I have been writing and sending off funding bids on a weekly basis for the last 4 months in my current role at Durham YFC, and before then was responsible for finding funding for the detached project i was working in in Perth, if memory serves me right i was applying for funding there for 2-3 years, so all in all, maybe i haven’t been involved in applying for funding that long in the grand scheme of things, but in a way it has been part of my role for about 60% of the time i have been involved in faith based youth work. Some of the recent grant holders make me laugh, or at least the expectations of what they require of a project or organisation to be able to provide.
There’s one particular funder whose maximum grant is £2,000 and it feels like they want the blood type of every young person reported in their forms, or at the very least, the blood type of the trustees, it is that demanding for a relatively small amount. There are funders who request that an outcome for young people is that they are in full time employment – Hello people? have they seen the unemployment figures for the North East – and how many people are queuing for jobs let alone young people. For others it is to justify a ‘faith’ position, or outcomes or targets, and we know that lots want innovation and experience – which is very difficult to navigate.
However, it got me thinking, having had to respond to 100’s of questions in funding forms and applications, what are the things that are never requested from the key funders to us as representatives of projects, organisations and youthworkers- and maybe we wish they would …., what if the funding forms had these questions instead ? :
- Please detail the experience and qualifications of the key workers. (it might be in some bids but ive rarely seen it)
- Tell us how you will enhance a young persons well being?
- Describe how young people will develop better relationships and values towards their local community?
- Tell us about the integrity and values that you try & adhere to?
- Describe how you might encourage the young people you work with to take political action seriously as part of their citizenship?
- Tell us how the time you spend in conversation and building supportive relationships with young people is worthwhile for them in and of itself?
- Describe how your work with only a small number of young people is valuable without finding the need to expand or increase its number, sell a franchise or disseminate this to other areas?
- Describe how you plan to increase and support the well being of the staff and volunteers as they deliver this emotionally challenging work with young people
- Describe how your project works and is good for the young people without it needing to identify increased school attendance, employment or even reduction in crime, smoking or drug use as part of this.
- Tell us about how your project helps young people discover a passion for music, philosophy, learning, sport, drama or history even though School has already expelled them.
- Please show us you have a track record in delivering work in this field without having to have large accounts, staffing or a £500,000 turnover.
- Tell us about the long term process and strategy of your work in the culture that you are in and we will fund it for 5 years. (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha)
- Tell us about the young people you work with in a way that doesnt emphasise their needs, criminal behaviour, risk factors, postcode poverty and school attendance – what you as an organisation believe and think about young people is more important that the circumstance and life chances that their upbringing and societal barriers have given them. So – tell us about their gifts instead…
Im sure there are others, and it might be quite amusing to come up with a longer list of ‘things we’d like to have in funding bids, but there isnt a hope in hell right now’ list. In the meantime, we have to fulfil rigid outcomes agendas, or targets, or comply with the ideology of government policy on young peoples destinations (if small organisations ever got anywhere close to government commissioned grants), and as funding from personal funding in some areas is on the wane, the funding bids just keep on coming. We know what we dont like having to jump through hoops to get, but what would be the alternative questions of application?
So maybe if a few million pounds came my way and i could give it away to youthwork practice, these might be the kinds of questions, or non questions that id put on the application form.