Big Lottery Fund awarded nearly £25m to solicited bids since start of 2010

New figures show more than £11m was allocated to Social Finance and £4.5m to the Big Lunch

Big Lottery Fund
Big Lottery Fund

-This story was clarified on 14 June: see final paragraph

The Big Lottery Fund has awarded nearly £25m to solicited bids since the beginning of last year, according to figures released on Friday.

Two charity chief executives last week criticised the practice of soliciting bids, under which the BLF invites organisations to apply for funding rather than leaving them to apply for themselves.

The two said it was unfair and lacked transparency. They also questioned the number of awards made to London-based organisations, such as the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, which shares a building with the BLF.

The BLF has the power to solicit bids when it sees fit. Of the £25m awarded this way over the past 18 months, £11.25m has been given in two instalments to Social Finance, a company developing new voluntary sector financial products, including the social impact bond.

The Eden Project has also been solicited twice, on both occasions for its initiative The Big Lunch, an annual national community-building event. It received £4.55m in total.

Other beneficiaries include the Media Trust, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Your Square Mile.

A BLF spokeswoman said it had solicited 14 awards since the beginning of last year out of 14,000 total grants. A BLF statement said:"We maintain a broad dialogue with the voluntary sector at large about emerging programmes, themes and strategies and occasionally this throws up an opportunity to invest in the delivery of outcomes we are not reaching through our demand-led programmes. 

"We have made no secret of our powers to solicit and it is part of our intelligent funding approach to grasp those opportunities."

Organisations funded by solicited bids

Social Finance £11.25m

Eden Project £4.55m

UnLtd £2.2m

Nesta £2m

Media Trust £1.9

NCVO £842,707

The Young Foundation £822,508

Enterprise UK £250,000

Third Sector Research Centre £198,143

Local Government Improvement and Development £100,000

G4S £48,918


-The BLF says up to £11.25m has been "allocated" to the Social Impact Bond initiative, developed by Social Finance. £6.25m will be used to "support" the first Social Impact Bond at Peterbrough Prison, it says, and £5m will be used by Social Finance to develop further pilot schemes and raise awareness of the bonds. Social Finance says the £6.25 will be used "in part" for running costs, but will be"predominately" reserved to pay investors in the bond if the reoffending project at the prison is successful.


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