Reaching Communities in difficult times

This is a guest post from Dharmendra Kanani, England Director of the Big Lottery Fund.

Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

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.

No limits…

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.

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8 Responses to Reaching Communities in difficult times

  1. Janice Burkinshaw says:

    This is good news as Reaching Communities is such a valuable programme as it funds revenue staffing costs and allows organisations to establish themselves and grow. We hope to get some advice from you on opening our Hilsea Lido to the public and to disadvantaged groups needing specialist support and a suitable venue to take up new challenging activities to help resolve problems such as offending behaviour.

  2. Clearly the range of improvement mentioned – making the programme more flexible and responsive is excellent news for applicants. I hope that this can be followed by having more funding available.

  3. The future depends on what we do in the present. The new guide lines and help is very encouraging for the Voluntart Sector. The large number of volunteers that keep organisation and help support their work is being put more and more under pressure.

  4. It is very encouraging news that people and organisations have listened and are indeed acting on the valuable impact and well meant advise.

  5. Pingback: BIG improves its Reaching Communities grants programme

  6. Richard Butler says:

    So, no upper grant limit, which roughly translated means less available to smaller charities, as the bigger charities will chomp at the big bit. The harder stage one also means smaller charities will have to measure the increased application input resource against a greater likelihood of not arriving at the second stage. One wonders what small charities were involved in “responding to concerns.”

  7. Pingback: Changes to Reaching Communities funding programme | VoluntaryNews

  8. TF Bundy says:

    Once again a funding body has ‘streamlined’ and ‘simplified’ its process…Reaching Communities went from having a 35pp. form to an 11pp. outline proposal followed by a 30pp. form. The newest version asks for a 23pp. ‘Stage One’ proposal and Lord knows how long the Stage Two will be. The same thing is happening at other funders (BBC Children in Need for example). Even Awards for All–some of you may remember its application as 2 sides of an A4 in 2000!–has ballooned into a 22 page form.

    The bar is already high due to increased competition. Making the application process itself more arduous does little to solve the problem for anyone. All this has done is make it less likely that the smaller groups who deliver valuable frontline work to society’s hardest to reach will have the resources they need. Organisations which can afford to hire fundraisers or consultants are favoured by these changes simply by default.

    An initial proposal/stage one/outline is supposed to be just that. Use some common sense. If anything, take a look at what your colleagues at Heritage Lottery Fund are asking for–they seem to have a grasp of this concept.