The Thoughts of a Funding Officer

David1David Lamont from the Big Fund

I consider working on the Young Start Programme to be a bit of a privilege. I have an active interest in the wellbeing of Scotland’s young people and to be part of a programme that funds a range of projects improving opportunities during challenging times is a good place to be.

Our team shares a positive outlook. I think it is always important to set out that we consider it our job to fund projects that can make a positive impact on young people and we aim to facilitate this process as fairly and effectively as possible. I imagine it is all too easy to believe that we are here to find fault with applications, particularly if you are being asked various questions about your project or are on the receiving end of a reject letter. The simple truth is that we have limited funds for distribution and the key element of our work is to ensure that it delivers the best outcomes for the programme. Last year, we made awards worth £7,480,900 to organisations delivering outcomes for young people and we want to continue to do so as much as we can.

In my opinion, one of the best features of the programme is the grant size; £10,000-£50,000. This opens the programme up to smaller organisations that may previously only have accessed our small grants funding and considered our larger programmes to be outwith their reach. Young Start actively encourages applications from such organisations and it is one of the pleasures of the job to work with a group to bring their project proposal to a fundable standard. In fact, you could say that it is the Funding Officer’s role to identify strong projects and not well written applications. Funnily enough a recurring problem is groups not requesting enough to meet the needs of the project. Remember it does not offer us value to fund a project that cannot fulfil its potential due to a lack of finance.

We grade our application on a range of criteria with two key areas being outcomes and young peoples’ involvement. Outcomes are key and we have four for our programme; confident, healthy, connected and enterprising. Groups should look at these outcomes and consider carefully how there project contributes towards them. Some tips:

  • More outcomes do not equal better projects. Achieving one of our outcomes well is considered a positive for the Young Start programme. While some projects may meet all of our outcomes these are a rarity and can sometimes be an indication to us that your project lacks focus.
  • We are more  likely to fund project offering strong, tangible achievement of outcomes. This means that we favour projects working intensively with a smaller      number of young people than a wide ranging activity programme. Being able to demonstrate an understanding of why you are delivering your work and how it will impact on beneficiaries (particularly in the long term) is vital.

We consider that that involvement of young people in the design, delivery and development of the project offers the best model for our programme.  However, we do also accept that the capacity of young people to contribute in these areas can vary greatly due to a range of reasons such as age, ability or personal circumstance. We always look for an organisation to have considered how best to meaningfully involve their young people to some degree . A strong project would demonstrate:

  • Design: young  people were involved from an early stage in identifying the project and ensuring that the delivery method is best suited to their needs.
  • Delivery: young  people will contribute to the ongoing success of the work. This may be in the form of volunteering, buddying, peer mentoring etc.
  • Development: young people will be involved in the management of the project. At the lower end this may represent verbal consultation with views taken on board      through to project steering groups and youth led organisations.

I hope this has given you a flavour of what we expect from the programme and got you thinking about organisations or projects that you are involved in or know that may benefit. We will be around for the foreseeable future and are always on the lookout for great work to fund.

Should you have any questions our advice team are always on hand. You can contact them on 0300 123 7110.


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