Project snapshot

Pharmaceutical and healthcare sector leaders
Establishing a sector-wide fund
To help small patient organisations respond to pandemic-related pressure
Grantmaking, Corporate advisory, Community Engagement Fund

The objectives

In late 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, CAF client AstraZeneca, inspired by our work with the insurance industry in creating the CAF Resilience Fund, expressed a desire to bring the pharmaceutical industry together to help patient organisations recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Like many charities, patient organisations were facing sustained pressure due to:

  • Increased demand on services
  • Decreased fundraising opportunities
  • Fractured income pipelines
This was an opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to extend their contribution to society beyond the life-saving medicines they produce and support small patient organisations and the patients they serve during a time of crisis.

Our support

We worked with AstraZeneca, supported by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), to convene industry leaders from the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector. Six companies came together – AstraZeneca, Bluebird Bio, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Grunenthal, GSK and Takeda – to provide generous donations for the designated Patient Organisations Recovery Fund.

six logos

Our grantmaking expertise and donor advised fund solutions, as well as our sector-specific research insights and understanding, enabled us to facilitate the project and deliver on the joint ambitions of participating pharmaceutical companies with a rapid response and light-touch approach to offer the best support for charities.

Our end-to-end service ranged from advisory support, fund holding and grantmaking – including handling the assessment process and establishing a panel of experts – to impact measurement.

As a neutral convener, we provided the space for effective collaboration in a regulated sector. CAF brought together an independent grant review panel, which included representatives from across the cause area to review and assess the applications and award the funding.


The impact

The Patient Organisations Recovery Fund was established to help patient organisations with a charitable purpose take steps towards recovery and restore or continue to deliver core services to patients despite the challenging funding landscape.

Patient organisation recovery fund logo
16 charities from across the UK involved in a variety of diseases and conditions and which had been financially adversely affected by the impact of Covid-19 received grants of up to £20,000 each.

Crucially, the grants were unrestricted, which gave the organisations freedom to allocate the funds to where they needed it most to continue supporting patients and their families. Many applicants reported escalating demand from patients and mentioned staff and volunteers extending their roles, remits and working hours to attempt to meet this need.

The fund was highly over-subscribed, demonstrating the critical need for unrestricted support for these organisations and the vital services they provide.

Of the selected charities, 79% used the grant towards staff salaries or volunteer costs to continue to support patients. Other uses included general running costs such as rent and utilities, purchasing equipment, patient-focused activities and training for staff and volunteers.

The fund achieved lasting impact by ensuring the grants could be used for core organisational costs not covered by other funders, allowing the organisations to recover and build resilience by: 

  • Resolving staffing pressures to respond to increased demand from patients
  • Adapting working practices and technical training for staff and volunteers 
  • Taking the time to focus on strategic planning and fundraising for the sustainability of their services

Some of the core frontline services that were reinstated or expanded included:

  • Reopening eye clinics for homeless people 
  • Ensuring clinical specialist nurses remained available 
  • Meeting increased demand from vulnerable and isolated patients
  • Expanding online counselling services for young people
  • Offering tailored support for neonatal families
  • Diversifying patient reach by translating information into other languages
  • Providing crucial suicide reduction counselling and befriending services

“This grant has made an outstanding difference to our community and our organisational ability to respond in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Integrating the use of digital technology has helped to future-proof our services and increase our capacity to provide much-needed support to our community.”
Grant recipient, Niemann-Pick UK

“The grant arrived at just the right time when organisations and volunteers were unsure and wary of starting again. It was both a vote of confidence and much needed cash to restart services.”
Grant recipient, Vision Care for Homeless People

“I couldn't have survived lockdown without the incredible help, advice and support from Cancer Support Scotland. I was referred to Cancer Support Scotland for counselling and that made a world of difference. It was a turning point in being able to face what was happening to me and what lay ahead.”
Mary, supported by grant recipient Cancer Support Scotland

Cancer Support Scotland - image

“We are really proud to have been able to work together, with the support and expertise of CAF, to respond to the crisis facing patient organisations on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic. Patient organisations play such crucial roles and we were determined through this, and our direct giving, to try new things to help. The fund has delivered significant impact to the organisations supported, who in turn have helped patients up and down the country, which is the purpose behind everything we do.” 

Paul Naish, Head of UK Policy and Patient Advocacy, AstraZeneca

Project takeaways

Sector collaboration

Bringing multiple companies together as an industry enabled them to achieve greater impact. The fund was a chance to take a collaborative approach, reduce duplication of efforts and stand for something collectively in a time of crisis. 

Unrestricted funding

Particularly in times of crisis, unrestricted funding is an important tool in helping address charities’ financial or operational strains. It provides the trust and allows the freedom to use the money where they believe it is most needed. 

Drawing on CAF's expertise

CAF was able to act as a facilitator to make the ambition a reality. Our strategic advice, giving infrastructure, and governance enabled the participating companies to ensure their funds reached those most in need.

Need help putting your purpose into practice?

Discover how the right partner can help you realise your grantmaking goals and deliver social impact.

Get in touch