetheless frame their application questions around project-based questions, meaning women’s organisations have to work to define and describe their varied core costs in a project format, which is difficult, time consuming and confusing to do, meaning often organisations do not end up applying to cover their true core costs.


A major issue for many WVCOs and particularly smaller grassroots organisations is the lack of resources and capacity. Very few women’s organisations have the ability to employ a fundraiser let alone a fundraising team.

This results in fundraising becoming a shared responsibility within the team, undertaken in addition and on top of the day-to-day work. This means organisations either have to prioritise the fundraising application over their funded frontline delivery at the cost of the services they are providing, or more commonly work overtime in order to juggle the two. For small organisations, tight deadlines also mean that if those deadlines coincide with even one staff member being off work on leave or for illness, then they may not be able to apply at all.

Furthermore, the length and complexity of applications themselves is another barrier. The application process for many funding streams are arduous and long. It is not simply the number of questions that is time consuming, but the complexity of questions and language used mean organisations have to take time to fully understand what the funder is requiring from the question, and jump through the subsequent hoops identified, rather than simply present their aptitude to do the work. The often limited word counts assigned to complex questions also prove time consuming for organisations, as it takes time to condense thoughts into a succinct and concise answer. This is especially true for those for whom English is not their first language, or who have hidden or invisible disabilities that make the processing of information more difficult.


Grants and tenders often require organisations to come up with ‘new’ and ‘innovative’ ways of doing things. This takes away time that organisations could better use on areas such as organisational development, strategy and future planning. It is important to note that feedback from service users including needs analyses and qualitative evidence, demonstrate that women’s specialist and led-by- and-for organisations meet the need of their service users and are delivering life-changing and life- saving services. The requirements for organisations to jump through hoops and reshape services that are already working so that they can get funding is time consuming, costly and fundamentally unnecessary.

The lack of funding to the women’s sector maintains the sector’s unsustainability and the constant and ever-present risk of closure. As the sector is underfunded and overstretched, organisations are firefighting in order to provide the quality of services they do to the ever growing number of women in need. They have little capacity to engage in anything other than service delivery, meaning any strategic work including fundraising, suffer from a lack of dedicated time and attention.

This is especially true because funders are reluctant to fund core work, including fundraising. This replicates and reinforces the un-level playing field between smaller and larger organisations, since larger organisations often have dedicated fundraisers whose job it is to find and apply to funds.

This limits smaller organisations’ ability to find new funding streams to apply for. As funding for the voluntary and community sector in London broadly is extremely competitive, it takes time to search and locate funds that are the optimum fit for an organisation’s objectives. If organisations do not have the capacity to undertake this work, then they will end up missing out on potential funding streams simply because they do not know about them, or applying for funding that is not as suited to their objectives, because those are the only ones that they know about.

Fundamentally, the lack of sustainable funding sources into the sector severely impacts organisations’ ability to deliver the lifesaving work that they do, and in the face of growing demand for these services, is having a real, damaging effect on the lives and lived realities of women and their children in London.

In view of the above, WRC urges funders in London to commit to the following actions:

  • Actively engage with Women’s Resource Centre and other women’s infrastructure organisations in the co-production of grant programmes
  • Commit to allocating 50% of funding to core costs
  • Interrogate the uneven power relations between funders and fundees and commit to working with the women’s sector as partners to shift this
  • Ring-fence 50% of funding to London’s specialist and led-by-and-for women’s organisations
  • Gather and analyse the data held on funder programmes and practices through an equality lens to address the severe underfunding of the women’s sector 

1. 360Giving GrantNav Tool-
2. WRC The COVID-19 Crisis and the London Women’s Sector Report
3. WRC & Women’s Budget Group Life Changing and Life Saving Report.
4. EVAW Joint Principles for the VAWG Strategy 2021-2024