The agony of filling out funding forms

eQuality Time is a modern, forward thinking organisation and we’re aware that we do do some unusual things as a social enterprise. This means that quite often we run into questions on funding application forms that are hard to answer because the question assumes a certain way of working which we don’t adhere to.

If I come across a question were every possible answer seems wrong, I write a small note on the website to state our case, why I felt the question was difficult to answer, and what I ended up putting.  This is for two reasons:

  • Because transparency is a Good Thing in general:  if someone challenges me on something I’ve written in a funding proposal I want to be able to say “Yes, I know that can be taken in a different way, here’s how I interpreted it and you can be pretty sure I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one because we even wrote a blog post about it.
  • Because other people have to deal with the problem as well and it would be nice if we all shared our approaches.

For example, recently I sent off an form asking for funding for our new creative writing project. One of the questions on the form was ‘Give three postcodes of your usual delivery locations’. This is an interesting one for us. The writers of the form were clearly thinking of a very clear type of social enterprise – the second-hand shop, the local youth club; places that are part of ‘a community’. I was given the understanding that more weight would be given to groups that work in more disadvantaged areas.

Of course, for our sort of project, this is a very strange question – The Open Voice Factory has NO delivery location – it’s an online project. And the project I was applying with, White Water Writers, has produced over 65 novels all around the country, am I expected to write a complete list of all 40 locations we’ve held camps in?
In this case – I put in the postcodes of some of the most recent schools we had worked in. All of them were in what are registered as ‘deprived’ postcodes, but it feels a little bit like cheating.

 

An accurate representation of Joe filling out forms.
Accurate representation of myself filling out forms.

I feel like it might be useful for the people whose job it is to produce these forms to stop for a second and perhaps complete some of the forms themselves then they might see how difficult it is to answer some of the questions.

What about if they had to do an exercise where they asked themselves “How would JustGiving fill out this form?”. JustGiving clearly does an amazing amount of good – but the people who use it aren’t the people it helps, the people it helps aren’t chosen by it (JustGiving doesn’t force you to help a particular cause), and it has NO geographic preference. But it’s done £1 billion worth of good since it started. Is this a crazy idea?

 

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