Luck or graft? Funding applications

Pip Tyler, Communities up Close project manager, reflects on making funding applications to undertake this research project

You know it’s not easy to get grant funding for a project you care about. In fact, our project was turned down the first time we applied for it. I can’t know why our second application for funding to run the Communities up Close project was successful, only a funder can do that. But I can share what steps we took and some of the things we’d do again.

When we heard about a government funding stream to address the impact of migration in local communities, the Controlling Migration Fund, we sat down and thought about what we’d like to apply for. What did we really want to do? As a regional organisation, we didn’t want to duplicate existing work or applications submitted by the councils we support, so we had to do something at a different scale to one local authority level that could be valuable and insightful for all of them.

What would spark enthusiasm in us? I started thinking about the chasm between migration policy making and migration trends at the national level, and how local integration, cohesion and inclusion take place [or don’t] at the opposite end of the scale. As a resident, each of us experiences migration in a very individual way. It can be a very different experience for people in one precise location to another, even a few streets away within the same city or town. And so small places and everyday experiences of migration became key factors in our project design. Since I was able to follow up a genuine curiosity [notice this paragraph is the longest in this blog entry] it’s sustained my attention in the topic over several years and helped to guide many of the subsequent decisions we needed to take during the project.

I made time to discuss ideas with the senior staff in our organisation early on, and got their backing and willingness to get involved in the application and budget planning.

My colleague consulted fellow council officers about our initial ideas. They told him they wanted to plan services better. They wanted to respond to migration better, to mitigate the impacts of migration. They talked about having a regional benchmark they could compare to. They were developing cohesion strategies and wanted to support migrant communities. They wanted to reduce negative experiences and perceptions of migration. They also wanted to understand the impacts of the financial crisis. We tried to include these elements in what we were planning.

Our financial wizard recognised that we didn’t have all the skills to do this project wholly ourselves, so she included a budget to commission those elements. I asked for advice from friendly and experienced researchers about how they’d budget for a good quality piece of work with our requirements.

Finally, and crucially, I developed a constructive working relationship with a person at the funding body who had offered to answer questions. So I took her at her word asked quite a few! I checked they were interested in principle in the kind of project we wanted to do, and asked if she’d look at a draft in good time before the deadline. I realised we had to make changes that weren’t part of our original plan as a consequence.

Even if you read the funding guidance carefully, you don’t know what the decision maker is always looking for or influenced by - that’s the luck element. But for the part we did have control over - we put in a lot of graft!

Tips – or what I’d tell myself next time

  • Focus on the funder’s overall interest, then ask yourself what you really want to be able to do. Can the two come together without fudging it?
  • Is your project original and unlikely to duplicate someone else’s?
  • Consult your colleagues, potential funder, stakeholders and other peers, and take what they say seriously.
  • Listen to any feedback from the funder and ask questions. Be willing to adapt your plans.
  • Can you do this project internally or do you need to consider findings other people and organisations with the missing skills and resources? [whether through subcontracts or employment].
  • Give enough time for developing your ideas as well as time to complete a thorough application form.
  • Persist – we applied twice before being successful.


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Page last updated: 28/08/2020 07:15:33

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