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National Lottery Inflexibility

The National Lottery has been a life-line for many charities in the last two decades and has contributed to many excellent projects around the country. However, its inflexibility still causes frustrations for some applicants.

I was recently conducting a feasibility study for a female offenders' charity seeking to build a £3 million new facility and I wanted to establish where a lead gift would come from. The National Lottery was one potential source and so I checked out the Reaching Communities Buildings Fund. At first glance, everything fitted nicely - capital projects in defined locations ("Lower Super Output Areas" to use the jargon), targeted at the most deprived communities. All very promising, especially as the potential beneficiaries have complex needs that make them one of the most marginalised groups you can find, a community of need if you like. However - and this was the sticking point - because the applicant charity would be unlikely to show detailed consultations with groups in the local community (as its beneficiaries are individuals from across the UK) the enquiry was rejected. 

Now I know that the National Lottery (and especially the BLF which runs the Reaching Communities Buildings Fund) is massively over-subscribed and has to find ways to filter and exclude potential applicants, but to me this seemed to be more of a bureaucratic barrier than a rational way to assess the value of an application (even if only an initial enquiry). The charity's beneficiaries are about as disadvantaged as they come (with histories of addictions, abuse, mental ill health, low education attainment etc) and current UK policy is to try to support them in the community rather than send them to prison, which is exactly what our client is seeking to do. Yet because the charity cannot fit into the BLF's very prescriptive criteria, they are deemed ineligible to apply.

This decision obviously makes the BLF's job a bit easier - one less applicant - but the people who will potentially miss out here are the women at the very bottom of the social pile. Just because they form a community of interest, and not of place, sadly makes them ineligible. As a result, there is no National Lottery fund into which the project in question will easily fit.

As things turned out, we were able to identify two other potential sources of a lead gift, so all was not lost. However, the response of the BLF to this excellent project struck me as bureaucratic and negative - looking for reasons to reject not to support. I know they are massively oversubscribed, but I wonder how many other excellent projects have missed out for similar bureaucratic reasons?

There is more here about applying to the National Lottery.

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