Dormant Accounts Fund NI – What Have We Learned So Far?

As we announce a further  £1.3 million awarded to organisations  through the Dormant Accounts Fund NI, we look back at the first phase of this grant programme. 

Paul Sweeney, Chair of the Northern Ireland Committee

Our Northern Ireland Chair, Paul Sweeney, shares what we’ve learned so far.

Our Dormant Accounts Fund NI programme is supporting organisations across the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector to become more resilient and sustainable.

So far, the programme has supported more than 100 organisations to transform so that they are more able to cope with future challenges.

Each organisation is unique in what it needs for sustainability, and the projects we have funded reflect a broad range of interventions. For example, some projects are focusing on diversifying their income, some on improving their strategic thinking, or their digital capabilities, or leadership capacity.

I’m pleased to announce the publication of the first learning report on Dormant Accounts Funds NI to date.

What We’ve Learned So Far

The programme has been very popular, with applications from all corners of Northern Ireland.

At the start many applications focused on project delivery rather than building the skills and capacity of the organisations. We adapted and developed our advice to ensure our messaging was clear about what Dormant Accounts Fund NI could support and over time we have seen an increase in the quality of applications.

This means the programme is now very competitive and we are having to make some tough decisions about which projects to prioritise.

The policy directions we received from the Department of Finance requires us to ensure we fund projects from across the VCSE sector. So we are looking at the gaps that are emerging from our funding to date. We have not received many applications from micro or small organisations that don’t have staff but are more volunteer led. We have been told that many of these groups are more likely to seek help from a support organisation.

We also noticed that some communities are under-represented in current applications. This includes LGBTQ+ organisations, women’s groups, and those that work with older people or diverse ethnic communities. The same is true of smaller and rurally based organisations, who have also had less success in their applications than larger and urban organisations. 

We plan to do more outreach and promote the programme to address the gaps we have identified among communities. And we would encourage organisations that represent these communities to talk to us about the opportunities presented by the programme.

We’ve also picked up some key learning about the VCSE sector from the programme. Unsurprisingly the impact of COVID-19 featured in many applications with many organisations experiencing a depletion of financial reserves, and a realisation that digital development is essential.

What’s Next?

We are sharing our learning with a wide range of stakeholders and will continue to seek feedback on this phase of the programme so we can shape the future direction of the programme.

If you would like to stay updated on our plans, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  You can also sign up to receive our newsletter to keep informed.

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