3 facts about Improving Lives funding

Young boy riding a toy train

We launched our grants for Improving Lives back in 2015, and since then we’ve regularly taken time to look back at this funding, and think about what’s worked well and what we could improve. We’ve looked at the data, spoken to customers and our own staff, and picked out three things that would be useful to know for anyone interested in applying to Improving Lives.

1. There’s much more competition for these grants

Compared to similar funds we ran before 2015, Improving Lives has been very busy! This means there’s a lot more competition for grants. If you are thinking of applying, here’s our top tips to improve your chances:

  • Apply for less than the maximum amount: the average level we have funded is around £120,000 for medium awards (that is, grants between £10,000 and £150,000), and around £390,000 for the large awards (or grants over £150,000).
  • Seek some match funding if you can, especially for the larger grants: although we can potentially fund 100% of a project, the pressure on our budgets means we prefer projects that will bring other funding to the table.
  • Apply for a shorter grant: our average grant length has been around three years. While we can fund up to five years, we are less likely to do this when competition is strong. For large grants only exceptional projects are likely to be offered more than 3 years’ funding.

2. Grants between £10,000 and £150,000 are working well for smaller organisations

In the past, we’ve had a single application process for any grants above £10,000, right up to £1M. When we opened Improving Lives in 2015, we listened to customer feedback and included a simpler process to apply for up to £150,000.

We hoped this would make it easier for smaller groups and groups who hadn’t had National Lottery funding before to apply. And it’s working! We’ve funded more groups who are new to our funding, and helped groups step up from one-off grants to funding over several years. Smaller groups have also been more successful applying for these grants than in the past.


3. The application process is working – although sometimes we need more time!

Customers fed back that the process of applying is generally working fairly well, and some were surprised at the ease of the process compared to their expectations.

The main change we’ve made on the back of customer and staff feedback is to extend the timescales for our assessment of the first stage application for grants over £150,000. The scale and scope of applications we’ve received so far has meant it’s been difficult for us to do what’s needed in eight weeks. By extending the turnaround to 12 weeks, we hope to have more time to talk to applicants and do their projects justice in our assessments, as well as avoid backlogs.

If you are considering applying to Improving Lives, or have an idea you’d like to discuss, feel free to get in touch with us on 0300 123 7110 or by emailing advicescotland@tnlcommunityfund.org.uk and we’ll make sure you get to speak to the right person.


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