Big Lottery Fund makes changes to the Reaching Communities programme for England

Dharmendra Kanani, director of the BLF in England, says changes include earlier notification of success and the removal of the upper grant limit of £500,000

Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

The Big Lottery Fund has announced changes to its Reaching Communities programme for England that include removing the upper grant limit of £500,000.

The programme, which has been running since 2006 and will have awarded £1bn to community and voluntary sector organisations by spring 2014, gives grants of more than £10,000 to projects that help people and communities most in need.

Dharmendra Kanani, director of the BLF in England, told Third Sector the changes would make the programme "a better, faster, simpler experience" for charities.

These include more rapid notification of success or failure for applicants to the fund, which is worth a total of £150m in 2012/13. Kanani said this would be achieved by asking charities to provide more information about their ideas in the first part of the two-stage application process.

He said Big Advice, the BLF helpline that was launched in February, has experienced grant-makers on hand to provide advice about what makes a good application and to talk through ideas and how they can be strengthened.

"Charities can start talking about their ideas at an early stage and be given a view about whether or not they are going to fly," said Kanani. "The changes are about reducing the bureaucracy and the amount of wasted effort on both sides."

In the past, some organisations had had to wait up to eight months for a decision, he said. Charities would now be told whether they had successfully made it through stage one in less than a month, he said.  

The upper grant limit has been removed to allow the fund to support larger projects. For projects worth more than £500,000, charities should call Big Advice to talk about their ideas, Kanani said.

Feasibility funding of up to £10,000 had been made available, he said, and for the first time organisations would be able to apply for revenue as well as capital funding to help support building projects in their early stages.

Kanani said that through visiting projects and meeting with sector leaders he found the programme was often seen as too complex, having a low success rate and a demand that far outstripped funds.

Kanani said the changes were part of his wider ambition to create a "single funding platform" for England, and further improvements to Reaching Communities would be announced next year.

"We’ve combined capital and revenue, added feasibility awards and taken the limit off so people can apply for multimillion-pound awards, so in that sense it gives an idea of what a wider, single platform will look like in the future," he said.

Jenna Pudelek

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