This is a guest post from Dharmendra Kanani, England Director of the Big Lottery Fund.
Each month in England, the Big Lottery Fund awards around £12m through our flagship demand led offer – Reaching Communities. It has become an important vehicle for the voluntary and community sector and the people they support. Whether it’s Teesside, Salford or Brighton – it does ‘what it says on the tin’. By spring 2014, we will have invested £1 billion since 2006 across England – a significant amount straight into the heart of local communities.
Three years ago, when I became England Director, I wanted to ensure that our funding was simple, that it made sense, was easy to access and was underpinned by a clear narrative. We’ve asked ourselves some searching questions about why our funding takes the shape it does; what processes are necessary and whether we were clear about our purpose and the impact we want to achieve. As with any change, we focussed on our England narrative before confirming our commitment to demand led funding and our targeted investments such as early years and older people.
For Reaching Communities, I knew from my visits to projects and meeting with sector leaders that it is often seen as too complex, having a low success rate and a demand which far outstripped funds. So today we are announcing a raft of Reaching Communities improvements responding to your concerns. Building on our learning from our first eight years of Reaching Communities, we will be making the programme more flexible and responsive to ensure the funding stream can meet everyone’s ambitions.
We will say no earlier…
We are asking you to set out more in the initial Stage One ideas and concept part of the process so that we can assess early and judge your potential success or otherwise. This will mean we can give you an early answer. We want to ensure the best ideas get through.
Talk to us…
Please contact Big Advice early. We want to have a much better view of your ideas, to get a stronger sense of your project so that we can give you the best guidance. This will mean fewer applicants will be invited to submit Stage Two applications, but those that do will have a much greater chance of success. We’ve also increased the decision making to fortnightly, so projects won’t have to wait as long to hear about their bid. We are placing a greater premium on learning across all of our funding and this includes asking those applying to Reaching Communities to set out more clearly how and what learning and impact will take place throughout the life time of the funding.
The upper grant limit you can apply for has been removed creating flexibility to support larger projects. The deal is you call us and speak to Big Advice first if you intend to apply for more than £500,000 or have a buildings application.
Importantly, we now offer feasibility funding of up to £10,000 through Awards for All. And we are now supporting buildings projects with grants from £10,000 upwards and offering revenue funding to help new community building projects through the early stages.
Just this month we awarded over £8 million to organisations such as the Enthusiasm Trust, which received just over £227,000k to reduce the risk of offending and social exclusion of young people; and the National Association for People Abused in Childhood with £480,000 to expand its telephone support service. This is what it’s all about.