Applications have opened for grants from a £30m pot of funding aimed at helping frontline voluntary and community organisations collaborate more effectively by merging back-office functions and sharing services.
The Office for Civil Society’s Transforming Local Infrastructure programme, which is being administered by the Big Lottery Fund and was announced in the Giving White Paper in May, will provide funding for partnerships of local infrastructure organisations to pool their resources, foster peer-to-peer support in the local voluntary sector, and form better links with local businesses.
Applications will be accepted from voluntary and community organisations whose "main or only purpose is to support the work of other groups in the voluntary and community sector".
Grants of £250,000 to £400,000 are available. Organisations must register their interest in applying for funding by 5 August.
After that date, organisations must contact the other groups in their local authority area that have registered an interest to agree on one partnership, as only one application can be accepted from each area.
Applicants must also agree which organisation will lead the application on behalf of the partnership, and be responsible for overseeing the project.
The lead applicant must register an expression of interest, with details of the partnership, by 2 September. Funding is available to projects lasting up to 18 months.
Justin Davis Smith, chief executive of Volunteering England, welcomed the fund but said the window for applications was too small.
"There is no denying that the timetable in the guidance notes for drawing together local partnerships within seven weeks is problematic," he said.
"The lesson from ChangeUp is that such relationships take time to establish and nurture. While many local areas have created effective authority-wide organisations or consortia, there will be pressure in other areas for hastily convened marriages of convenience rather than the long-term strategic collaborations that are needed."