Developing a new grant programme – the process
The Council undertook a wide-reaching consultation process to understand the needs of the new grants programme and how best to achieve this. The consultation included a range of focus groups with the sector, arranged both by the Council and the local CVS. These focus groups included representatives from charities the Council has supported previously as well as reaching many smaller charities that they didn’t know, achieving a good cross section of the sector. Internally, a lot of engagement work was done with elected members and officers within the Council to ensure they were on board with the grants process too.
Through this engagement process, the Council was able to understand the needs identified by the sector. This led to a consultation document that outlined four options for grant programmes and the implications of these.
The new grants programme
The consultation identified the sector’s wish for core funding. This has led to a seven year Strategic Partner Fund around neighbourhoods and equalities. A new collective impact fund will also be introduced whereby the sector will be invited to engagement events to co-produce a specification for the fund.
A two stage grant application process was used for the strategic partner programme, with feedback given after stage 1 to both successful and unsuccessful applicants, helping those through to the second stage to have more chance at success in the final decisions. The grants were assessed by a range of people from across the Council.
Grant holders have been asked to identify outcomes and indicators, each developing their own framework. Monitoring will use this framework, with the intention to use a system that isn’t onerous but gives the Council confidence that core funding is being used effectively. Central to this will be making sure that only information that is useful to collect is done so.
Advantages of the grants programme
Grants offer a high degree of flexibility and are far less onerous for the local authority and the provider without having a negative impacts on quality of service or effectiveness of intervention – being less resource-intensive makes them much easier to manage than contracts.
Grants across the Council
Elected members in Camden tend to be supportive of funding to the sector. The grants approach is going to be explored across the Council to establish whether more use could be made of grants instead of contracts in other areas. An initial event showed that there is interest among commissioners in exploring ways of making to make more use of grants, not least because procurement is very resource-intensive.
The continuous buy-in from the Council together with the grants team being able to demonstrate they have listened to the sector have been integral to the success of this grants programme.