Big Society Network made exaggerated claims in project funding application, newspaper claims

According to The Independent, the Big Lottery Fund awarded £1m to the BSN for its Britain's Personal Best project on the basis of its alleged strategic relationships with the IoF and Acevo

Britain's Personal Best
Britain's Personal Best

The Big Society Network overstated the support it had from organisations including the Institute of Fundraising and the charity leaders organisation Acevo in its funding application to the Big Lottery Fund for its doomed Britain’s Personal Best project, a national newspaper has reported.

The BSN was awarded almost £1m in April 2013 by the BLF for Britain’s Personal Best, which was planned to run a weekend of activities in October 2013 to build on the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games.

But the weekend was unsuccessful and the BLF withdrew the grant, although most of the money had already been spent.

The Independent newspaper reported today that the funding application – submitted after the BLF had invited the BSN to apply under its "solicited bids" procedure – overstated the depth of its involvement with partners including the IoF, Acevo and the NHS Confederation.

A BLF spokeswoman confirmed that the application submitted by the BSN had described the IoF and Acevo as "strategic network partners".

The application said the arrangement with the IoF would provide "access to and engagement with the UK’s largest fundraising charities" such as Save the Children, Shelter and Scope.

A spokesman for the IoF said it had decided not to become an official partner of the project after funding had been awarded. "We were approached by the Big Society Network so it could outline the Britain’s Personal Best project to us," he said. "It was keen to talk to our members about Britain’s Personal Best to gauge their level of interest – part of our role at the institute is to introduce our members to new ideas.

"We put a sponsorship proposal to it to do a short presentation at our national convention and an invitation-only breakfast for senior fundraisers, which it did in July 2013.

"We were listed as a potential partner in the application form to the BLF, but with no advance commitment or agreement on future work. After the funding was awarded, we decided not to become an official partner because we did not want to commit to delivering the specific individual outcomes that it proposed."

A spokesman for Acevo said it had found working with the BSN difficult and would not do so again. He said his organisation had provided a quote for the press release issued about the project last year, but it did not recognise the language that was used in it to describe Acevo.

A statement issued to The Independent by the trustees of the BSN said: "The bid document for funding from the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of the Britain’s Personal Best programme was prepared rigorously and diligently over a nine-month period. The process involved consultations with a broad range of civil society organisations and other partners and at every stage during this period we worked with the Big Lottery Fund to respond to their requests to ensure that it met their specific requirements.

"The bid document was detailed, clear and transparent. The trustees are not aware of any political involvement at all in the process.

"All the partner organisations were known to the Big Lottery Fund and the bid proposal included precisely the contributions they agreed to make. Overall, the Britain’s Personal Best programme helped create thousands of positive experiences for the participants at the many events that were organised throughout the country, and we were disappointed we could not reach an agreement with the Big Lottery Fund on how to continue this work in the future."

The BLF spokeswoman said: "We recognise the bid was ambitious and funding it was a risk. Close monitoring and additional terms and conditions were included in the grant offer for that reason.

"The success of the project was highly dependent on successful engagement with a number of partners who had written to confirm their support to us. We put a number of measures in place to review and monitor progress made. We withdrew the grant once it became clear that the agreed outcomes were not going to be met."

She said letters of support from key partners had been received during the assessment process, including from those organisations that had now expressed concerns.

Andy Ricketts

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