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The Change Ahead – a future for civil society in London

The Change Ahead – a future for civil society in London

Named after Janus, the god of transitions and new beginnings, January is a time when we tend to look backwards to the past and, at the same time, forwards to make potentially life-changing resolutions. A conference held just before Christmas to consider the emerging findings from the review of support for civil society in London felt prematurely Janus-like, torn between these two directions.  The eighty or so delegates were reminded of the maxim that “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it” whilst there seemed a general acceptance that the environment in which the sector now finds itself means that the status quo is not an option.

The Change Ahead will need to be far reaching, in the same way that, twenty years ago this year, the Deakin Report on the voluntary sector heralded a new settlement for the sector. That report paved the way for nearly fifteen years of heightened prominence for the sector as a trusted partner of the state, and sustained investment by government in the infrastructure of civil society.

Yet one of the more sobering findings of the current review is that, since the going got tougher, the sector has been poor at identifying its support requirements and implementing change. “Despite the numerous reports and reviews carried out in recent years, there is still no shared understanding of the role of civil society support . . . [they] offer long lists of recommendations as to what civil society support organisations should do, without taking into account the limited funding and room for flexibility that their funding allows, and without prioritising roles and responsibilities.”

The following reflections on the Change Ahead are more optimistic; in spite of the continued austerity and the magnitude of the cuts in local government funding (one of the mainstays of support for the sector), there is a genuine opportunity to learn from both past and current practices and a desire to collaborate in order to implement an effective settlement for the c21st.

  1. A broader definition of civil society

A theme running through the conference was an appreciation of the paradox presented by increasing cuts to government funding at a time of ratcheting demand for public services. Collaborate and the Local Government Association estimate a £14.4 billion supply-and-demand gap will emerge for local public services by 2025.  London Councils have argued the gap could be over £3bn in London alone by 2020.  As one delegate remarked, faced by such challenges we must accept there are “no longer any single sector solutions”; no sector (public, private or voluntary) “can afford to sit in splendid isolation” commented another.

In these circumstances, we should be looking for a broader definition of civil society for the 21st century. The one presented by the review seems too narrow; by highlighting the distinctions between the different sectors, it is too last century for our increasingly common purpose: “Civil society is where people take action to improve their own lives or the lives of others and act where government or the private sector don’t. Civil society is driven by the values of fairness and equality, and enables people to feel valued and to belong. It includes formal organisations such as voluntary and community organisations, informal groups of people who join together for a common purpose and individuals who take action to make their community a better place.”  Surely an “enabling state” and an enlightened private sector are just as much part of civil society – and potentially invaluable contributors to it – as voluntary and community organisations, or informal associations?

  1. A new settlement

The economic situation and social conditions in 2015/16 may not be as critical as they were sixty years ago, but a new settlement, as was forged in the post-war consensus, is essential.  Just as Beveridge recognised the importance and value of voluntarism working alongside the arms of the state, more than six decades on government and civil society are as mutually dependent as ever.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has talked of initiating a “revolution in the way we govern the country”, moving the UK from a “low wage, high tax, high welfare economy, to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare country.”  The total % of GDP on public expenditure has already fallen from 43% (2012) to 39.7%; by 2020 it is projected to reach 36.5%.  As Simon  Parker of New Local Government Network has pointed out, a 36.5% state is a return to the state spending levels of the late 1990s.  However, the UK will be vastly different in 2020, with an ageing and increasingly expensive population.

In the meantime, it is local government which is taking the brunt. One HM Treasury graph from the Spending Review shows that whilst government grant to local government is being cut by 56%, overall levels of Council resources remain pretty flat for the rest of the decade.  By freeing up Councils to raise and spend their own sources of income – from local business rates, council tax increases and other receipts from local economic development – the government expects Councils to transform, in Professor Tony Travers phrase, from being a “mini-welfare state into a local economic growth agency.”  The distributional impact of such a transformation will be significant. The new freedoms passed down from Whitehall to town halls are likely to favour already economically successful areas; further polarisation of wealth seems inevitable, and gaps in civil society will widen.

In these circumstances, and with an opportunity to negotiate with central government to devolve more powers locally, councils in London are looking to collaborate more. This is manifest in the increasing prominence of variously named borough groupings (the Tri-boroughs, the Growth Boroughs; the West London Alliance etc) which are looking to share the costs of service delivery and achieve more for less. In trying to harness economic growth which is also socially inclusive, however, these partnerships need to feature prominently both civil society organisations and socially responsible businesses.  The absence of local government, let alone business representatives from the Change Ahead Conference, suggests there is still some way to go to ensure that inclusive, cross-sectoral discussions happen in the context of further devolution and new governance arrangements in London.

  1. Valuing civil society

One way of ensuring government and business take more interest in the potential of civil society is to be more confident of its size and importance, and expressing this in language they understand.  The sheer diversity of the components which make up a civil society means it tends to defy easy measurement.  A recommendation in the Change Ahead report is that the Greater London Authority which, via GLA Economics has long collected data on the size of London’s economy, now extends its remit to include measures of the capital’s civil society.

In the year in which London has assumed the mantle of European  Volunteering Capital, 2016, a robust assessment of the economic value of volunteering offers as good an indicator as any of the significance of civil society.  The Chief Economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, recently argued that because the societal gains from volunteering are not captured by official GDP statistics, its value tends to go unrecognised.  Seeking to rectify this, he estimates that an army of 1.25m people across the UK create an annual economic value of at least £50bn; proportionately, this is likely to be worth £13bn or more per annum to London.

Using Change Ahead to lobby a new Mayor of London to give due prominence to civil society in the capital, the report’s sponsors could do worse than enlist the support of the Bank of England.  Haldane suggests another reason why the full cost-benefit of volunteering is not appreciated is that many organisations which make up the fabric of civil society do not have the skills (or perhaps the time) to assess its value.  Change Ahead is on to something when it calls for funders, and strategic bodies like the GLA, to do more to help measure the true value of civil society in the capital. By also recognising the rising significance of the sharing economy in London (the third biggest creator of sharing economy start ups in the world), a new Mayor has the opportunity to signal a major shift in how we define and measure what constitutes a successful city.

  1. A plurality of funders

London is not short of funders of civil society – charitable trusts, community foundations, statutory agencies, corporate donors and social investors – many of which recognise the importance of investing in infrastructure that supports and sustains the capital’s social fabric. However, in straitened times and with demand rising, it is increasingly incumbent on this plurality of funders to collaborate in order to ensure they are not funding the same thing, but share information and learning in order to maximise the impact of their investments.

Three priorities seem to stand out for funders of London’s civil society, none of which will be easy to meet.

  1. Funders need to have the means to say no. Julian Corner, CEO of Lankelly Chase, told the Change Ahead conference that we have become too accepting of a culture of needs-based funding. Put bluntly, this is a deficit model in which organisations have a vested interest in growing the problem they are set up to tackle.  Funders and support organisations need to be much more confident in being able to distinguish between authentic needs and those which may be systems driven.
  2. Funders need to acknowledge the increasing blurring between the public, private and voluntary sectors, and how each can contribute to a vibrant civil society. This means their being prepared to fund “bridging architecture,” not to shore up the VCS, but to develop a new paradigm of cross-sectoral collaboration.
  3. Funders (and civil society organisations in general) need to create more time and space to be able to collaborate. As Debbie Sorkin of the Leadership Centre suggested, it is important from time to time to “get off the dance floor and onto the balcony.”

One tool which may enable funders’ collaboration is a shared investment plan or road map.  At a time when we are increasingly being asked to question what the European Union has done for us, we can draw some inspiration here from the way the European Structural and Investment Funds for London are co-invested.  A co-investment plan for funding support of London’s civil society would:

  • Set out some over-arching and shared objectives and priorities.
  • Identify a number of potential co-investors in London’s infrastructure whose investment is targeted at meeting one or more of the shared priorities, including central government departments; Big Lottery and the EU itself in the form of its Technical Assistance programmes.
  • Match these sources with funds from London’s “co-investors” – ie the GLA and London Councils (for pan London and sub-regional programming); individual or small groups of boroughs for more local support; trusts and foundations and potentially corporate givers for (additional) specialist and thematic support and/or pilot projects.

The governance arrangements would need to be worked through, but in London Funders there is the makings of a secretariat which already creates space and time for funders to collaborate, and who now need to take forward and implement the recommendations of Change Ahead.


John Griffiths is Director of Rocket Science and a Trustee of London Funders

What about Dorothy? How our services fail the vulnerable

What about Dorothy? How our services fail the vulnerable

Dorothy is 94, living alone, her husband died 25 years ago and with no children or family living near she relies on a telecare kit, an hour of care a day and more recently a meals on wheels service which brings her a meal to microwave each day. Her next door neighbour gets her some shopping each week and she relies on the good will of the other residents in the block to help her out.

Last Tuesday she had another fall, trying to get up from her chair to get to her bedroom.  She had called an ambulance, but it had not arrived, so she rang my partner, who lives nearby to come and help her.  Within ten minutes he had arrived but could not get in as the carer who attended that day did not replace the key in the secure box.  So she had to shuffle her way on her knees to the door to open it for him.  The ambulance men arrived a little later but decided she was well enough to remain at home. This is not the first time she has fallen.

Earlier in the summer we received an anxious call from her, she had arrived back from hospital the previous day after a fall earlier in the week (something down to blood pressure and medication).  She had spent the last twenty four hours without electricity or heating, her services had been turned off whilst she was away but no one had checked to turn them back on when she was sent home.  She had not eaten anything as the food in the fridge had gone off and she could not make herself a hot drink.  My partner went to help her, turned the utilities back on and brought her some provisions to help see her through.  She decided to pay for meals on wheels so she would not be put in that situation again.

When we saw her a couple of days later she said she was ok, but really missed cooking for herself and really wanted to eat some pasta.  So every time we make a bolognese we do a portion for her and buy her some ready meals when we go shopping if we remember.

We popped round to see her on Saturday to see how she was doing and if she needed anything.   She was still aching from her fall but was getting worried about her money situation.   She uses cheques to pay for bills and to get money out (through another neighbour who does her shopping).  But she had only one cheque left, our first reaction was that perhaps her replacement book had been stolen, banks usually send these out automatically.  We rang the bank for her and after ten minutes of the usual automated system we got through to a person.  I explained the difficulty of the situation, Dorothy has hearing problems and cannot see very well.  But we had to go through security questions and explain to Dorothy that she needed to respond.  Some half an hour later the adviser spoke to us and explained that the bank does not send out chequebooks, this policy stopped some time ago and they have to be requested by phone or in person at the bank. We explained about Dorothy’s situation but there is nothing they could do, other than rely on someone to order a book with her next time.

Reflecting on Dorothy’s situation made me realise how difficult her life is made.  She wants to remain independent in her flat, something all public service organisations want as it is much cheaper than providing full time care in a home.  Her carers are all different, so she does not get the chance to form a relationship or bond with them, sometimes she cannot tell who is a carer as they change so often.  Her reliance on her neighbours means that she can live her life, but these neighbours are also getting older and more frail and likely to need support too in the future.  The local area is changing, flats are being taken over by private landlords and people are coming and going, so it is much harder to know and build a relationship with a neighbour.  Her financial situation makes her vulnerable to people who may use the opportunity to take advantage of this.  There is no other support for her.

And I have to ask myself why are we not getting the basics of living right for those older and more vulnerable people in our society? 

Personally I think we (policymakers, commissioners and funders) are so caught up with chasing the next big thing in public service design, responding to cuts, reducing demand and looking to scale and replicate what works, that we are neglecting to get the basics and fundamentals right.   Impact maps, disruptive innovation, innovation in technology, social action what do all these things mean to people in situations like Dorothy?

Situations where you cannot scale and replicate support that requires such individual attention or people are living in areas where there is a clear deficit in social and community capital and little motivation or investment to help stimulate it.  Where technology serves to frustrate rather than enhance someone’s life and your ability to survive and remain independent is at the mercy of the goodwill and trustworthy nature of your neighbours or family (if you have one).

We need to reboot our thinking and actions and we need to do it quickly and when we are looking at designing an approach, fund or service then ask ourselves a fundamental question before we go ahead… what about people like Dorothy?

Till next time
Caroline Masundire

Change for good?  The increasing role of the private sector in supporting civil society

Change for good? The increasing role of the private sector in supporting civil society

Earlier this year, the Report of the Independent Commission on the future of local infrastructure, Change for Good made a series of recommendations to try to ensure that, despite further cuts in public funding, support for civil society organisations is sustained for the common good.  It recognised, however, that “a call for more money and a return to the previous status quo were out of the question.”  By highlighting the emergence of new forms of infrastructure and resourcing for civil society, the Commission’s Report gave some truth to the maxim that austerity can be the mother of innovation.  The Commission also argued that responsibility for the implementation of Change for Good rested with others who could more easily tailor future infrastructure to the needs of specific places or communities of interest.  Taking up that challenge, a group of London Funders are commissioning a detailed assessment of the future of civil society support in the capital.  Whoever carries out the work is required, not surprisingly, to have a “good understanding of civil society and its existing infrastructure in London” but also, in a clear sign of the times, an understanding of “what the private sector can offer.”

Rocket Science’s recent reviews of VCS infrastructure, both in London and other parts of the country (eg Buckinghamshire, Barnsley,  Sheffield and Knowsley) and the way civil society organisations seek and engage support, show a significant role being played by support services other than Councils for Voluntary Service, including the private sector.  This confirmed a trend we noticed when conducting research for the Big Lottery Fund (“Supporting Change and Impact”) to assess the different sources of external advice and support used by Civil Society Organisations.  In our survey of 300 organisations (2013) we found that whilst around a third (37%) of grant-holders received support from their local Council for Voluntary Service, almost two thirds (63%) opted to source support from a consultancy or freelance.

Change for Good graph
Supporting Change and Impact Evaluation – Big Lottery Fund 2013: Where organisations choose to go for support


Change for Good does comment on the role of the private sector in supporting and investing in civil society.  However, its recommendations to business (eg “work with your local infrastructure bodies to implement your corporate social responsibility strategy” or “deploy the skills of your workforce for the benefit of local charities and communities”) seemed to be a decade or more behind the times.  The report failed, for example, to reflect on the way far-reaching changes to the delivery of public services in the UK have become a significant driver for businesses to engage and interact with certain civil society organisations, albeit for commercial as much as charitable purposes.

A steady blurring of the distinctions that traditionally existed between the public, private and voluntary sectors has been one effect of three decades of opening up of public service contracts to providers irrespective of their legal form.  The process has been given further impetus by the new government’s championing of a bigger stronger society”;  private companies which have benefited from this considerable market, and a relatively low-tax business environment, are  being strongly encouraged by government to reciprocate, not only by demonstrating their corporate social responsibility, but also the additional social value they can bring to the delivery of public services.

The increasing outsourcing of services in employment, criminal justice and now health has had the possibly unintended consequence of developing new sources of support for certain voluntary organisations and charities.  Civil Society Organisations which have been able to work with lead or “prime” private-sector contractors have, to a varying degree, benefited from the latter’s recognising the value of investing in their supply chains, including specialist VCSE providers.

Rocket Science has worked with a number of the prime contractors of both employment services (eg the Work Programme) and criminal justice (eg Transforming Rehabilitation).  Whilst we are aware of different approaches which these companies use to win large public-service contracts by offering to invest in civil society, it would be beneficial as part of any future redesign of infrastructure to ascertain the true scale and value of such investment, whilst also recognising its inherent flaws and weaknesses.  Relying on the business winners in an increasingly cut-throat, public-service market to provide support for selected civil society organisations is risky, potentially divisive and could severely compromise one of the central tenets of the sector, its independence.

Instruments like the Social Value Act, the intention outlined in the Conservative Party’s Manifesto (2015) to encourage more  employee volunteering and the increasing interest in local place-based giving initiatives, are all aspects of an ecology of cross-sector working and different sources of investment which has considerable implications for the way elements of civil society may access support in future.  To this effect, there has been a proliferation of intermediary and brokerage organisations which match private companies with civil society organisations.  For example, in London alone, East London Business Alliance; Heart of the City; City Action and Team London as well as local, borough models like Business and Community Together in Kensington and Chelsea, or Love Kingston pair companies with charities, source employee volunteers and introduce business skills to community organisations. This is a fast maturing market place, but it is no panacea for the cuts to publicly-funded support for civil society.  The potential, but also the limitations and motivations of private sector investment have to be far better understood in any assessment of the future of infrastructure and the need for continued support for Civil Society Organisations.

John Griffiths is a Director of Rocket Science and Trustee of London Funders

Health – a question of Sport?

Health – a question of Sport?

Give health a sporting chance

So the NHS is going to be bankrupted by an obesity epidemic, participation in physical activity despite the ‘olympic effect’  has fallen prompting a government consultation into why this is the case and sitting at your desk all day is bad for your heart. We instinctively know all of this, exercise is good, excess calories are bad, lethargy leads to illness and sugary foods lead to obesity.  The correlation between inactive and unhealthy lifestyles and costs on health services is well documented but reversing this negative impact is much harder and more complicated than we realise.

For those of you that know me, you would probably be forgiven for thinking that I am not that interested in sport per se.   Back in the early noughties and in the days of area-based funding programmes and ‘action zone-itis’ of the first Blair government, I ran an action learning and  development programme over three years for Sport Action Zones, (SAZ).  These worked in a number of areas across England to raise the participation levels of communities in sports and physical activities.  The programme had a lot of success in raising participation, not least because of the partnership approach and linking of sport to other funding pots and wider social outcomes.  The new Sports Minister,  Tracey Crouch could learn a lot from the SAZ experience, in that structures to make it happen and investment to make participation sustainable needs to be in place. But its not just about funding and infrastructure.

My experience of sport, like many others, was informed from my school days. Being a plump child and not particularly good at anything, I was often left standing in my aertex top, plimsolls and chest high PE knickers in the blistering rain, waiting to be picked reluctantly by a fit, competent team captain.

My PE teachers were not much better, their focus was on winning coveted inter-school competitions and stragglers and poor performers like myself were, at best, tolerated and at worst ignored.  My parents could not have been more disinterested in sport and did not encourage any of us to take part in activities.  So if  campaigns like This Girl Can were around in my day, I am sure this would have motivated me and many others who had little direction and role models to keep on trying.

It was based on my experiences that I was determined that my children would find an interest in some form of physical activity, to ensure that my history did not repeat itself. My daughter found kick-boxing and my son found football, despite neither of them having a good experience with sport at school.  This meant lots of trips, forgoing Saturday and Sunday mornings to ferry him around to matches and events and the cost of replacing equipment particularly football boots every few months to cope with ever expanding feet.  My kids continue in physical activity now they are older and I put this down to them having opportunities and a supportive single parent with sufficient resources to make it happen.

It should come as no surprise that my conclusions about healthy and active lifestyles are rooted in our early experience and dependent on the following conditions:

  • Parents/Guardians have to play a critical role in encouraging, supporting and motivating their children to take part in activities, regardless of their abilities
  • Parents/Guardians have to have the time and financial resources and access to transport to support this participation
  • Schools need to work with parents/guardians and recognise the value that extra-curricular activities have on a child’s development and reinforce positive messages about participation regardless of ability.

Taking this further, active participation in physical activity in adulthood comes down to having the time, resources and confidence to take part.  I discovered I was a reasonable swimmer in my thirties and really enjoyed it, swimming up to three miles a week.  But sustaining it was a problem because of working, commuting and family commitments which meant that something had to give way in my life. Now some of those responsibilities have abated I am looking to start swimming again but the cost of using a private gym where I can be guaranteed of a lane is going to set me back a pretty penny. 

But participation is also linked to facilities that fit around people’s lifestyles and culture. A small group of muslim women I work with really want to take part in women only swimming sessions, but lack of transport, cost and suitability of the facilities have so far served as barriers for taking part. They are not a big enough group to make it worthwhile for a dedicated session and will find a regular routine difficult to maintain with their caring responsibilities.  The costs of setting something up to cater specifically for these needs would be seen as disproportionate.

My point is that raising participation is not easy, when you factor in personal choice, family circumstances, resources and access.

European Sports Week starts in earnest in a couple of weeks time building european-wide momentum to drive sports participation.  And small grant programmes like Freesport we manage on behalf of the Mayor for London provide an essential lifeline to communities to take part in local activities.  But if we are to reverse the health challenges facing us through physical activity then we need a coordinated approach and one where we can make a generational difference.  Lets start with families and schools.

Caroline Masundire

A swansong for messy admin through digital grants

A swansong for messy admin through digital grants

The benefits of digital grantmaking

When it comes to using digital tools to get smart about managing grants, using an online application process is a small piece of the grant making jigsaw. Many organisations have online forms, but behind the scenes day-to-day of grant administration is still undertaken via a mountain of paperwork, a group inbox and a shared folder full of multiple versions of excel spreadsheets. I call this model of grant management ‘The Swan’ (serene on the surface, but paddling like mad underneath).  I find myself both frustrated and excited to come across a Swan. I feel the frustration at the time taken up just maintaining an accurate record of everything Grants Officers have to do – let alone actually doing anything.  But I also share a grant panel’s belief and optimism that ‘surely it should be easy to pull those figures together’.

As I manage four very different grant programmes, I am really excited by the benefits of going to a fully digital service not least the ease of use, but to improve the experience and make it more efficient for grantees, funders and administrators alike.

1. Intelligent forms: no more duff applications

Clever forms can stop applicants wasting time completing applications to funds that they are not eligible for.  Forms can validate answers so that reviewers do not have to pore over budgets that do not make sense and they can use logic to branch and ask applicants relevant questions. For an applicant, this is much more user-friendly, because they aren’t distracted by questions that aren’t relevant  or confused by generic instructions and guidance. This can actually raise the quality of applications because you can be more targeted in your questions, and consequently applicants are more succinct and direct in their answers – giving you  the information you really need. By displaying relevant instructions and tips, guidance is much more likely to be read and followed!

2. Robust assessment: freedom to concentrate on content and quality not coordination

Applications can go through an eligibility screening and/or bespoke scoring process. Our system captures comments, conditions and decisions, and can generate panel packs, review documents, score sheets and summaries and excel exports into templates with minimum effort.

Reviewer dashboard

This is all tracked and managed online and is a painless process for reviewers. We can customise what information is displayed, in what order, with associated guidance and direction. As the system is always up-to-date with the most recent activity, reviewers can score little and often,  workloads can be shared across a team, with individuals able to access and score the same application simultaneously. We can also apply weightings to assessment criteria, or apply ‘z-scores’ and ‘confidence weightings’ as well as record conflicts of interest – all without adding complexity or time to administration.

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This means that Grant Officers are freed up to analyse fund metrics and provide insights – such as what is the profile of applicants, are they scoring similarly in the review process, or are there emerging patterns in the strengths and weaknesses of applicant subgroups? Useful intelligence if you are trying to make sure you are reaching the right audience.

3. Tailored offers: diversity without complexity

It is easy to allocate, manage and update conditions and deadlines for each applicant. This helps to respond flexibly to individual project’s circumstances. Any conditions and deadlines are automatically reflected in the offer letters, grant agreements and emails that Grant Officers can generate directly from the system.  Documentation is associated with each applicant’s record, along with notes and comments left by Grant Officers. All this makes it easy for anyone in the team to understand what is going on – meaning that the world does not stop when Grant Officers go on leave and the auditor is kept happy (well, as much as they can be!).

4. Painless, accurate and timely monitoring

We can create online monitoring forms linked to the original application form. Applicants can update you on their progress and expenditure against the project’s milestones, activities and targets;  See at a glance who’s late, when you last nagged them, who has a good excuse and who has now earned a ‘grumpy email’. Applicants can view (but not change) previous submissions, see what deadlines are coming up and initiate their own monitoring. As with all online forms, they can start and return to a form later, and you can check on their progress so far.

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All in all, this helps ensure that your resources are supporting individual projects to realise their objectives and that your overall programme is on track to achieve its objectives.

5. Robust disbursement: Giving money made easy

Individual payments can be scheduled, approved and recorded in the system. Applicants and officers can see at a project level what has been requested, awarded, claimed and paid – and, if applicable, what milestones and activities these monies relate to. The system aggregates this information into a dashboard with an easy to view fund summary or allows you to dive into the detail of payment records, at a fund, grant or applicant level (all of which can be exported into Excel).

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All this streamlines and simplifies disbursement for all parties – allowing payments to be made quickly, and makes the ‘giving of money’ as easy as it should be. The system can also manage funds with awards of a fixed amount, or with a non-monetary value such as capacity building support or awards.

6. Applicant experience: focus on support not compliance

Less administration means that Grant Officers can focus their time on the content and quality of their interactions with projects, concentrating on addressing needs and supporting outcomes rather than wholly on compliance. Whilst all the administration is online and virtual – in practice our experience is that working relationships become stronger, and we are available to provide more and better support by phone and in person.  We can also help individuals who need more specific help with a disability or language need.

Applicants are appreciating this more personalised experience, alongside the ‘one stop shop’ for information, with the ability to log in to view the status of their application or monitoring and to view or print copies of past submissions. We have more visibility and control over the information that is being submitted than ever before – so there are more ‘right first time’ submissions reducing the need for clarifications and corrections.

And its not just me who is saying this:

I have said it already and I will say it again – by far the best funding project we have been a part of with regards to application, set up, monitoring and evaluation!!!

Jess Hall, Senior Dance Development Officer, Saracens Sport Foundation and recipient of FreeSport funding administered by Rocket Science through our digital grants platform.


Rocket Science working with Flexigrant provides digital grants tools and services to our clients, ranging from the digital management of entire funds to the provision of specific functionality such as assessments to support in-house management of discrete elements of the grant process.  To find out more contact John Griffiths or Anna Spinks.

Online funding portal – making applications and monitoring easy

Online funding portal – making applications and monitoring easy

As no two grant funds are the same, we customise a Project Management System (PMS) for collecting and analysing management information so that it is appropriate for each fund and proportionate to the size of grant award. In the past, we have relied on a number of tools which we have tended to design and develop using Microsoft Excel in order to organise and maintain up-to-date information on the projects.

With the development of our Rocket Science Grants Management portal grantees can access and download the tools to support them in gathering and recording the required data, and submit their monitoring forms online. Each project can have customised reporting deadlines; submissions are tracked and flagged to the Grant Management team if they are late. Data within monitoring forms is automatically validated against common mistakes (such as mathematical errors using percentages, as we experienced in FreeSport Round 1), with relevant advice provided to help grantees complete accurate returns.

The portal also enables us to export dependable data into bespoke tools which we can use for client-specific needs, such as producing data sets to support the assessment of applications and highly intuitive information packs to support grant panels’ decision making.  We can also build customised progress reports which we export in order to support funders own reporting requirements.

Find our more by contacting Anna