We want all the projects we fund to put communities first. But what does that mean, and how does it work in practice? We chatted to funding officer Chris McClure about what we’re looking for in applications. Chris has been working at the Fund for nine years, so has plenty of experience in what makes a great application!
“Putting communities first means speaking to whoever you’re trying to work with,” Chris says. “We’re flexible about how you do that. We’re also realistic about how it looks depending on the size of your organisation. But we do need to see the community involved in the project’s development. We want to fund projects developed with people, not done to them!
“Working with your community is good for your project, too. Involving people in the planning stages improves your chances of reaching your target audience. Being involved in the project’s development will also help to keep people engaged with your work. The impact will last, even if the activities you’re running come to an end.”
There are lots of ways to get your community involved in your project. Chris recommends finding a way that works best for your project and the people you want to talk to.
“Some groups send out questionnaires, some run focus groups. Others get people together for a cup of tea and a chat,” says Chris. “The important thing is to get people involved in a way that means you hear them.
“One of the groups I’ve worked with wanted to make improvements to their town. They set up a stall in the town centre and asked people to share their ideas that way.
“Another group I know supports young people with learning disabilities. It didn’t work for them to use surveys, so they had to adapt. They had informal conversations instead. They also included the young people’s parents and carers in the conversation.”
We also asked Chris what people find difficult about making applications.
“Some people still find our application forms a barrier. It’s hard to reflect their project in them. I’d like to emphasise that we’re always happy to chat to you about your application and give you advice and support.
“In my day to day work, I talk to groups interested in applying, in the process of applying, or who already have funding. Whatever stage of the application process you’re at, you can always get in touch and talk to us.”