Client: Greater London Authority (GLA), 2014-2017
Team: John Griffiths, Anna Spinks, Mark Barratt
In March 2014, Rocket Science was appointed Managing Agent of FreeSport, a key part of the Mayor of London’s Olympic Sports Legacy Programme, on a three-year contract. FreeSport offers grants of between £400 and £1,500 twice a year to c.150 grass-roots organisations (ie c.£200,000 per round) in order to target groups which have below average participation rates (eg women, BAME groups and people with disabilities). We encourage existing sports clubs as well as organisation who have never offered a sport before to try something new and get London more active. There is a huge range of sports projects we support, from football and netball to ‘chairobics’ and boccia. Having managed three FreeSport rounds so far, Rocket Science has developed a keen understanding of the challenges faced by delivery organisations and the benefits which an efficient, digital grants management system can bring.
We see an important role of a grants programme manager being to develop and support a community of projects. Our regular e-communications highlight particular projects, as well as relevant sports development initiatives such as the national campaign ‘This Girl Can’ which resonated strongly with FreeSport’s objective to improve female participation in sport. At a local level, small grants for sports development can be made to go further if individual recipients appreciate they are not working in isolation. Working closely in partnership with London Sport, we actively encourage and sign-post grant recipients to network within the FreeSport “community” as well as with specialist support organisations, including Disabled People’s Organisations, National Governing Bodies and Local Authority sports teams. In our experience, this enhances the likelihood of the success of the FreeSport project, and contributes to its sustainability beyond the lifetime of the grant.
Flexibility and approachability on our part as grants managers are essential as there are a number of potential barriers to FreeSport projects’ successful delivery:
Lack of Capacity
- Most FreeSport-funded organisations are part-time and volunteer-led. Rocket Science ensures that most of the grant is spent on sports delivery rather than administration. Each round is kept as streamlined a possible so that organisations can focus on the real challenges and delivery of their sport, keeping the bureaucracy of monitoring and reporting in proportion to the grant.
- Often community-based organisations are run entirely by volunteers, so we allow multiple users to access the project’s account and keep information on the project up to date.
- Organisations often have unpredictable income streams depending on the outcome of other funding bids, which can result in the cancellation of projects if no match funding is secured. Smaller projects often struggle to manage cash flow. Rocket Science has developed a highly efficient, but still personalised system, for processing a large number of applications quickly in order to ensure organisations have the requisite funds to secure venues/equipment/transportation/coaches sufficiently in advance of beginning the project.
- Some applicants lack the technological/language/financial skills needed to submit an application and/or provide the required monitoring returns. Rocket Science reduces these barriers through careful design of the application form to extract and verify the required information. We have also developed highly-intuitive tools to ease the burden on projects’ collecting and analysing their user and performance data. Email and telephone support is provided to accompany our highly visual on-line guides.