If you are thinking about how to fund your youth club’s activities, you need to be aware of all the possible income streams available to you as a youth club. If possible you should try to think about opportunities for diversification in the way your youth club is funded. 

And if you can do all of this in a strategic way, then all the better.

Thinking strategically

To consider your funding in a strategic way, you should try to think about all the available options in order to decide the most appropriate way to fund your youth club’s activities. This is an approach advocated by the Sustainable Funding Project, run by the National Council for Voluntary Organsations (NCVO). 

Ask yourselves: what are the most appropriate income sources based on what you do; who uses your youth club and its facilities; and whether you want to grow or expand in the future?

Sources of funding

Funding comes in a variety of forms, for example:

  • donations – usually with no restrictions on how you spend them
  • grants, for specified activities
  • income earned through contracts, often to deliver a specific service
  • income earned through trading and social enterprise activities.

Income from grants is likely to be your youth club’s most important source of income. However, there is an increasing level of competition for grants.  In addition, some funders are shifting away from grants to contracts or even loans. Consequently grant funding is increasingly combined with other options such as trading, contracting and loan finance.

Grant funding – what you need to know

Grants usually provide you with an income stream for a specified project or service which is designed to make a particular difference or have a particular outcome. Consequently grants require careful management and monitoring. Grant funding comes from a wide range of sources, both public (including central and local government and the National lottery) and private (including trusts and foundations). All grant funders have their own approach, priorities and processes which you need to understand. 

Here are our top 10 tips on making grant applications:

  1. Ask yourselves ‘are we eligible to apply’? Do we meet the criteria and/or priorities of this funder? What is the funder really looking for? So for example..
  • DON’T miss the deadline for applications
  • DON’T ask for costs that fall outside the scope of the grant programme
  • DON’T apply if you are a type of organisation which the funder can’t support 
  • DO read the funder’s guidelines carefully
  • DO research the funder and look at the organisations the funder has supported in the past
  • DO make a clear case for support
  • DO tailor your application to the individual funder

2. Make clear what you want to do. Try to show evidence for why your project or activity is needed.  Set out exactly what you need funding for.  Show how you have involved everyone at the youth club in planning the activity. And try to demonstrate how you will know whether the project has achieved its aims.  Make clear in your application how and why your project or youth club is different and why the funder should support your project.  Remember, the funder will receive applications from lots of similar organisations to do similar projects so you need to stand out from the crowd. 

3. Do clearly answer all the questions on the application form and provide all the information which the funder asks for. Funders often don’t have time to chase up missing information!

4. Do call the funder to clarify anything you are not sure about. Funders would rather you called them to ask, than guess and get it wrong.

5. Ask yourselves whether your youth club really has enough time to apply for this grant and do the funded work properly? Do you have the time or resources to submit an application with a reasonable chance of success? If the funder sets time constraints within which the funded activity must happen, can you set up and deliver the activity properly within those timescales? In other words, is the timing right for your youth club? 

6. Ask yourselves would this project be the best use of this funding opportunity or are there any other ways you could fund the activity? You need to be aware of all your funding needs and options for funding them.  And you should consider each possible grant application in this wider context.

7. Check your youth club can meet any terms and conditions which might be attached to the grant offer before you submit your application. Some funders will ask for very little, but there could be implications for how you manage your project. And if you don’t check in advance, it could even mean you apply for a grant that you then can’t accept.

8. Make sure you include the full costs of the project in your application – do you know what your full costs are and have you asked the funder to meet them? Don’t forget the management and administration costs associated with your project. Make sure you know and understand your full costs from the outset.

9. Make sure you have thought about what will happen when the grant ends, should you be successful in securing the grant. Is it a one-off activity, or will it continue in some form beyond the life of the grant? The earlier you think about this the better.

10. And finally, keep a copy of the funding application before you send it off. And ask the funder to acknowledge receipt of your application to make sure they have received it safely.  If necessary call the funder to make sure they have received it.

Useful resources

The Sustainable Funding Project website provides information and resources that will help you think about how to fund your youth club in a more strategic, and hopefully, sustainable way.  It also includeswide ranging advice on grant funding.

Funding Central, a site run by NCVO, will help you to search from over 4000 grants, contracts and loans. The site also has a useful newsletter, produced weekly, that gives you tailored alerts for funding streams opening in your area.

Finance Finder  is a website run by the Community Development Finance Association (CDFA).  It provides an up-to-date list of loan finance providers which you can search by UK region.

Introducing Funding & Finance for Voluntary and Community Organisations  is a mini-guide that provides a snap-shot of sector funding and basic exercises to guide organisations through the topics covered. It is ideal for new and small organisations and those new to the concept of sustainable funding and the wider funding environment.

For a more detailed introduction to financial sustainability, from strategic planning to understanding available income sources,  download the Guide to Sustainable Funding from the Introductory Pack to Funding and Finance (6 part pack), produced by the Sustainable Funding Project.

Social Enterprise London is a support agency run by social enterprises for social enterprises in London.  It provides a programme of training and support on a range of themes to provide the tools for social enterprises to succeed. 

Considering other sources of funding

Donations - the gift economy

The gift economy refers to unrestricted income from donations to charity.  Such unrestricted income allows you to carry out activities not supported by grant programmes or contracts. 

Earned income from contracts

There are increasing opportunities for voluntary and community organisations to contract - usually to deliver public services, for example on behalf of local councils.

Contracts are a form of earned income - normally secured as a result of a tendering process. They have legal obligations and need to be entered into with proper consideration.  However they can be a great way to fund your work where appropriate opportunities exist.

Earned income from trading and social enterprise

Trading is seen as one of the main options open to voluntary and community organisations who want to diversify their income base.  Trading is selling goods and services to customers.  This is an increasingly important source of funding for the sector. 

Social enterprises are organisations that trade for a social purpose.  Social enterprise is an umbrella term describing a wide variety of different types of organisations including co-operatives, development trusts and social firms.  However, there is no legal definition of the term.  Any voluntary or community organisation that earns most of its income through trade and contracts could choose to call itself a social enterprise. 

Trading and social enterprise activities can be used to generate additional, unrestricted income for your organisation, reducing dependency on a small number of funding sources.  And trading for a social purpose can further your charitable objects.  

Loan finance

While not an income stream itself, loan finance can be a useful tool.  Loans may be an option to consider if you need a large sum of money, to bridge the gap between receipt of grant payments, or to enable projects to move forward during the time taken to raise capital from more traditional fundraising methods.