Identifying funders

There are a number of potential sources of funding that are worth considering. Here we look at the major ones, plus some online resources that could help identify a funder, we take a look at the following:

Online Funding Resources

Funding Central

Funding Central is a free Government-funded information source for voluntary organisations and social enterprises that are looking to raise money. The website provides a search facility that allows users to enter information on their proposed activity, location, organisation type alongside information about the type of grant you are looking for. The information is not as complete or as user friendly as that provided through the Directory of Social Change, but does have the advantage of being free. You can also subscribe to newsletters and updates.

The Charities Commission

If you are serious about fund-raising from trusts you could consider searching the information on the Charities Commission website. All charities - grant donors and grant recipients alike - are obliged to lodge annual reports and accounts with the Charities Commission. These can contain information a) about grants made by donor organisations and b) about grants received by organisations doing similar work or with similar objectives to your own. If you don’t have specific organisations in mind, you can search the database of charities by key word or by using categories of what charities do.

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The Skills Funding Agency (SFA)

The SFA funds delivery of adult education and training services including:

  • Apprenticeships
  • Workplace learning
  • Classroom learning, including Skills Support for Unemployed
  • Offender Learning and Skills Service
  • Community Learning
  • National careers guidance/Careers advice and guidance

A small number of unions hold contracts with the SFA to deliver apprenticeships and workplace learning. Whether you decide to take this approach is clearly a matter for your union. However, it will be important to ensure that delivery of your own mainstream programmes does not detract from your role as an impartial broker of learning opportunities from across the spectrum of provision.

To become eligible to hold SFA contracts, organisations first need to pass through the Due Diligence Assurance Gateway, which is open at select points during the year.

The majority of SFA contracts are awarded on the basis of delivery of qualifications or units of qualification, although some provision (e.g. ESF provision) may be awarded on the basis of support provided to members of specific client groups (as described in the previous section on value-for-money).

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Equality and Diversity Funders

This is a huge field with funders typically operating within specific sectors and/or specific areas of equality and diversity (gender, race, disability, sexuality etc). So simply looking for 'funding for E&D' can be tricky. Examples of where funding can be found includes government departments such as the SFA.

Once you are clear about the type of activity and who you seek to benefit with it, the obvious place to start is with the union or TUC’s own equality and diversity teams who should be able to point you in the right direction. Funding Central and the Charity Commission are also good places to start looking.

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Charitable Trusts and Foundations

Across the UK, around 2,500 charitable trusts collectively give c. £3bn a year. Most grant funding tends to be short-term, which is fine for getting new initiatives off the ground. However, if you intend to set up an ongoing project, it’s important to think about how it will be supported after the grant ends.

Once you’ve decided to explore grants, it is probably sensible to start looking to see if any of the larger trusts may be worth approaching. The top 400 UK trusts account for 90% of total giving. But, given that everyone else is probably thinking the same thing, don’t discount the possibility of small, local trusts with an education and training focus in your area.

Finding the right Trust – The Directory of Social Change

Perhaps the most detailed and authoritative set of guides to charitable trusts are those published by the Directory of Social Change (DSC). These include:

  • Guide to the Major Trusts: volume 1 – this provides data on the top 400 trusts, giving over £300,000 p.a. each;
  • Guide to the Major Trusts: volume 2 - provides data on the next 1,000; and
  • The Directory of Grant Making Trusts – provides data on 2,500 grant making trusts, with the potential to give £25,000 p.a.

Unfortunately, the large amount of research that goes into producing these publications means that they are expensive. A subscription to the Trustfunding Website costs £295 per annum. The Guides to the Major Trusts (vol. 1 and vol. 2) cost £75 each, while the Directory of all 2,500 grant making trusts costs £125. Printed Directories and Guides may be available in local libraries. 

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Big Lottery Fund - Building Better Opportunities

The Big Lottery Fund is currently being used to leverage European funding for projects across England that tackle poverty and promote social inclusion.

The 'local' element within the Building Better Opportunities programme does allow regional unionlearn teams the potential to work through their LEPs to obtain ready matched funding.

Potential bidders would be advised to look at LEP Structural and Innovation fund strategies to get an understanding of where there is potential for local bids and activities.

Potential themes, many of which are very familiar to trade unions, will include elements such as:

  • Addressing unemployment (especially youth)
  • Healthy Ageing
  • Digital Inclusion
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Careers Advice and Guidance

They may also be a means of incorporating workplace mentoring, progression and support.

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In practice, trade unions working at macro and micro level requires regular engagement with many of the UK’s major employers. The most likely routes for funding from corporates this would be:

  • Working with unionised organisations to explore how reps could help support staff in positions such as traineeships and apprenticeships
  • Donations to help provide support and training for reps
  • Short-term or activity/event specific sponsorship
  • Applications for funding

A number of major employers have funds for which external organisations can apply. An example is RBS, which has a budget of £2.5m for its Skills & Opportunities fund. Other examples include the Cooperative Bank’s Community Fund.

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Colleges and Private Training Providers

Funding would probably be indirect – and in partnership – to deliver training and support or to carry out other activities from Trusts/ Foundations, Grants, Projects etc.

The sector is under severe financial pressures, but has proven itself to be very innovative and capable of relentless reinvention. Links at Local level to deliver European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Programmes could be a route to extra funding activity.

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EU and Programme Funding

A significant potential exists within European Programmes for successful unionlearn bids. There are three key strands that appear to be potentially beneficial to building on union activities: ERASMUS+; EIC / Progress; and INTERREG. Most require transnational partners from the EU or partner countries and there are some common hurdles to 'get right' if a bid is to be considered, that are often not done terribly well :

  • EU added value. The bid has to make sense as a European rather than a national bid.
  • Needs analysis. This includes identifying the policy needs and making sure an effective needs analysis of the intended outputs.
  • Impact. This needs to be considered beyond just partners and the more detail on impact at local, regional, national and international the better – similarly using networks to help achieve maximum impact and dissemination always helps.
  • Detailed workplan. A detailed Gantt and associated workplan – with good detail on individual outputs and outcomes.
  • Real partners. Partners should all have distinct roles and functions based on identified strengths. Assessors expect partners inclusion to make sense in terms of workplan and organisational competences. There is a need to ensure that there are not too many partners – as, with limited funds the pot can be spread pretty thin.

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Local Government, City Regions and LEPs

City Regions and merged Local Authorities will be at the heart of the government’s devolution agenda and it is reasonable to expect that there will be funding for issues unions have an interest in, particularly those associated with driving economic growth and innovation. They may also be recipients of previously centrally held pots. It makes sense for trade unions with significant local strength and facilities to be seeking closer ties and to explore how they can help deliver training, mentoring and Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG).

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have responsibility for delivering growth and jobs across the 39 LEP areas in England. Significantly, LEPs have recently been given responsibility for developing and delivering European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) strategies for their areas for the period 2014 to 2020. It is highly probably that their strategies will include Actions focused on:

  • Promoting employment opportunities, such as access to employment for job-seekers and inactive people; and sustainable integration of young people into the labour market, particularly those who are NEET.
  • Promoting Social Inclusion and Combating Poverty; and investing in Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning.

LEPs are obligated to dedicate 20% of their European Social Fund (ESF) allocation to Promoting Social Inclusion and Combatting Poverty.

Trade unions are on the list of partners to be represented on European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Committees. Although participating in an ESIF committee may be time-consuming, nonetheless it is suggested that it is important to take this opportunity and to ensure that all unions are aware of and have the chance to shape opportunities emerging through LEP ESIF strategies.

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Next: Writing a successful bid
Previous: Social Return on Investment