A fund of opportunities
As project funding grows ever harder to secure, clubs and organisations need to follow key guidance to have the best chance of a successful application, reports Bill Bedford
The recent news that Sport England has unveiled its second themed funding round – Active Women - may hold hope for the welter of sport and leisure clubs and organisations that desperately need cash support not only to thrive but, indeed, to survive.
Emerging from what was the Community Investment Fund, such themed rounds are anticipated to be launched by Sport England every six months or so and they mark a shift towards focusing on target groups to help boost participation levels.
The rural round that closed recently was “seriously oversubscribed”, says a leading sport and leisure consultant, with 16 schemes funded to the tune of some £30 million and no fewer than 500 applications submitted.
“I have a sneaking suspicion that Active Women will go the same way,” says Liz Behnke, director of Syzygy Leisure, which advises grant seekers on how best to attract money from funding bodies.
The clamour for funding indicates the scale of the need across the country but, to state the obvious, there is only so much money available and it will be channelled into schemes and projects that funders believe will best deliver on their aims and objectives. Whatever those may be, it’s a good bet that they will involve attracting greater community participation.
If your vision does not embrace that goal, the chances of attracting funding are slim, argues Liz who, having spent 20 years working in sports and facility development for national agencies, should know.
The launch of Active Women coincides with Sport England’s decision to plough £1.4 million into aiding the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) work with national governing bodies for sport to provide the opportunities that meet the needs of women. “From juggling a busy schedule to managing a tight budget, taking part in sport can seem like a distant possibility for women,” says WSFF chief executive officer, Sue Tibballs. “We know, however, that when shaped with women in mind, projects can play a huge part in making sport more accessible and, indeed, attractive.”
Her words offer key pointers to clubs and organisations about the importance of honing funding applications to the expectations of funding bodies.
So where do you begin searching for funding? Let’s start with FunderFinder, a small UK charity producing online and offline applications, mainly for grant-seekers based in the UK.
The easiest access to this software, which provides information and advice about charitable trusts and foundations that fund in the UK, is through libraries or a resource agency.
If you want charitable grants for an organisation or group, the GIN application (cost of £10) should be able to help. Its products are available on annual subscription or accessible online in 24-hour slots.
Unless you’re unlucky, you should be able to gain free help locally when searching for suitable funding sources, although the quality of it may vary. Some advice and information may be worth paying for – enlisting on a training course, for instance, buying a book or sometimes bringing in a consultant but, advises FunderFinder, “that certainly shouldn’t be your first thought”.
Whatever you do, remember that it’s your club or organisation that’s seeking financial support, not the consultant, adviser, author of the book or the creators of the software or website, it adds. “Trust your own judgement and take responsibility for your own actions,” FunderFinder urges.
Cash is a central problem for many voluntary organisations and clubs and successful fundraising depends on a host of factors, including appropriate legal structure, effective management, competent accounting and applying the correct terminology in a funding bid.
In seeking help, it is therefore vital to target sources that will help you meet your objectives and deliver your vision.
There are plenty of sources to choose from. The trick is deciding which ones to approach. “Clubs can be so committed that they do not realise that there is only a limited pot of money,” says Liz, “and those most likely to attract funding will be the projects that meet the funders’ requirements.”
Local development agencies (LDAs) help develop local voluntary and community groups by delivering different services
They can be called anything from (place name) Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) and (place name) Rural Community Council (RCC), to Voluntary Action (place name) and (place name) Council of Voluntary Organisations. Specific funding information bodies can be named by area - South Yorkshire Funding Advice Bureau and Funding Information North East, for example, offer dedicated funding advice. Your local authority can signpost the nearest LDA or funding advice agency. There are also these:
- ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England)
- NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action - (formerly NACVS) which covers EnglandNCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations), which also covers England
- NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action)
- SCVO (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations)
- WCVA (Wales Council for Voluntary Action).
Umbrella bodies such as national agencies or associations may cover your field of work. Use the directory of umbrella bodies and resource agencies www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/askncvo/directory from NCVO to find a relevant agency.
Local council officers may well link with the voluntary sector and may employ other staff such as community development workers, who are knowledgeable and helpful about funding for voluntary and community groups. Your council is not only a source of possible grant aid but also of information and advice. The local library service may well hold details of useful local contacts and will almost certainly be able to supply or order relevant reference books for you.
Most of the agencies named can guide you on training courses and may also run them. Where provided, training by local agencies is sometimes free and often heavily subsidised. Nationally, the best-known provider of short training courses on funding and fundraising is probably the Directory of Social Change (DSC), but several other national charities regularly run courses. So, it can pay to shop around. Remember to check that the level of training is appropriate for your needs.
Feel no fear about discussing your funding sources with other clubs or organisations. “Most funders receive masses of applications and are able to fund only a small percentage of those they receive,” says FunderFinder. “Sharing information with other groups about sources, and about what worked and what didn’t, is not really likely to jeopardise your own relationships with your funders but it may help you improve your fundraising.”
But how do you identify the right funders?
“Know your funder,” declares Liz Behnke. The best possible funding application may fall on stony ground because the source targeted does not support your type of organisation or sporting category. So, think hard about the kind of funder to approach, she stresses, then use research tools to identify specific funders to contact.
Statutory funders give grants to further their own objectives or meet their statutory responsibilities, says FunderFinder, not merely because they are sympathetic to a cause or project. And they are more likely to enter into a service level agreement, or put work out to tender, asking interested organisations to bid for the contract, than they are to offer grant-aid, it adds. They are more likely than companies or trusts to fund an organisation’s core costs, although they will not be keen to support groups indefinitely, although their agreements or contracts may be long-term.
Red tape is more likely, as is complex monitoring methods and inflexible payment rules, although publicly available guidelines and criteria about the way your application will be dealt with is also likely, as is a dedicated officer or civil servant who is on hand for you to consult about your application.
For many community-based voluntary groups, corporate funding is the least important source. Many companies give small amounts and only to well-known national charities. Some only give in areas where they have a presence – offices or a factory. Few are prepared to fund controversial work that might generate adverse publicity. Most give one-off grants rather than long-term support, while bigger concerns are more likely to have a social responsibility department and budget, with clear guidelines about what they wish to support and a clear understanding of the difference between their grants programme and any marketing or sponsorship deals.
Smaller companies may make little distinction between grants and sponsorship and have little understanding of the voluntary sector.
Charitable trusts and foundations are set up specifically to distribute money to good causes, so they are an important source of funding for many organisations. Numbering several thousand in the UK, they differ markedly in size and scope and only a few hundred employ paid staff. They can only fund projects that are charitable in law and that meet the criteria laid down in their trust deed (their governing document). Although most give small, one-off grants and are reluctant to fund core costs, many larger trusts fund projects over several years and some will contribute to general running costs.
Communication with trusts may prove frustrating as many may not reply to a funding application unless it is successful (to cut running costs). Most give to recognisable good causes but many larger trusts will support projects that are hard to fund or controversial.
Many trusts want their money to go further, FunderFinder notes, and they like projects that are innovative or likely to be replicated and that enable them to use their grant as a catalyst to lever additional cash from other funders.
The National Lottery forms a major source of funding for voluntary organisations seeking backing for good causes. Lottery funding is similar to statutory funding in many respects and its distribution is indeed governed by statute but it also shares some characteristics with trust funding, FunderFinder states. The different bodies that distribute Lottery money have rather different policies, particularly in terms of eligibility, whether they require match funding and whether they will fund capital and revenue but most voluntary groups should find that they fit the criteria of one or more distributing bodies.
You may want to approach a number of funders to back your project, asking the local council for help with core costs and asking trusts and foundations for one-off items of equipment or support for new projects. Or you might ask the Lottery (administered by Sport England) for the capital costs of a new building and raise the running costs from earned income and service agreements. There’s no single model or `right` way of approaching fundraising.
Whatever type and scale of funding you are seeking, Liz Behnke has a word of advice: “Get it right first time.” Any project comprises three elements, she explains. Strategic need – the “big umbrella”; local need – “ provide evidence of what’s required” and sports development. But she insists: “Facilities are not the be all and end all but a stepping stone to participation.”
Decision-making may be drawn out and complicated, however, with several different stages to the application process. You may need to convince both officers and staff and politicians, FunderFinder cautions.
Sport England is now channelling much of its money through the governing bodies of sport who will need convincing that your project will expand participation in the sport at community level. The agency is also promoting the development of more multi-sport hubs – a more challenging mission than it might sound bearing in mind what Liz believes is a long tradition of fierce independence among clubs.
“So many clubs operate in isolation of one another. I remember speaking to two bowls clubs who shared a green and who each wanted to build their own pavilion. That’s ludicrous. Whatever the history behind their lack of co-operation, I told them to bury the hatchet, work together and share facilities.”
Costs and overheads could fall sharply by such collaborations, she adds. The mindset must change, she continues. “My advice is for clubs to step back, look at what they can offer each other and move forward together if the model works. Seek partnerships if possible.”
This role of a `sports arbitrator` may become increasingly important as pressure on funding rises and more clubs and organisations face extinction if they do not generate more revenue, slash operating costs and work within national strategies for boosting community involvement.
In applying for funding, “cover every base”, says Liz. Check what your governing body of sport and county sports partnership say about your project. Are you part of your community sport network? What’s the reaction of your local authority, what’s the competition (you need to avoid duplication of provision locally if possible) and where do you fit into `the big picture`?
Every county authority will have a playing pitch strategy, for example. Have you studied it and can you help to deliver it?
Looking at local need, check who uses your facilities. Members, of course, but who else could and who doesn’t and why? “By attracting wider take-up and becoming more of a community focus, clubs enhance their standing in the eyes of funders,” she argues.
Sports development is the third key strand in your project. What’s your vision? “Your plans reflect what you are striving to achieve,” she maintains. In moving forward, have you identified your new customers. Market segmentation and Active People tools can assist you here, says Liz. The market segmentation tool profiles areas based on lifestyle choices, while the Active People 3, which provides data on participation levels, was due to be released at the end of October.
Also seek to identify any factors that may limit your development. How far ahead are you planning – five to ten years? Strategic thinking is increasingly important to successful funding applications. Without it, you may propose a project that in as little as five years’ time becomes unfit for purpose, perhaps because participation has risen more than was anticipated, so plan ahead for increased usage.
Know your own organisation. Ask your members what they like and dislike, record your achievements and review your development. Once you have identified who can assist you develop the project, set deadlines to give yourself every chance to complete your application, otherwise the process is in danger of drifting, she says.
Explore and understand the planning process to ensure your vision can be achieved in the timescales decided.Funding assessors have only so much time to consider an application and will need to grasp the essence of your project quickly.
“That means keeping your application simple,” she urges. “If you cannot explain succinctly the issues surrounding your bid for funding, you do not understand your project well enough and the assessor is unlikely to be able to understand it either.
“Sources of funding are broad, so think laterally about who might back your project. Seeking funding purely for tennis courts, for example, might prove too limiting.” Think about your location. If you lie within ten miles of a landfill site you are eligible for funding from landfill tax, as long as your project involves environmental elements. Coalfield regeneration trusts allot funding for schemes proposed on former sites.
Sport England’s funding strategy has changed. Governing bodies of sport are increasingly a source of capital funding – more than half the agency’s funding pot is channelled there for them to redistribute.
The small grants scheme has replaced Awards For All for projects seeking support of up to £10,000 and the sum can be applied for every two years. Sport England administers the Sportsmatch scheme, which covers projects under £50,000. Its big brother, the National Sports Foundation, distributes grants greater than this amount. Under the scheme, the agency will match the sum raised by a club or organisation.
Funding is available for innovative projects – “something off the wall and really different that has never been seen or done before,” says Liz. Only five or six projects a year attract funding, she adds. There’s also a “small pot” for green projects that embrace sustainable facilities. Viewing the wider funding framework, cash is apportioned among three main categories: the under-16s, administered by the Youth Sport Trust; the 16-plus grouping, the responsibility of Sport England; and UK Sport, which addresses the elite sector.
Sport England’s aims of `Grow, Sustain and Excel` offer an insight into routes to successful funding bids, she says. Its mission is to attract one million more participants into sport by 2013. Raising satisfaction and retention levels in sport, promoting more high quality activity in the school curriculum and raising community involvement in facilities via more out of hours use all figure in the agency’s ambitious strategy.
Before applying for a slice of the money, remember the `Must haves`, she cautions – “a juniors section, Focus status and Clubmark accreditation.” She concludes: “You must think long and hard about the key aspects of your project with a view to its suitability for funding and the payback that it gives the funder. If you are offering a like-for-like option, funding is unlikely. It’s all about sports development and increasing community involvement.”
Books, publications, websites and software
LDAs or other support organisations may hold copies of the books and the various computer-based tools for funder research. Printed directories, software and online resources provide information on funders - some is available free but most of the well-maintained resources are not, although accessing them via an LDA or your local library may be free.
The DSC publishes books about how to fundraise and how to write good applications. They include `Raising Money for Good Causes: A Starter Guide`; `Organising Local Events`; `Tried and Tested Ideas for Raising Money Locally`; `Small and Medium Scale Events`; `The Complete Fundraising Handbook` and `Writing Better Fundraising Applications`.
Guidance on fundraising may not necessarily change year to year but contact names and addresses and policy details certainly may so search out the most recent editions.
FunderFinder’s leaflet `Funding Resources` contains details of current publications and it produces software that helps groups identify appropriate charitable trusts.
Many LDAs, local authorities and community resource agencies have its GIN software as a resource for local groups so voluntary bodies can usually find somewhere to use GIN free.
The DSC produces a CD-Rom called `The Grant-Making Trusts CD-ROM` (latest version 2007) that is more of a self-contained package than GIN, although it has a less sophisticated search, and contains names, addresses and policy details for about 4,000 trusts.
FunderFinder has two free software applications. `Apply Yourselves` and `Budget Yourselves`. The former, which helps groups write effective funding applications, can be downloaded from its website.
Funding Top Tips
When seeking funding:
Read the documentation thoroughly and answer all the questions
- Seek advice – talk to funders early
- Consider your eligibility
- Do you meet the criteria?
- What makes you different?
- Are you offering payback (what is the funder’s aim and what do they want)
- Do you offer open access?
- Are you targeting groups that do not usually play sport?
- Do you know your project thoroughly?
- Have you security of tenure of the site?
Liz Behnke’s top tips
- Know your project
- Know your funder
- Keep it simple.
Among the governing bodies, priority is given to sports such as cricket, which has received £38 million to fund its development, the rugby codes, tennis and football, with the other 40 or so bodies sharing the rest of the funding. Grant aid schemes for cricket for example allow up to 75% of the cost of new facilities to be funded, with the major focus on fine turf and artificial wickets, indoor provision and land purchase for developing the sport.
Interest-free loans of up to £50,000 are available subject to clubs fulfilling participation criteria.
Funding for football is sourced mainly through The Football Foundation, for primarily grass pitch improvement and drainage schemes, clubhouses and changing rooms, artificial pitches and associated fixed floodlighting and multi-use games areas. A 50: 50 match funding is available as are interest-free loans.
In tennis, LTA funding for fabric structures to cover courts is “beginning to come through” while renovation of park courts, with floodlighting, is seen as a major priority - but payback in terms of greater participation will be a key factor in funding.
Expect to find plenty of free information about funding, funders and fundraising on the Internet, although remember that it can change and increase rapidly.
The DSC’s website www.trustfunding.org.uk allows a search for appropriate charitable trusts but you have to subscribe. Other applications include Grantfinder and applications produced by j4b. Guidance on Government funding initiatives - and European funding – is all available online. The DSC’s www.governmentfunding.org.uk includes material on central, regional and local government funding but to access it requires subscription to the site.
Other useful websites: