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How to explore EU funding

Obtaining funding in this current climate is proving challenging for any voluntary organisation, so it is wise to look at as many different avenues as possible.

There’s a big pool of funding available to organisations from the European Union (EU). It’s a source of funding that can often be overlooked, often being seen as an overly bureaucratic protracted process, which could potentially waste time and resources. But with the right amount of time and planning devoted to the process, it could work out as an invaluable source of funding.

Things you'll need

  • Some time
  • Up to 3 partners (in some cases)
  • A project in mind

Find out what funding is available

There are two types of funds available: EU Structural funds and EU grants.

The EU Structural Funds include the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and are intended to support social and economic restructuring whereas EU grants are given for projects and activities in relation to EU policies.

There are also grants of up to £12,000 specifically designed for smaller organisations to support people seeking to move closer to the labour market.  These are called community grants. 



Seek out people to help

There are lots of people out there who are available to help with your funding bids.  Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, even if it’s to ask the meaning of an acronym.

Try to attend as many events, training sessions, seminars, and workshops as possible to learn about making bids and running them in accordance with the regulations.

There are  information centres dotted around England that offer practical support for smaller organisations on how to go about applying for funding. 

There are UK and Commission coordinators for the programmes – go to the European Commission website to find the contact details.

You can find out how to get in touch with organisations working in your region on the European Funding Network website.


Check the guidelines

Once you have found a potential fund for your organisation, don’t waste your time preparing a bid without…

  • Reading through the projects guidelines first to find out if your organisation is eligible to apply for the funding.
  • Checking the duration of the projects.  EU Funding programmers last for seven years and so some changes can happen during this period. 
  • ensure that the project is meeting the programme's requirements
  • Understanding the selection criteria and scoring system is vital, remember that you will be held responsible for delivering your outputs and outcomes at the costs agreed. 
  • Checking the application deadlines.

Commit to European dimension to your work

Remember that a precondition for receiving funding is that your organisation covers a part of EU policy, which is very likely as it has a broad remit.

You’ll need to demonstrate the added value from an European perspective, e.g. through sharing best practices with your European partners.

There is a partner search facility on the Commission programmes websites to help identify potential transnational partners.


Find strong partners

Ask yourself could your organisation deliver a fund better if you worked in partnership?
Choosing the right partner can make a difference especially if they already have expertise in European funding.

Seek out and get in touch with any important partnership groups in your area to see what areas they are already working on.

Your local Council for Voluntary Service or Rural Community Council should be able to help.

Or you can use Funding Central’s free Partner Zone.


Give your organisation a health check

It is vital to consider how much match funding your project requires and where it will come from.

European funding is unlikely to cover all the costs of your project - the majority of programmes only fund between 50% and 75% of the project costs - so make sure that either you have match funding yourself, or there is match funding available through a co-financing body or another partner.

You will need to provide evidence of your match-funding during the application process.

Find out more about co-financing on the European Social Fund webiste.

And remember most of European Structural Funds can only be claimed retrospectively, that is after you have actually spent the money.


Bear in mind that if successful, you will also need to have the capacity to devote resources for this work. Report writing can be time consuming, working with partners in other countries can mean be tricky due to language and culture barriers and your organisation should be prepared in the case of delays in payments.


Don't get distracted

Amid all the bureaucracy, don't lose sight of your original purpose, for success will be in terms of the benefits your project brings to the people and communities you work with.

Further information

Before you start, check out the European Commission's Beginners' Guide to EU Funding.

Search for funds



Page last edited May 16, 2019 History

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