A report from Sported has found that a lack of recognition of the common characteristics of many community groups, and an over-simplification of terms to define the disadvantaged, means many are being excluded from accessing grants vital for future survival.
Sported questioned members of its network of community sport, and youth groups across the UK and found that many groups that are good at meeting the specific needs of the marginalised people they work, have common characteristics. However, these same characteristics mean they are disadvantaged when it comes to applying for funds.
The report found that those driven by local need, informed by lived experience, and deeply rooted in their community have had little need for an online presence, and their networks may be restricted. Leaders may also have English as a second language, which may make filling in online, written forms more challenging. And, being led by volunteers, and often one or two key people, means they have limited resources and aren’t able to commit the necessary time to write applications.
According to Sported’s report, very small or frugal groups have not needed detailed financial management systems, meaning the information available for funders is limited. If they have been very frugal in the past and have not sought grants, it can be a disadvantage because they are not known by the funders, and some funders want to see groups with reserves and a certain future, while those most in need are likely to have very limited reserves.
The report also highlights that the marginalised groups funds often focus on are broad and diverse, but the terminology used to define them can be limiting, such as those who are ‘less well-off’ or ‘BAME’. Other groups such as carers, young parents and single parents are not covered by this broad-brush approach to disadvantage. Furthermore, the BAME grouping does not consider the very different reasons each of the many different ethnicities and cultures, who fall into this grouping, may have for low participation rates in sport and physical activity.
Sported’s recommendations include that funders:
- Assess groups based on what they can deliver and with what resources, rather than how well they can write about need and outcomes
- Help groups to ‘decode’ application forms with clear explanations of terminology
- Make application form guidance also available via video
- Make funds exclusionary and set parameters
- Fund professional support alongside grants, so that groups can improve their application skills
Nicola Walker, Sported Chief Executive said:
“This report demonstrates the need for funders to work through local knowledge, rather than high level targets in order to meet the urgent financial need among some of the small and ‘hard-to-reach’ groups. Covid-19 has thrown up many problems and barriers that community groups just didn’t face two years ago. For community groups to survive and to deal with the issues they now face, it is vital that financial support is channeled to those groups who most need it, many of whom have never sought grant funding before.”
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