Audio applications? Helping to throw the grants net wider

CDPS and Sport Wales have been trawling the grant-giving landscape for more inclusive ways to award funds – emerging with promising results

10 March 2022

CDPS has been working with Sport Wales to increase the reach and impact of community grants © Lars Bo Nielsen/Unsplash

Over the past half-year, Sport Wales in partnership with the Centre for Digital Public Services has been exploring how to increase the reach and impact of the organisation’s community grants. Our combined team have spoken to more than 50 actual and potential grant applicants, sports organisations that rely upon grants and other grant providers.

What we have learned so far could be of interest to any grant-providing organisation.

Talk to all your users – including the ones you don’t have yet

The most important thing the team found was to talk, not only to people already using a grants system, but also to those who are not using it – but who could be. Speaking to both such groups has helped us to think critically about Sport Wales’s grant systems in full.

We found that it was not just eligibility that affected whether someone applied for a grant but the nature of the application system itself. The technical limitations of the system also affected the efficiency of grant administration, including how well administrators could use data to make grant-giving decisions.

Finally, those technical limitations threw up accessibility barriers – to disabled people, for example – further limiting the range of potential grant applicants.

Who are you failing to reach?

Interviewing people who had applied for grants, successfully or unsuccessfully, did give us insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the existing system. But, of course, what it did not do was to tell us much about the experience of people who had been put off applying. The first step to finding out more about those experiences was to define exactly who Sport Wales might be failing to reach.

Our team has had conversations with organisations across the UK that have tackled such a question themselves. One thing we’ve learned is that using existing networks can be more effective than just expanding the reach of your own. That means partnering with organisations with different remits from grant-giving to reach a wider range of people.

You also need to define the impact that a grant might have upon an organisation to gauge the effectiveness of grant-giving overall. Defining that impact can make grant eligibility clearer. Sport Wales’s priorities for grant-giving are to encourage equality, innovation and sustainability. Knowing that can give users a clearer understanding of their eligibility for a grant.

Minimum viable data

Feedback from users of the current Sport Wales grant system was that the application form was too long and repetitive. Sport Wales has responded by beginning to work out the least data the organisation needs to make effective grant decisions or to fulfil oversight requirements. We also looked at where to ask for that information – for example, Sport Wales only needed an applicant’s bank details if it was awarding a grant. As a result, the aim is to strip back the questions that Sport Wales asks applicants substantially.

Some organisations were, innovatively, co-designing their grant application processes with groups that were eligible to apply but were not doing so (because of poor English skills, for example). This led organisations to allow groups to send video or audio applications, as well as written ones.

This is just one step towards designing more inclusive grant-application processes, so the only barrier to applying for a grant is whether you are eligible or not.

To find more about this project, or if you’re a grant giver who would like to share your experiences, leave a comment below or email CDPS

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