Is the tail wagging the dog in your funding strategy?

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Ailsa Roddie highlights the potential pitfalls of funding-led projects

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7th June 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

It’s a natural thing to do. You see a new funding opportunity and start to imagine what new projects you might be able conjure up to fit with the criteria, or ways you can adapt your current work. Perhaps they’re projects that have been somewhere on your list for a while or perhaps they have just occurred to you in the face of this new funding.

It makes sense. Your organisation, as with most, could use some more funding. With funding comes security and, of course, you know there’s so much more you would be able to do if you had the funding. You don’t want to miss an opportunity when it comes along. It’s your job to pounce on this.

Ailsa Roddie

Ailsa Roddie

But if you are in this situation, project yourself into the future, imagining that you have been successful in obtaining the funding for this new project. Is there a chance you’d be diverting disproportionate time and resources into getting the new project up and running – time and resources possibly not covered by the funding itself – leaving your core work to suffer? Might you find yourself stretching your expertise into an area where it doesn’t really go the distance? Could you be discovering that adapting a project to reach a new target group isn’t so easy, because your work is really designed for someone else?

Project yourself even further, to the day (probably several days) when you are reporting back on the project to the funder and trying to put a positive spin on why your project looked so different to what you had described in the application, in which you made sure it ticked every box. With this report taking up an unreasonable seeming amount of time, you can feel yourself getting behind with everything going on in your day-to-day. And you think about what you might have been able to achieve in the time you have been grappling with this problematic add-on project, instead of focusing on your core work or most-needed areas of expansion.

These are some of the frustrating issues that can arise when you start to let your projects become funding-led. But organisations seeking funding are not solely to blame for being tempted into this predicament. Keen to make their unique mark, funders are often only prepared to fund something that is new or additional; they may well want it to be innovative and often to tie-in with the social issue du jour. And when there simply isn’t enough funding to go around, it can be hard to stay away from this type of funding.

One part of the answer for this organisation is never to get behind with your fundraising. Organisations suddenly noticing their accounts running dry are much more likely to feel forced into jumping on less appropriate funding opportunities than those which have been planned ahead, explored their options and continued to make enough large and small applications throughout the year, ensuring that they can keep services ticking over. Organisations should consider how they can ensure this happens, whether by hiring a consultant, having a dedicated in-house fundraiser, or just regularly blocking off time to be spent on fundraising. I can hear you say “Easier said than done!”

Ailsa Roddie is director of development for Winning Leishman.