Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Funding and Grants for Charities and Not for Profit organisations

I have been wanting to talk about funding and grants in my blog for many weeks as it is an area that I feel very strongly about and feel that my thoughts need to made public on. This is a long rant so bear with me as I think many of you will agree with what I have to say.

Many Charities and Not for Profit organisations rely on funding and grants from trusts, the lottery, the government and many more funding awarding bodies to carry out their daily activities. Through my years of being involved in charities and Not for Profit organisations I have never experienced a worse or harder time for these organisations to exist in.

Now I come from a media background so every week I purchase a copy of the Guardian on Monday for their media section which is a very well respected section in media circles. In this section they have pages and pages of the latest media jobs. Well that use to be the case as now when I open it up there seems to be more job adverts for Fundraising Managers with salaries of £20,000 - £30,000 than actual jobs that actually require a media background.

Now these organisations are employing these people to be professional application form fillers and to help them win the big grants and awards for their projects. The thing is that every week there seem to be more and more positions but the money that is out there in grants doesn’t seem to be increasing. Granting bodies seem to have followed suit with the amount of professional people working applying for grants by making the application process a lot harder to qualify for many grants.

How is an organisation or a charity that is run solely through volunteers who all have other day jobs ever going to compete with organisations that can employ people on big salaries to apply for these grants and awards? Quite simply they can’t. They can’t phone the organisations awarding the grants as by the time they finish work the offices are closed and then the volunteers have a few hours when they are tired after working all day and whilst looking after a family to try and fill out the forms.

An organisation’s worthiness to receive an award shouldn’t be based on the amount of employees they have or the size of their offices but the actual difference they can make. With many big organisations you would be surprised by how much of the money they make through donations and winning grants goes to paying admin staff, costs, office space and PR campaigns. I would say a good 95% of charities and not for profits can not afford any of that as it would be not financially sensible for them to do so. If you are interested to find out where your money goes to go to the Charity Commission website or Companies House website where you can get annual reports for free or at a small cost for every registered organisation. One thing I would strongly advise is, if you are donating money to an organisation and you are worried where your money is going, to specifically say in writing that you want that money spent on a certain area.

Now I have always been brought up that the right way to set up a charity or not for profit is because there is an area you want to help or change whether that be young people, a disability or a country dealing with poverty and then look for funds to support your organisation. It seems now though that the only way to survive is to look at what grants are out there at the moment and then a tailor an organisation around that award which meets all their criteria.

The Internet has helped smaller organisations a great deal with it now being easier to find out about grants through search engines and to be able to download forms instead of having to do it via the post. However it seems many people are now cashing in on this by offering software packages, CDs and websites which you have to pay to use in order to get the latest information and details on grants. These companies guard this information very closely and try to make sure the only way you can find out about them is by buying their product. I think it is a sad world we live in where the charity and not for profit world have been taken over by companies and the race to make more money. Organisations shouldn’t be forced to pay for information for grants that they are able to apply for.

Now there are many conspiracy theorists out there that believe our hosting of the 2012 Olympics is robbing many organisations of money which I’m not going to comment on either way. All I can say is that we seem to be living in an era where the goalposts are getting changed on a regular basis and grants are getting harder and harder to apply for and to win. It’s like now to become a registered charity you have to have an annual income of £5000 coming in to your charity. To get £5000 many organisations need to apply for grants to get this sort of money but for most grants they expect you to be a registered charity so although they are doing all the things a charity should be they can’t become a registered charity because of their finances so can’t apply for the grant.

Now I am not denying that there are valid reasons why it is so hard to win grants and to become a registered charity as it helps stop a lot of cowboy organisations or dishonest people getting involved but they need to find ways of doing this without penalising the good people and good organisations.

The one thing to remember though if you are an organisation who is currently applying for grants is that they aren’t a long term financial solution to your financial needs and can’t provide you sustainability. Grants are good for one off projects but if you are using them to fund long term projects and the grants are only allowed to be used within a year period then the next year it leaves you with a big financial hole to fill as many granting bodies will only let you apply once or at least have a few years year break before you are allowed to apply again. It is ok to start off your first year with a grant but during that year you need to be thinking of ways you can generate that kind of funding through other means like fundraising events, sponsors etc. which is more sustainable and that you control so that in the second year your financial future is secure.

That brings an end to my rant I hope this has given all of you some food for thought this week.

To get involved in our weekly discussion on this matter go to:

Adam Sibley
Founder of the Talented Young People organisation
"Envisage it, Believe it, Achieve it!"

1 comment:

Richard Langley said...

The main challenge for charities such as ours (KYSPA in Penryn) is not so much getting funding for projects but getting funding for basic running costs (rent, insurance, CRB checks, First aid & minibus driver training etc.) Most grants can not be spent on these things.

Passing these costs on to our young members is difficult, because as a charitable trust a key aim for us is to be affordable for everyone. It's a tough juggling act!