Money, Money, Money

Money in £20 notes

I received some feedback from a funder recently, which prompted some thoughts. I appreciate the feedback, even though it was generic, as it gives an insight into the current and forthcoming situation.

The comment very simply came down to: we have enough money to give awards around 20 applicants. We have between 400 and 500 applicants.

This means that they are oversubscribed by 2,250%. or that they can only give to around 4% of applicants. The odds for success are, to put it mildly, slim. This over subscription is going to be the same for all other funders.

I then had the thought that if they spent 10 minutes looking at each application then it would take up 75 hours. For a small funder this is patently impossible. They had to find some way of reducing the number of applications to be perused. The simplest way would be to pick out a number, say 50 and look at those. From this smaller number they will no doubt find the 20 or so projects and organisations that they can fund.

So there is every chance that my application was not looked at, in any way. That work, was for nothing. I do not blame the funder, they stated that this increase has happened over the last few years and they are looking at ways to deal with this. With few resources they have to find ways to ration their effort.

Ways to do this will include; shortening the windows of acceptance, reducing the range of organisations in terms of size, geographical reach and so on. They could just open the gate and then close after a specified number of applications. Funders limit the resources they use in-house as they want to give it away to good projects, so their course of action is justified.

Getting funds has always been a numbers game, to some degree. But, the numbers are now high. AI (a misnomer1) could help us with this as it churns out many, many applications, and in a numbers game this is a winning strategy. But, this just exacerbates the problem. Yet more applications, but still the same amount of money to give away.

For the individual writer of funding applications it means the rate of success is lower and that the return of investment of their salary is decreasing. If you are paying out £15,000 in money for a part-time post and the income from that post is £20,000 or so, is it worth it? Some CEOs may start to think not. Especially, if AI is supposed to be good at writing applications, let’s give the job to someone else and use the AI.

We are, by all polls and punsters, due for a political change, which may mean an economic policy change and government agencies may have larger budgets to use in commissioning projects from not-for-profits. This is what we need. The equations is simple: add more money. Savings have been made for many years now and there is not much spare now. Certainly, in the smaller end of the not-for-profit sector – there is nothing left to cut. We need the resources, give them to us.

1I think it should be II, imitation intelligence. I shall perhaps delve into this later.

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