Lottery grant shake-up planned

The Community Fund is to pilot a radical new grant application process from January that will judge projects on the results they are expected to achieve.

The system will be introduced in Scotland first and if successful will be extended throughout the UK towards the end of next year.

The financial management and stability of organisations will become less important than whether they have the ability to deliver their aims and whether a project's probable outcomes fit with Community Fund priorities.

Adrienne Kelbie, the Community Fund's deputy chief executive and Scotland director, said: "Our decisions will be based on two key concerns - what difference a project will make to the lives of disadvantaged people, and how likely the applicant is to make that difference happen.

"Our scoring system will be simplified, and we will take more account of the differing demands made on applicants by their proposed projects. A group seeking a £10,000 award for a local project will not be expected to have such robust financial systems as an organisation seeking £300,000 for a complex project."

Other elements of the regime include face-to-face meetings with grants officers and weekly surgeries for voluntary groups before applications are made. A shorter, application form will be introduced.

Weaker projects will be rejected earlier through the introduction of a compulsory outline proposal, enabling grants officers to give more attention to applications likely to secure funding.

Worthwhile applications can be "paused" to allow for flaws to be rectified rather than requiring a fresh application to be made.

Lottery commentator Luke FitzHerbert of the Directory of Social Change said: "This is a complete abandonment of the existing assessment process which charities have learnt in intimate detail. The previous system concentrated heavily on how well a project was organised. Now it will concentrate on what it will achieve.

"We welcome this because the old system had become too rigid. But we are worried it will use an exaggerated concentration on outcomes which could disadvantage charities whose outcomes are soft, varied or long term."

Third Sector understands that there is still debate within the Community Fund about whether all projects should be subject to measurement of short-term outcomes, or whether assessment should be more flexible.

Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: "We are in favour of any development which helps to streamline the process for voluntary organisations accessing funding. I'm sure all voluntary organisations in Scotland will be eagerly awaiting further details from the Community Fund."

The application system is being piloted with approval from the New Opportunities Fund and will not be affected by the merger of the two lottery boards which is expected to take place by April.

The Fund awarded grants worth £361m in 2001-2, which amounts to 17.5 per cent of all National Lottery good causes funding.

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