Funding Roundup (03.02.12)

Below are the latest funding and personal development schemes which are currently accepting applications. They are listing in order of deadline and we thank Tamar Millen at the CMA for sending many of them through. At the top of the page is the Funding Central automated update of new funds. If you know of another or would like your scheme to be added to this page, let us know.

Northsound event raises £25,000 for kids

Northsound Radio in Aberdeen has generated £25,000 for its charity Cash for Kids, marking 15 years of supporting local children. Their charity ball took place at Aberdeen’s Marcliffe Hotel and Spa and included entertainment by singer Emeli Sande.

Community Radio Fund – opens 19/10

This is advance notice that the second round for funding applications in 2011/12 will open on 19 October and close at 5pm on 16 November 2011. The Community Radio Fund Panel will meet to consider applications on 30 January 2012.

Grants can only be made to community radio licensees who are broadcasting under a community radio licence (and not an RSL, for example).

The latest application form and guidance notes are available below. Please also see statements detailing the outcome of previous Panel meetings.

For further information, please contact Ofcom’s Community Radio Team via email:, by telephone 020 7981 3870 or on the website:

Community Radio Fund 10/11 second round recipients announced

logo for the office of communicationsOfcom Community Radio Fund have announced the recipients of a grant from the second round of applications. The full statement can be read on the Ofcom website. Main points about the decisions made and the recipients are detailed as follows:

Ofcom’s Community Radio Fund Panel met on Monday 24 January 2011 to consider applications for the second round of grant awards for 2010/11. In summary:

  • The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) allocated £463,000 towards the Community Radio Fund for 2010/11
  • In the first round of funding in June 2010, the Panel made grants totalling £208,634,leaving £254,366 for the second round
  • A further £2,500 was returned to the fund from a previous grant recipient
  • 64 applications were considered
  • Funding applications totalled £1,196,138.46
  • 15 applicants were awarded grants which totalled £256,866
  • 49 applicants were not awarded a grant

Big society article by Ally Fogg

Community Radio Toolkit co-writer and ALL FM associate Ally Fogg has just published an analysis of the big society initiative after its first six months.

On the concept of ‘big society’ he points out what we all know within the charitable and voluntary sector, that:

the new government’s aspirations seemed far from fanciful. We spend every day supporting Britain’s millions of volunteers as they work to improve the lives of those around them, helping those in need, strengthening communities, cleaning up neighbourhoods, perhaps taking opportunities to learn new skills and improve their own prospects in the process. Our reaction to the “big society” was not disbelief or mockery, but a slightly exasperated cry: “But that’s what we’ve been doing for years!”

Though much of the article centres on the decreasing funding of publicly funded and supported charities, the article shows the potential ripple out effect of such structural changes. This encroaches on community radio funding as we all know.

Of course, many charities and voluntary projects are not funded from taxpayers’ cash, but that is little comfort. As statutory funding dries up, all projects chase the same ever-decreasing pots of charitable funds, trusts and private donations, significantly reducing the chances of securing new funds.

You can read the full article and the comments at the Guardian website.

We welcome all perspectives on topics like this due to the importance with community radio funding and the volunteers we work with daily. If you have an article to share, email us.

Ofcom publishes Community Radio Annual Report 2010

logo for the office of communicationsThe full pdf report can be accessed at the Ofcom page. What follows is the executive summary published this morning (18/11/10).

Executive summary

1.1 Community radio stations are not-for-profit radio services designed to operate on a small scale and to deliver community benefits, known as ‘social gain’, to one or more communities. The legislation enabling community radio services to be licensed was introduced in 2004 and amended in January 2010. The first community radio station launched in November 2005. This is Ofcom’s third annual report on the community radio sector.

1.2 Ofcom has to date licensed 228 stations over two rounds of licensing. 181 of these are broadcasting and a further 17 have either decided not to launch or have handed their licence back, largely to due to funding problems. The remainder are preparing to start broadcasting. The second round of licensing has now concluded and Ofcom is currently considering whether there will be a third round of community radio licensing.

Funding community radio

As a community radio station you cannot earn more than 50% of your revenue from commercial activities and advertising. You cannot receive more than 50% of your income from a single funder. You will be very lucky to access all the money you will need from grants and donations. So the chances are you will need to do all of these things and more in order to survive and thrive.

In other words, community radio is forced into a mixed economy. Typically, a station’s finances will be kept afloat by some combination of the following:

  • Grants;
  • Advertising and sponsorship;
  • Other commercial activities;
  • Local fund-raising, support in kind and donations;
  • Contracts for services (see Chapter 15);
  • LSC-funded training (see Chapter 13);


Grants are the principle source of income for most community radio stations. There is an endless list of trusts, charities, local, regional, national and European government pots, and innumerable other funders who may be willing to grant you small or large amounts in return for agreed outcomes. They range from the enormously wealthy and powerful (European Social Fund, Lottery Commission) to small local memorial trusts.

Funders don’t throw money at organisations because they feel sorry for them, they invest in projects that they believe will get results. Your relationship with your community and listeners opens up unique opportunities for social and economic regeneration funding, educational funding, health, community cohesion and social welfare funding and much more.

It is one thing to know that the money is out there. It is another to identify precise grants that may be available to you and persuading the funder to give you the money. Good fund-raisers develop an intuitive sense for where money might be available. The process of identifying and applying for funding can be so time consuming that you could spend every minute of the working day doing it, so it is crucial that you are smart about identifying which grants are worth applying for.

As a general rule, you are unlikely to find many funders that will pay you simply to make community radio, but you will find funds that will pay you to do many of the things that you need to do in order to make community radio – training, community development, youth work, tackling joblessness etc. Such project funding should include a contribution towards your core staff salaries and other overheads. Most of your activities should be highly appropriate for grant funding, and if they are not you should really ask yourself some questions about the nature of your activities.

Some starter tips for finding funding:

  • Visit your local voluntary sector umbrella group – they should have someone who advises on fundraising who will talk you through your options;
  • Sign up to e-mail lists, newsletters and bulletins, such as the Charities Information Bureau, NCVO’s funding newsletter, Artsnet, Mailout magazine etc.;
  • Think about how you could tailor your activities to make them more attractive to funders;
  • Network with/talk to individuals involved in awarding grants and funding;
  • Talk to the liaison or outreach workers employed by larger funding bodies. It is their job to find people to give money to and they will be delighted to explain how your project could fit into their funding criteria.

Making the right contacts

At local levels, many decisions about funding are made by a relatively small number of local VIPs, including councillors, executive officers and other local dignitaries. Winning the favour of these people will be useful for identifying potential sources of funding – it’s not uncommon to find out about grants from conversations that begin ‘have you heard about the new…’ Such networking may even help your grant applications through. Although most grants are awarded on a tick-box scoring system, at some stage there may well be a human value judgement made about whether one project is more worthy of funding than another. If the people on the committee know your station and are already convinced of your worth, that must help.

Of course you must stay within the rules of fair play and honesty. You won’t do yourself any favours by plying committee members with gifts or sending them bottles of whisky at Christmas. But there is nothing wrong with inviting key players to visit your station and wowing them with the energy and activity on display. Nothing sells community radio like seeing it in action. If you are clever you can find out what particular interests your visitor has (youth work, public health, community arts or whatever) and draw particular attention to your activities in those areas.

Little touches – for example, sending your councillor or MP a congratulations card (and invite to interview) on their re-election, regardless of their (and your) political allegiance – are entirely legitimate tactics in getting your project noticed and remembered.

Politics with a large ‘P’ is of course to be avoided at all costs. Your station could get in deep trouble if it is perceived to be too closely tied to one political party at local or national level. One of the dangers of ingratiating yourself with political players is that they may sometimes try to bring you onto their side in their own political battles. This must be avoided.

But playing politics with a small ‘p’ – negotiating, networking, bridge-building, conversing, cajoling and persuading – is an invaluable skill for those who run community radio stations. It is all about building your reputation and building confidence in your ability to deliver, and can reap great rewards.

Core costs versus project funding (revisited)

As we noted earlier, it is relatively straightforward to find project funding – money you are paid to carry out specific projects which achieve particular outcomes. Finding someone to pay you simply to run a community radio station is much harder. There is little point in bringing in £100,000 in project funding if you still have no money to pay the electricity bill or the wages of your station manager.

Some core funding is available. The Government has established a Community Radio Fund which exists for precisely this purpose – to provide general financial support to new community radio licence holders in running their stations. This is welcome of course, but the amount of money available at the time of writing remains disappointingly small in comparison to the size of the emergent community radio sector (£500,000 for the current financial year, with perhaps 100 new stations being licensed in that period.)

Your local authority might also be able to help you to cover your running costs – some of them maintain specific core-funding budgets for voluntary organisations. But we have never heard of a community radio station that covers all of its core costs through direct core funding. The gap must be filled by a combination of other commercial activities (advertising etc.) and/or by squeezing money for core costs out of project funding.

In budgeting grant applications for specific projects, it is reasonable to expect that around 15-20% of the money should go towards your fixed running costs. Or, put the other way round, you should add 20-25% to your project cost total to cover your fixed running costs. To justify this core funding, a degree of creativity is sometimes required on the application form. It may be that the grant-awarding body will not pay for core costs if they are described as such and just added on to the cost of the project as a fixed percentage, but it will happily pay for a few hours a week for the time of each member of staff – if it is demonstrated that the administrator, station manager and producer will all have some input into the project. Or it may be that funders won’t pay a contribution to the overheads of the station, but will pay rent for facilities used by the project. The end result is exactly the same, it is only the wording that needs to change.

There is nothing fraudulent or dishonest about this approach – you will deliver the promised outputs for the funder in a manner that matches their rules, and the money you claim will be spent on delivering the project. Indeed the liaison or outreach workers employed by the funder will often happily talk potential applicants through the best wording to achieve the desired results.

Many funding bodies (e.g. Big Lottery Fund) understand that voluntary sector organisations need a contribution to their running costs to deliver a project, others specifically rule out such funding (e.g. the Heritage Lottery Fund). If funders will not contribute to your core costs, you should consider whether it is really feasible to run their project, even if their funding would allow you to buy some new equipment and employ a new project worker. Although it may be painful to turn down the possibility of money, sometimes it is necessary to do so. Think of core funding as the foundations of a building, and project funding as the bricks and mortar above ground. If the bricks are built too high and the foundations aren’t deep enough, the building will blow over at the first huff and puff from the Big Bad Wolf.

Successful form filling

Your community radio station has been established with a particular mission, to improve your community and provide access to the airwaves. Funding bodies have their own mission, to provide the finance required to achieve particular aims. The place where those missions overlap is where a successful bid will be born (Figure 14.01).

FIGURE 14.01

The Grant Applicant’s Venn Diagram

Before beginning to fill in an application, you need to be sure you are quite clear about what the funder’s needs are. Usually the fund will have been established to achieve very clearly defined goals. The exceptions to this are usually smaller charities that can be rather vague about their aims and are merely looking for good ideas. Even with these, you need to work out what type of projects they like to fund and push the right buttons.

Every grant application needs to be unique, carefully tailored to the nature of the funding on offer. Nevertheless there are some golden rules:

  • Read everything before you begin: the form, the documentation, the guidance notes and the website;
  • Talk to the liaison or outreach officer at the funding body, if there is such a person. They are employed to help you access the money and will be only too happy to help;
  • Find previous successful bidders to that fund and ask if you can read their application. (But don’t then use un-edited chunks of it in your bid!);
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the person reading the form. You are not feeding this information into a sausage machine, someone will be opening your envelope and reading the contents. Take care with your presentation, spelling etc. If there are word limits, stick to them. If there aren’t, don’t waffle. Bear in mind this person will have a stack of envelopes to wade through. It is your job to get yours to the top of the pile;
  • Don’t presume knowledge;
  • Tell them about the most impressive parts of your project early on. Catch their attention. Where it asks you to make an introductory statement, sell yourself as enthusiastically as possible;
  • Don’t think you have a right to any funding. You might be performing the most valuable function in your community. Your community might have been oppressed and repressed for generations, but that does not give you any right to the funders’ money – they can only operate by rigid criteria. However worthy your project might be, unless you tick the right boxes it counts for nothing;
  • Don’t get carried away with claims and ambitions. You may have to restrain your passion for the project and be clinical and realistic about what you can achieve;
  • When your application is being judged, this is often done through a scoring system, with each answer being given a certain number of points. Some funders will tell you how much each box is worth, and if they do, use that to guide the detail and care you pay to each answer;
  • Don’t leave it to the last minute before the deadline – post gets lost and e-mail servers crash;
  • Get someone who doesn’t know your project to read through your application. But give them plenty of time to do it;
  • Write in plain English – never presume knowledge but don’t treat them as idiots. Don’t try to prove how clever you are with long words;
  • Use a clear layout for the longer parts of your application (e.g. using bullet points or bold to highlight) – this won’t score you extra points but will help a reader to follow your argument;
  • Double-check that you have included everything needed (accounts, documentation etc.) and that the form is signed and dated.

In all your applications, bear in mind that grantawarding bodies really do want to give their money away. They will think they have failed if they do not receive any applications that they can accept. Your applications should always be framed in terms of the opportunity you offer the funder to achieve their stated objectives.


The equipment, support materials, internal communications and other resources which your staff and service users need should be:

  • Easily readable. Printed materials should be large type and have good contrast. Braille or audiotape translations may be needed (many libraries and colleges offer a Braille translation service);
  • Easily seen and reached. Don’t keep important files on high shelves, never place notices seven feet up a wall or store stationery in the cellar;
  • Easily used. Obviously it may not be possible to have all your studio equipment redesigned and rebuilt to allow perfect access, but be prepared to make whatever efforts you can or whatever changes become necessary due to the needs of a disabled volunteer. Some changes – such as adjustable computer desks for wheelchair users – are relatively straightforward but make a huge difference to your usability.

Adapting to individual needs

The money and effort which can be spent on improving access and usability is endless. However much you might want to, you will not be able to do everything. There are some issues, such as wheelchair access, which are almost certain to arise sooner or later and should be considered as absolutely fundamental to your function as a community radio station. Others – for example translating learning materials into Braille or onto audiotape – may arise but you will probably want to wait until they do so before investing in them, otherwise you may find they are out of date and need changing before you have used them. Often the changes needed might be less predictable. We know of a community group who once needed to black out windows to allow access to a user with the light-sensitive skin condition porphyria, which is not something you can reasonably plan for. What is crucial is that you are prepared to make whatever changes are necessary to make your station accessible to anyone.

Communication and personal support

There is no point in having the most accessible facilities if the human touch is not there. Treating people with respect, understanding and compassion is an essential component of your access policies. The way station staff and volunteers talk and relate to each other, regardless of their health or impairment, will go a long way to establishing how welcoming and attractive your station will be for people with disabilities. There are no hard and fast rules as to the language you use – tone of voice is often a bigger factor than the words used – but here are some guiding principles:

  • People are described by their disabilities, not defined by them. So it is more respectful to talk about ‘people with disabilities’ or ‘disabled people’ than it is to talk about ‘the disabled.’ And you don’t provide access to wheelchairs and guide dogs, you provide access to wheelchair users and blind people.
  • Avoid pity or excessive admiration. The phrase ‘aren’t you brave?’ won’t go down too well.
  • Don’t go to extremes. Many disabled people find nothing more annoying than being told they’re ‘just differently abled’ or talking to someone who delicately skips around the issue or refuses to acknowledge that they have disabilities at all. Impairments are a fact of life and should be treated as such.
  • Clarify the preferred means of communication. If someone has problems with hearing or speech, find out if they’d prefer to use a notepad or a sign interpreter, for example.
  • Avoid disempowering terms. Words such as ‘cripple’, ‘handicapped,’ and ‘spastic’ have hopefully been consigned to history, but at a more subtle level, phrases like ‘confined to a wheelchair’ should be avoided.
  • Don’t avoid talking altogether. It is better to risk saying the wrong thing than to say nothing at all.

If people have mobility impairments:

  • Sit down before talking to a wheelchair user so you are at eye level;
  • Never touch a wheelchair without asking the user first;
  • Never tidy or move crutches, frames or sticks.

If people have visual impairments:

  • Introduce yourself when you speak;
  • Say when you are ending a conversation or leaving a room;
  • Be prepared to offer a guiding arm (not hand) when walking;
  • Never interact with a guide dog without asking the owner first.

If people have hearing or speech impairments:

  • Find quiet places to talk;
  • Look the person straight in the face and talk clearly;
  • If a sign interpreter is involved, talk to the person not the signer.

Support workers

In most cases a disabled volunteer will want to do as much as possible himself, but there will be times when this is simply not practical and a helping or guiding hand is required. In some cases the volunteer will have their own support worker (either a personal assistant or a professional case-worker such as a community nurse) in which case there should be no problem. However, it may be necessary for the station to provide such personal assistance whenever the volunteer is at the station. It is the role of this support worker to provide as much or as little input as is needed or wanted to allow the volunteer to achieve as much as he wants to. Let’s take the example of a blind volunteer hosting a show. He may want to plan the programme, invite guests, and speak on air – a worthwhile challenge in itself. A support worker or team would be needed to prepare the show, change records, drive the desk etc. Or he may want to learn how to operate the desk by touch, use a voice activated computer to create his own jingles and pre-records, and have total autonomy over the creation and delivery of the show. Be prepared to go as far as you need to if you are going to help your volunteers meet their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Fair employment practices

As we noted earlier if you employ people you are bound by the DDA and must not discriminate against employees or potential employees on the grounds of disability. And as we said above, this should be considered the absolute bare minimum requirement of a community radio station. Your station should:

  • Consider disability in every aspect of employment. Your equal opportunities policy should commit you to fair practice in recruitment, retention, training, appraisals, grievance procedures and career development.
  • Offer disability awareness training to staff (see below).
  • Involve staff with disabilities in all staff activities, professional or social.
  • Be aware of schemes and programmes providing funding and assistance for workers with disabilities such as the Government’s ‘Access to Work’ scheme.
  • Bear in mind that employees may develop disabilities after they begin working for you. Stations may have to adapt their practices or facilities when needed.
  • Have Health and Safety procedures that take account of staff with disabilities.
  • Remember that addressing the access and usability issues mentioned above should also ease the day-to-day workload of staff members in supporting people with disabilities.

External support and advice

Disability awareness training

There are many agencies, voluntary groups and other organisations who will offer disability awareness training, either on general issues or on specific disabilities. These are often free or offered at discount rates to not-for-profit organisations. Your local voluntary services umbrella group should be able to put you in touch. Ideally all members of staff and senior volunteers should be offered (and in some cases instructed to take) such courses, but as a bare minimum there should be at least one person at each level of management who is fully trained and aware of all the issues.

Access audit

Since the ‘reasonable adjustments’ section of the DDA came into effect there has been a rapid expansion of commercial firms offering access audits to businesses. These identify shortfalls and problems with your access policies and offer advice for improvements, which can be extremely useful, but also rather costly. As with disability awareness training, if you look around you may find agencies and organisations that can provide a similar service at minimal or no cost. Either way it can be useful to get an external assessment of your facilities and policies since this may spot potential problems and solutions that you have missed.

Other local groups and partner organisations Within your community there will be disability charities, rights and awareness campaigns, support groups and other organisations that should already be involved to some extent at your station. These groups can offer you valuable feedback on the services you offer, ways in which you could help local people with disabilities, and other help and advice. Make sure groups with involvement in disability issues are at the heart of your station and then use them as a resource once they are.


There are usually grants available for statutory adjustments and improvements to your levels of access from the local government, national government and charitable sectors. There is also a lot of funding available for projects involving people with disabilities, some of which may include money for equipment and resources. If your access is not as good as it might be, make extra efforts to seek out such funding.

VOXBOX 11.02

“I think of my show as being about real people, giving a voice to people who haven’t got one – sometimes quite literally. I’ve done shows with people using Liberator machines – the kind of thing Stephen Hawking uses – giving them the chance to make their opinions heard on the radio, which they would never get otherwise. I’ve done shows with sign translators. You have to explain what’s going on because it’s a bit like ventriloquism on the radio, you get these long pauses, but that’s OK. It was really inspiring stuff.” Vicky Richardson, presenter ‘Access All Areas’, ALL FM, Manchester

A community radio station has two responsibilities towards people with disabilities in your community:

  • To involve them in making programmes
  • To make programmes which serve their interests The two should not be considered interchangeable.

Don’t assume that because someone uses a wheelchair or has a visual impairment they will only be interested in making programmes about disability. They may well want to play hip hop or act in a drama. Equally someone who has no impairments may wish to be involved in making a disabilities action show – although it is always advisable to have at least partial input from people with disabilities into such shows.

The extent of your programming which is targeted at members of your community with disabilities is obviously up to you. We would suggest that one show per week is the bare minimum. At the opposite extreme is Glasgow’s VIP On Air, an on-line station which has won a five year licence. This is made by and for people who are blind or partially-sighted, and all programming is aimed specifically at them (see Voxbox 11.02). Most community radio stations find a balance between those poles. The content of your disability community shows might include:

  • Welfare and services advice and news
  • Listings and previews of special events and social occasions
  • Feature programming about particular disabilities, campaigns, current affairs etc.
  • Real stories from real people (see Box **)
  • Issues surrounding caring and disabilities in the family
  • Humour and comedy created by people with disabilities
  • Involvement of special guests and celebrities with relevant experiences
  • Talking newspapers and books for the visually impaired

Above all, your programming should be led by disabled people themselves. They know better than you what their needs and wishes are and where you can best help.

VOXBOX 11.03

“Our station has had a huge impact in ways that we maybe didn’t think about in the beginning. Just simple things like blind people being able to access the daily newspapers at more or less the same time as everyone else means a huge amount to our listeners. Blind and visually impaired people have real problems finding employment – across the UK about 80% of adults of working age are unemployed. In a relatively short period of time we have helped 15 different people move on from the station into full-time employment or training which for us is a phenomenal achievement. We have broadcast from the Vision 2005 conference, which is the world’s leading conference on blind issues. We brought that conference directly to our listeners who could never have accessed that any other way. We even had a reporter accredited at the Gleneagles G8 Conference this year. Gill was the only blind reporter in the whole of the world’s press pack.” Kerryn Krige, Station Manager, VIP On Air

Further reading and links

Projecting income and expenditure

In our experience it is practically impossible for a community radio station to have all of its annual core funding in place at the start of each financial year – never mind for the next five years. Ofcom don’t expect it, and neither should your board. Obtaining funding tends to be an ongoing process, with bits of money arriving here and there through projects, grants, fund-raising and various windfalls.

To prevent this leading to serious financial problems, the person in charge of your finances needs to be able to identify how fully-funded the station is today, and how under-funded it will be in several months time. Good financial planning will enable you to see budget shortfalls coming long before they arrive, giving you plenty of time to look for alternative streams. So if you are looking ahead over a full year and still have a shortfall of perhaps 25% of your turnover, you needn’t panic. On the other hand, if you are looking only three months ahead and cannot see how staff wages are going to be paid, then a crisis meeting to develop an action plan is probably in order – if not full blown panic. This is far preferable to suddenly finding your cheques bouncing.

Matching resources to tasks

You can get the most out of your resources with a well-motivated (but unstressed) team of staff and volunteers and a careful eye on the purse strings. But that should not detract from the need to have a well-financed project with resources that are (at least nearly) adequate for the tasks you have set yourselves. Your initial Ofcom licence application should be realistic about what you hope to achieve and how it will be funded, and that includes stating what positions you intend to fill.

The premises you choose can make a difference to your core costs, of course – if you can find a community centre which can provide enough space to host your station for a minimal rent then you give yourself a head start, financially. But of all your variable expenditure, staff salaries are the most flexible. If you find yourself short of £15,000 in the coming year and cannot find funding to cover it, the only way you can realistically save that sort of money is with a redundancy. However that would inevitably impact on the ability of the station to match objectives set by Ofcom or your funding agencies. It’s also a poor way to run any form of enterprise, if staff do not feel their position is secure they are unlikely to show the dedication, commitment and motivation you will need from them. And besides, the law ensures that in most cases it’s pretty difficult for an employer to simply click their fingers and dismiss employees.

The secret then, is to ensure that you can find enough resources to do what you have promised to do. More details on finding these resources in Chapters 13, 14 and 15, but a word first on the recurring theme of core funding.

Finding core funding

Core funding is the money you will need to keep your station running – salaries, rent, bills etc. It is obviously essential to any community radio station. As we explain later, some funding agencies are reluctant to pay core costs, and only offer ‘project funding’ to pay for specific activities or functions.

When you are getting your funding in place, if you don’t include claims for core funding you could find yourself awash with cash to perform particular functions, but without a studio or station to work in. Some community stations have a parent group or charity (such as an existing community centre) which can guarantee core funding. They are lucky (if less than fully independent). If your core funding is in place, or you have a realistic strategy to find it, you are well on the way to running a successful community radio station. If you don’t you could find yourself on a rocky path.

When applying for grants from funding agencies, you should always seek core funding. This will probably mean an application budget which includes part of the cost of your core administrator, manager, technician and premises – which is complicated, but necessary. Say funding is available for a project to broadcast health advice to young mothers. A part-time outreach worker’s salary is included, plus a budget for materials. But that parttime worker has to be supervised, taking up the time of a line manager. That should also be included in the budget. The project takes over the training room for two hours a week, meaning it can’t be used for other – possibly lucrative – sessions. The engineer has to maintain the studio when things go wrong, eating into his time and workload. And so on, across the station.

Even a small project might take up a few hours a week of every physical resource and every member of staff, so the application should include these costs as well as the ‘headline’ project worker. If funders refuse to comply with such reasonable requests, you should seriously consider declining the funding. The project could end up costing you more than it is worth. Some funders, such as the Big Lottery Fund, are now talking along these lines (calling it Full Cost Retrieval) but at the time of writing their sister organisation Heritage Lottery Fund point blank refuses such budget lines in some of their applications.

A community radio group might consider itself lucky if it finds 50% of its annual income from a single source (the maximum allowed by Ofcom). However there are advantages to several smaller funding streams running simultaneously – funding would usually be more staggered, which helps cash flow, and if one source dries up, it is unlikely to close the station. Multiple funding streams also help your independence should a major funder seek to exercise undue influence.

Cash flow and overdrafts

Cash flow is one of the biggest headaches for any community project. It is reasonably straightforward to calculate how great your expenses will be over the next financial year and also that you can raise enough money to cover it all. But if the money isn’t going to reach your bank account for another six months, what will you do to pay staff wages next week?

The solution is to plan not only how much money you will receive, but when you will receive it. The secret of healthy cash flow is getting the money in before it goes out. Unfortunately that is often easier said than done. Payments from funders and partners can fail to arrive when expected, or you may only secure some of your funding at the last minute. You will inevitably end up spending money for project X on staff for project Y – this is not a problem as long as you know that project Y will receive its funding at some point so that the books balance at the end of the accounting period for each project. The traditional remedy for cash flow problems is an overdraft at the bank. Unfortunately many banks – even those which make ethical and social responsibility claims – will flatly refuse to offer such facilities to community and voluntary groups. Sometimes even waving a promissory letter from a major funding agency will not budge them. It is worth bearing this in mind when first opening your bank account. If you go to a bank manager offering him an account with a £100,000 annual turnover, you are negotiating from a position of strength. Insist upon overdraft facilities as a condition of opening the account, and you will often find banks are more flexible than they first claim. Another option is to talk to a major partner in your station, such as the local council or college, and see if they might advance you your running costs against guaranteed grant income. It costs them nothing and it enables them to have a role in facilitating a vital service for their community. You’ll never know if you don’t ask and they might even say yes – both Manchester City Council and Manchester College of Arts and Technology have performed this vital role for Radio Regen at times of need (thank you very much!)

Monitoring and evaluation

When running a community radio station, it is not enough to make great improvements to your community and the lives of your volunteers. You have to be able to prove you have made those improvements – to your funders, to Ofcom, and not least to yourselves. The way you do this is with project monitoring (recording exactly what is done or ‘what we did’) and evaluation (making judgements about the information recorded or ‘was it any good?’)

It’s very easy to get caught up in the exhilarating side of community radio – making programmes, training volunteers, working with dynamic community groups. But unless you make a good job of the rather dry business of recording your activities, your funding will soon dry up and it will count for nothing. If you approach it in a calm, organised fashion, it need not be a painful process.

There are two areas which funders will want you to account for yourself:

  • Spending – have you spent the money as you promised you would?
  • Performance – have you achieved what you said you would?

In most cases your accounting system should take care of the former.  Your annual audit of accounts will require you to keep a paper trail to record every item of spending, and each of those should have been apportioned clearly to one budget. It is your performance monitoring that is likely to prove more problematic. Typically, a community radio station will need to be able to answer the following questions to a variety of funders:

  • How many individual volunteers have used the station and how much?
  • How many volunteers have been through training schemes, and which ones, with what duration and with what results?
  • How many volunteers and trainees belong to specifically targeted sections of the community (e.g. with disabilities, from particular deprived wards, from specific ethnic groups etc)?
  • How many (and which) community groups have been helped?
  • How many other visitors have you had to your station, and to what purpose?
  • How many local businesses have been helped and how?
  • How many schools have participated and how?
  • How many jobs have been created/safe-guarded?

Strangely, at Radio Regen, in six years of community radio monitoring for dozens of different funders, we have never once been asked to report on our broadcast output. That is perhaps a useful reminder of the relative importance of community and radio activities, at least as far as funders are concerned.

Plan ahead (or find out what they need to know in good time)

Before you even accept a grant, you should read the small print. What information will the funder need back from you? Some want only quite general statistics and outcome measures, others will ask for extensive detail. The amount of monitoring required often shows little correlation to the size of the grant involved, and in extreme cases you may judge that a grant of a few hundred pounds is not worth it if you have to report back every volunteer’s height in centimetres and their grandmother’s maiden name.

Assuming you’ve taken the cash, begin collecting the information you need at the very outset, and continue as you go. Much of it may already be available, since ideally you should collect all the information you might reasonably need about your volunteers when they first sign up – age, sex, employment status or occupation, education, disability, illness and access information, ethnic origin and so on. You should then require volunteers to sign in and record the nature of their activity each time they visit the station. Just that simple system will cover many of your monitoring needs.

However you organise it, try to ensure that volunteers and partners aren’t being asked for the same information repeatedly on several different forms – if for no other reason than that they will become much more reluctant to fill in any of them at all. It is already hard enough getting many volunteers to sign an attendance sheet. There is also the vexed question of letting the volunteers know why you need the information without giving the impression that you are being paid as a result of their work making radio on the station. Far fetched? It’s happened to us. You need to make it clear to volunteers that without the information you are requesting, the station closes – providing the information should be second nature to them.

The ideal would be a single data collection questionnaire which volunteers could complete once and then update with every activity session and at the completion of the project. In practice, at Radio Regen we have yet to design such a form satisfactorily, and we have the piles of paper to prove it.

Many grants will have their own unique monitoring conditions attached. Be quite clear what these are from the outset and get them agreed in writing. There is nothing worse than having to track back through six months of station activities because a funder has suddenly told you (or you have suddenly noticed) that they need to know whether a volunteer was supervised by a trainer for 25% or 50% of their studio time and you hadn’t been recording that information. We cannot stress enough how vital it is to be clear exactly what monitoring you will need to conduct before you begin a project. It can be just about impossible to do it retrospectively.

A resource of funding sources and advice

We’ve compiled a funding database combining both possible grant-makers and sources of funding advice. Not wanting to overwhelm you with information, we’ve stuck to a (large) handful. You’ll see that most of those listed offer weblinks to others.

Organisation: CHAINS
Services: CHAINS provide a FundFinder service and though primarily a Sandwell based organisation, have funding and support information that is applicable to everyone. A budgeting tool will also be shortly made available.

Organisation: CMSolutions
Services: CMSolutions offer a funding information, among other services specially for community media.

Organisation: NAVCA (the National Association of Councils for Voluntary Service)
Services: NAVCAS is an umbrella body for local councils for voluntary service (CVSs). These are organisations that operate locally to support not-for-profit organisations including providing advice on funding. You can find your local CVS from this link NAVCA offer a funding resource list Getting Started: Funding.

Organisation: Government Funding
Services: This is an online portal to government grants for the voluntary and community sector including funds from the Cabinet Office, Department for Communities and Local Government, Department for Education and Skills, Department of Health, Home Office, and Government Offices for the Regions.

Organisation: Awards for All
Services: Awards for All is a lottery grants scheme for local communities offering between £300 and £10,000 “for people to take part in art, sport, heritage and community activities, and projects that promote education, the environment and health in the local community”.

Organisation: The Big Lottery Fund
Services: “BIG hands out half the good causes money from the National Lottery. We are committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need”. Find out about the different funding programmes and what the focus for your region is on their website.

Organisation: European funding
Weblink: See below
Services: See here for a guide to European grants from the Grants Online Directory. Your regional Government Office should be able to help with European funding. You should check the website for the Government Office for the English Regions which offers links to regional sites offering European funding information relevant to your region. For Scotland, visit the Scottish Executive’s European Structural Funds website. For Wales, visit the Welsh European Funding Office.

Organisation: Grants Online
Services: A charged information service on grant funding opportunities from the European Union, UK Government, Lottery, Regional Grant Making Bodies and Grant Making Trusts. A 7 day free trial is available otherwise costs start at £25 for a one-month subscription.

Organisation: Social Enterprise Coalition
Services: SEC advises on matters relating to running an organisation as a social enterprise. Online resources include publications and large database of relevant links.

Organisation: Grants Net
Services: Information about a range of grant schemes for charities, including a free grants alert service.

Organisation: Fundraising Skills – a course
Services: This course in fundraising for the voluntary sector leads to a certificate in grantsmanship. It’s an online distance learning course, meaning that you can do it where you want, when you want so long as you have access to the internet, and has a focus on getting money from trusts and the lottery. Looks good, but if nothing else someone in your organisation will have had to be good at fundraising for your training budget as it costs over £400.

Organisation: VoluntaryNews
Services: VoluntaryNews is an online news information service on matters of relevance to all voluntary sector organisations. This link is to their funding news. Worth checking out every now and again.

Organisation: NVCO Introductory Pack on Funding and Finance
Services: Specially created for small and medium size voluntary sector enterprises, this free downloadable pack from NCVO (the National Council for Voluntary Organisations) contains guidance on: sustainable funding, financial management, fundraising, trading, procurement and contracting, accessing loans and other forms of finance.