One preliminary Grant Aid Form – a low cost initiative to help the Voluntary and Community Sector

Developing a single preliminary Grant Aid Form – a low cost initiative to help the Voluntary and Community Sector from the Sussex Village Halls Advisory Group.

The Problem

Trustees that need to raise large amounts of funding for refurbishment or rebuilding of village halls or sports clubs and innovative projects such as community shops or cafes often complain about the amount of time, the cost and expertise needed to fill in funders’ grant application forms and provide the accompanying paperwork now required.

Each funders’ form is different. Each form can take 4 hours or more to complete, even when the information needed is to hand. Trustees report spending 100 hours or more, the equivalent of 3 weeks unpaid work over a period of months, as they need to apply to every possible funder to build up the funds for a large project. What really annoys volunteers is that much of the information every funder asks for is exactly the same, and has to be cut and pasted into their own online form, wasting time that could be better spent.  Those charities that are not lucky enough to have skilled, retired volunteers willing to do this either lose out or have to pay other organisations to help prepare bids, which is a drain on charity funds.

Funders usually require a signed hard copy, so to make sure applications are in by the deadline trustees spend £12 – £15 sending a bundle of papers recorded delivery. In rural areas, getting documents copied, scanned or printed often requires a journey to town which adds to time and expense. Such wastage needs to be avoided if volunteers are to be expected to deliver facilities and services of public benefit.

The Solution

• The Government post on the GOV.UK website a unified Grant Application Form,  (called here GAF1), for the Voluntary and Community Sector which contains the basis questions that every funder asks  e.g. name, contact details, charity or co reg no, basic description of project etc.  For submission online with scanned signatures.
• GAF1 is adopted by every Government Department,  local authority and the lottery boards.
• Funders would have the option of adopting a separate form (GAF2) to collect further information specific to their funding objectives (hard signed copy if needed).
• The launch of the new Defra/EC funded LEADER programme in Jan 2015 provides opportunity to pilot GAF1.
• GAF1 could potentially offer the preliminary sift/eligibility check for funders which operate several stages.

Costs vs Benefit

• Initial design of a pilot form: under £1,000
• Design of web version(s) capable of data analysis: To be conducted by GOV.UK.
• Adoption: Funders to absorb costs of adapting current forms to new system

• Saving in volunteer time and expense and modest saving in charity resources.
• Government and funders can share information more readily eg for statistical purposes and to ensure grants are co-ordinated timewise, to avoid mismatch.
• Congruence with eGovernment targets.

Promotion and Marketing

• The key requirement is ministerial backing to push departments, local authorities, lottery boards and charitable grant making trusts to co-operate.
• The title GAF1 is used here as it rolls off the tongue and could win press support (eg politicians are used to press seizing on gaffes, here’s a gaf politicians hope the press will seize on). An alternative could be, for example, VCS1.
• This is a non party political initiative which is designed to foster the Big Society that was such an important initiative when this Government came to power, but which has suffered as a result of the financial situation. Launch before the next general election provides opportunity for all parties to sign up to it, with commitment that all public funding for the VCS will use this form by the end of the next Parliament.

Louise Beaton
Senior Community Buildings Adviser (part time)
Tel: (01243) 544366 E-mail:  @ruralsussex

On behalf of the Sussex Village Halls Advisory Group,

“Supporting rural communities in Sussex to be vibrant and diverse places in which to live and work.”