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How to plan for the end of a funding programme

As the end of the Fair Share Trust programme nears, Local Agents and panels are starting to evaluate the outcomes and impact of their work in FST areas. 

Due to the way the Fair Share Trust was set up, the programme finished in Scotland in 2010, and learning from Scottish Community Foundation (SCF), the Local Agent, will be invaluable to other Local Agents as they start evaluation of both the impact on local projects and the management of the programme. 

This How To looks at SCF’s experience of managing FST in Scotland and explores some key learning points which other Local Agents, funders and strategic programme developers might find useful.

1

Establishing the programme

The Toryglen (Glasgow) FST area was successful in achieving a fully strategic approach by engaging multiple stakeholders from the outset. The local panel took the time to consult and identify the best use of funds, and ended up choosing a single priority for their work in the area.

  • Learning: strict conditions should be in place requiring stakeholders from community and local agencies to be engaged with the programme from the outset.

Starting the programme without full guidance for all involved resulted in difficulties, especially when working with groups of local people who felt that the rules may have changed part way through.

  • Learning: it is essential that full and accessible guidance is established, piloted and shared prior to starting any programme of this scale.

The creation of areas that are not normally identified as a community presented a challenge when engaging with existing cohesive groups.

  • Learning: local identities within communities need to be acknowledged from the start and areas established with consultation and input from local people
2

Grantmaking

Strategic grantmaking working with rather than for communities is very different from traditional grantmaking, is more time-consuming and is a new way of working for a number of people involved in FST.

  • Learning: early and ongoing training for staff and panel members would help the programme realise its strategic aims. Additional resource should be allocated to strategic grantmaking to recognise the additional work involved.

Supporting groups to apply for funds can raise expectations, although the process does strengthen the Local Agent’s knowledge of the project, especially with regard to conditions being placed on grant offers to manage risk.

  • Learning: there should be a clear and transparent separation between the support and assessment processes to manage groups’ expectations.

At times, SCF felt that groups were struggling to achieve all the outcomes identified in their application in time for the end of grant deadlines.

  • Learning: a long programme reduces the pressure to spend a grant too quickly. In addition, setting realistic outputs and outcomes from the beginning helps groups retain focus and achieve what has been agreed.
3

Working with panels

The Scotland-wide FST Panel has proven to be a valuable steering group, arbiter and high-level decision-making body, keeping an eye on the terms of the Trust Deed. This is particularly useful when assessing contentious funding applications – e.g. when a local panel is nervous about a decision for fear of alienating local groups, they have been able to defer to the Scotland-wide panel.

  • Learning: ensure that lines of communication and decision-making are clear and that everyone feels supported in their roles through independent arbitration.

Keeping panel members engaged after funds have been committed and spent can be difficult, leading to a lack of continuity towards the end of the programme.

  • Learning: keep panel members engaged once funding has been spent, e.g. through involvement in monitoring or project visits, ambassadorial roles, meeting panel members from other areas, or having funded projects report direct to the panel.

One of the fears from the outset was that if something went wrong, this would impact negatively on the local panel members.

  • Learning: ensure clarity around the various responsibilities of local panel members and Local Agents.
4

Monitoring and evaluation

At the start of the programme, SCF developed a neighbourhood-level outcomes & indicator framework which was later cross referenced against the UK-wide framework. However, in some projects’ cases, too many outcomes were selected which made it difficult to obtain collective data across the entirety of the programme.

  • Learning: agree a basic set of outcomes & indicators from the outset across all neighbourhoods to enable impact to be aggregated. As grant offers are made, the framework can be tweaked to encompass project-level specifics, but basic data needs to be captured consistently and easily for projects with low capacity.
5

End of programme spend

The end of programme in Scotland has revealed that it takes considerably longer for areas to spend all funds than first anticipated. This has been due to project underspend and at times slowness of panels to allocate remaining or returned funds.

  • Learning: it is essential that the levels of funds held by Local Agents and projects is closely monitored and contingency plans established for the spending of left-over allocated funds, to make sure all funds are spent as effectively as possible in neighbourhoods.

Flexibility of priorities documents and budgets is strength of the programme.

  • Learning: by careful monitoring of spend against budgets, you can make the most of this flexibility, and variations should be proactively requested when spend falls outside forecasted budget.
6

Local Agent & CFN deadlines

SCF missed a number of deadlines for key programme work, especially around monitoring and evaluation and this has resulted in delays in closing the programme in Scotland.

  • Learning: a portion of the management fee could be withheld from each Local Agent until all final deadlines have been met and the programme closed on a local level
7

Recommendations

Establishing the programme

  • Require stakeholder engagement from the outset
  • Establish and pilot clear guidance right from the start
  • Find local identities from the start and ensure they are involved in decision-making

Grantmaking

  • Consider training for all decision-makers if establishing an unfamiliar way of working
  • Clearly separate support and assessment processes
  • Ensure projects set achievable outcomes

Working with panels

  • Ensure that lines of communication are clear
  • Ensure independent arbitration for difficult decisions and high-level planning
  • Keep panel members engaged until the end of the programme
  • Ensure the different roles of panel members and funders are clearly laid out

Monitoring & evaluation

  • Agree a basic set of outcomes & indicators from the outset

End of programme spend

  • Monitor levels of funds held to ensure underspend is dealt with quickly

Deadlines

  • Build into the programme a mechanism for ensuring final deadlines are met

Further information

Local Impact reports of Fair Share Trust areas in Scotland 

 

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Page last edited Jul 10, 2017 History

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