Community Finance Information Session – Thurs. Sept 13th 2018, Lough Allen Hotel, Drumshanbo, 7 pm – 10 pm.
CLICK HERE for more details and booking.
Getting funds to keep your communities running and thriving is one of the biggest challenges faced by voluntary groups. You know what your community needs and you know what you would like to do but how are you going to pay for it?
Any funding is good funding – NOT
There are lots of funding opportunities out there but groups are often overwhelmed by the paperwork. Depending on the fund, you may not be eligible because your project doesn’t fit, you’re too big, you’re too small or you just don’t have the tax clearance. Lots of groups chase projects just because funding is available and try to shoehorn their real objectives into the funding objectives. Groups do something that was not really in their plan just to get the money. This often leads to a bad experience and projects formed in this way can be difficult to sustain. Don’t apply for funding just because it’s there. Think about the aims of the funders and whether or not they match the aims of your group. If they don’t match, don’t apply.
BEFORE YOU APPLY:
Think about the aims of your group and keep an eye on the websites of organisations that represent those aims. You can set up a Google Alert or sign up to mailing lists. For example, the Wheel provides a monthly funding alert for non members.(Link to subscription).
It’s very likely that the activities of your group cross different themes that are eligible for funding so take time to think about these. You might need to emphasise an aspect of your work so that it fits the funding criteria. For example, a swimming club might have a youth team – the primary focus is sports but in just carrying out the club activities you might fit a social inclusion fund especially if the group is open to all and/or you have made a special effort to make things affordable or reach out to children that might find it difficult to access swimming facilities.
Know the aims of the funders. For example, Leitrim Council community funding will usually seek to reflect priorities of the Local Economic and Community Plan (LECP). CLICK HERE for the current plan.
Grant Application Checklist
Does the sight of a grant form fill you with dread? You are not alone. Between Guidelines and Checklists and gathering quotes, embarking on a grant application can be a daunting prospect.
There are a few things you can do to be ready for funding applications. The following checklist is not exhaustive but it might provide you with the guts of an application that you can edit and change depending on the fund.
Contact Details for the group: Make sure the contact person is someone who checks their emails and phone messages daily. Provide an alternative contact if you can. Know the address of your group and get the Eircode.
Proof of Existence: Most public funds will require you to prove that your organisation exists and is tax compliant. Have the details of your bank or credit union account, showing the account in the group’s name, ready to submit. It’s a good idea to look for a tax number and a tax clearance certificate. This is just a matter of applying for a tax number – CLICK HERE for form.
Insurance: If you are carrying out activities you probably have insurance. Many funding bodies will seek proof of this. Keep your proof of insurance ready for applications if it’s required.
Deadline: Is the application by post or by email? Do you need to register just to apply? Be clear about the closing date and time. List the things that are going to take time to do – like getting prices – and start them first. Do not miss the deadline. It’s the same deadline for everyone and if you are not in, you can’t win. Some deadlines will extend but you won’t know that until it has passed.
Take some time to write a paragraph or two on:
The History of the Group: When it was formed, how it has developed, some of your achievements in the past. Create a record of grants you received in the past – how much? from whom? for what? – you might need it for future applications. If you have all this ready to go it won’t take long to complete that section of the application.
Currently: How is your group formed now? What are the aims of the group? How do you fit in with your community and do you links with other organisations?
Depending on the application, you might need to show that you you have thought about the following:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- Why do you need the funding?
- How do you know the need exists – feasibility study, consultation with the community, how did you decide the project was needed? Back this up as much as possible. Letters of support from other groups and agencies can be really helpful here.
- Clearly identify the benefits of the project and emphasise those that match the aims of the funders.
- How are you going to implement the project? Does your group have the capacity to spend the funding without assistance or will you need the help of professionals?
- Estimate the timeline. You need to be clear about how long the project is going to take and that you can spend the funds within the time allocated. Think about possible obstacles and how long it might take to overcome these.
- How will you demonstrate that the aims of the project have been achieved? Not all funds look for this but it is best practice to evaluate your projects so you can learn from the successes and the things that didn’t go so well. Some funds will require numerical targets – how many more people did you affect? how much did income increase? and so on. Think about how you might measure the targets. Other projects will have outcomes that are difficult to quantify. Feedback forms that get reflect the feelings of people towards a project can be a good way to assess the success of your project. TAKE PHOTOS if it’s appropriate.
- How will you publicise the project and acknowledge the funding? Think about local notes, press releases, websites, Facebook, radio interviews, parish notes. Is there somewhere you can put a plaque or a framed notice acknowledging the funding? These things might be required of an application so have a loose plan that is ready for tweaking. Do you know who to contact in the local or national media?
Quotes: You might know that the local furniture store has three chairs that would suit older people and they cost X but a funding application might ask you for three quotes. It’s a good idea to decide what you want and ask the cost of it from different suppliers. Best practice would be to send the same request to at least three suppliers on the same day. Be clear about your requirements. It’s ok to pick an item that not the cheapest as long as you can identify the benefits of going with that supplier – better guarantee, customer service, free delivery, etc.
For larger projects you’ll need to cost each element and for anything that will cost over €25,000 you might even need to advertise on etenders.
Hidden costs: Have you thought about hidden costs – planning permission, professional fees, administration, insurance? Again, depending on the fund you may not be able to claim these costs and you need to be sure that your group can cover these. Do you have contingency built into your project cots in case things go wrong? Depending on the nature of the project a good rule of thumb is about 10%.Some applications allow this to be included but many don’t.
Match Funding: Does the fund cover the full cost or will you need more money? Can you prove you have that either in the bank or in kind through value of property, work,etc. The payments of the fund might be paid AFTER elements of the work have been done. Will you need a bridging loan and are you sure you can get this? You could consider traditional lending institutions, a private loan or community banks such as Clann Credo and Community Foundation for Ireland.
Where & When?
Be clear about where and when your project will take place. Keep an eye on funds available to your local area as well as funds that are national or international. Some funds are time specific and tie in with significant anniversaries – like the EU funding for Commemorations that relate to World War 1, The 1916 Rising, Women’s Suffrage. Environmental projects may be urgent in their nature.
You won’t always be successful in your application. Ask for feedback if you don’t get it and keep applying.
When you are struggling with an application form and you want to give up, go outside, have a little scream at the moon and try to imagine your new computers being used in the community, cutting the ribbon at your new building or tidying up after your big event. Funding is great if you can get it so give yourself a pat on the back for all the hard work and keep going. Even though it may not seem like it, the funders want someone to have the money and benefit from it. Good Luck with your applications.