Support Staffordshire 'flabbergasted' by BLF funding rejection

The infrastructure organisation's bid for nearly £80,000 from the Building Connections fund was rejected because it did not meet the spending terms by 0.024 percentage points

A charity has complained to the Big Lottery Fund for refusing to consider a funding application that fell 0.024 per cent below its spending criteria.

Support Staffordshire, a county-wide infrastructure organisation, bid for £79,223 from Building Connections, an £11.5m fund that awards voluntary organisations between £30,000 and £100,000 for projects that tackle loneliness.

But the charity was told its submission would not be considered because it proposed spending 19.976 per cent of the grant by the end of March 2019, when the terms said it had to spend 20 per cent by this deadline.

Garry Jones, chief executive of Support Staffordshire, who worked on the eight-page bid with Age UK Staffordshire and local GPs, who would have been partners, told Third Sector: "I was flabbergasted.

"It can’t be right that applications, which take up many hours of unfunded time, are dismissed on such silly criteria without any opportunity for applicants to correct minuscule errors.

"Better still, apply a common-sense tolerance level. In this case the difference was £18.60, an amount we could easily have moved to meet the criteria, if really necessary.

"The really silly thing is that none of the successful applicants will exactly meet their budget projections anyway. You never do because it’s only a best guess and things such as expenses and national insurance always vary in reality."

Jones said his charity's bid fell short because he had rounded up the figure to the nearest 0.1 per cent in Excel and assumed it had therefore achieved the 20 per cent target.

"We advise other charities on applying for funding, so to fail at the first hurdle is actually slightly embarrassing," he admitted.

Jones said the fund should state clearly that 20 per cent "means 20.0000 per cent rather than 20 per cent" so other charities don't make the mistake of thinking they can round up.

A BLF spokeswoman said it had received 2,457 applications, requesting a total amount of £191m.

She added: "The high level of demand means we cannot fund all applications and we are not in a position to fund any that do not meet the eligibility criteria.

"We understand that this has disappointed Support Staffordshire, and we value the work the organisation does. We are proud to have funded Support Staffordshire through our Talent Match, Reaching Communities and Building Better Opportunities programmes, awarding it more than £1m since 2016."

The spokeswoman said that final decisions on Building Connections applications were currently going through a due-diligence process.

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