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‘Grantmaking is both a science and an art’: meet incoming 360Giving trustee Thrisha Haldar

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Over the coming months, we are delighted to be welcoming six new trustees onto our board. One of them is Thrisha Haldar, Lead Executive at The Alan and Babette Sainsbury Fund. In this post, we speak to Thrisha about her background, her thoughts on grantmaking strategy and what excites her about joining 360Giving. You can get to know all our new trustees in our Trustees’ Week 2020 blogpost.

Hi Thrisha! How are you and where are you calling from?

Thrisha Haldar headshot

Good thanks. I’m calling from just outside Swindon. I’ve been in the South West for a while now. I used to work with a lot of small BAME-led organisations in Birmingham, Bristol, Gloucester and Swindon, so found myself here as a good central base for that. But I’ve also worked a lot in London and internationally.

You are Lead Executive for The Alan and Babette Sainsbury Charitable Fund, can you tell us a bit about that?

Sure! So, working closely with the Sainsbury family members – the trustees – I advise them on their grantmaking strategy, and help them look for opportunities for collaboration and understand where the leads are. I also manage the whole process of grantmaking, the portfolio and the relationships with the grantees. 

Have you noticed much change in grantmaking strategy over the years?

It’s interesting, I’ve been here for two years. I’d worked for BBC Children in Need and other grantmakers before, but this is the first family foundation I’ve worked in. Before I came into grantmaking I was leading and advising frontline NGOs and charities, internationally and in the UK. Fundraising was a big part of that, and when I came over to grantmaking I made a commitment to improving some of the processes, the dynamic and accessibility. 

Some of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my two years have happened quite quickly as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. In particular, I’ve seen a drive amongst funders for more collaboration and more informed, joined up and evidence-based decision making. 

I’ve also noticed more core funding and trust-based grantmaking. These are things I knew we needed from my experience on the civil society side, where to get funding you had to apply for a ‘project’ and dance around what your real needs were. I think COVID-19 has required these changes to happen more quickly. 

The Alan and Babette Sainsbury Charitable Fund was part of the collaboration between the London Community Response Fund. It was fantastic, because we were seeing all the good practice that I’d been thinking and talking about happen. Some 50 funders came together very quickly and it was impressive how willing to learn they all were, with the facilitation and leadership of London Funders. I noticed how 360Giving was a big part of the joined up working we used the data as a tool for sharing due diligence information, such as who had funded organisations before. And the COVID-19 Grants Tracker helped to find hot and cold spots. That was really helpful.

What excites you about joining 360?

In my first job in grantmaking, my boss said that it was both a science and an art. I think 360Giving has definitely improved the science bit – the evidence bit. But it hasn’t forgotten the ‘art’ bit. It does need strong leadership and interpretation, and I think that is demonstrated by everyone in the team who is driving forward from a values place, from wanting to improve grantmaking and make it more accessible. That is what is exciting to me, that it is driven by values. Also, the fact it was set up by Fran Perrin, a philanthropist herself, helps to change the culture of the sector.

Ultimately this kind of data-driven grantmaking is about improving outcomes for people, which aligns with my personal values, coming from civil society.

Racial justice is another area I’m interested in – how do we make sure we’re tracking data that shows where there may be injustices around allocation and grantmaking? I know that 360Giving is planning a project on equalities data, and I think that is another area where there is potential for 360Giving to make a big difference. 

Earlier on in my career, I set up a consultancy and advised smaller south asian diaspora organisations and refugee organisations in terms of their strategy and getting started. A lot of them were small, and community based. They didn’t have a background in grantmaking structures or fundraising. I saw how organisations like that – which were started very much from direct need and people directly affected by the issues – were left out in the cold because they couldn’t write funding applications in the way that was required. 

It will be so important for funders to be able to see whether they habitually give to similar organisations, or which kinds of organisations might be missing. It’s so important to be able to track that, and hard data is very powerful on that level.

Thrisha will be joining the 360Giving Board of Trustees in July 2021. You can get to know all our new trustees in our Trustees’ Week 2020 blogpost.