by Author Zoe Kilb

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Catalyser Fund Round 4 Expressions of Interest - How we made decisions

This blog provides some further information about the decision-making process for Catalyser Round 4, including some common reasons why applicants were not taken forward to the next stage of the process.

Key stats for this round

  • We received applications requesting almost £43 million, against a total budget of just over £5 million.
    • That’s the highest ever for Catalyser Fund.
    • In London alone, we received applications to the value of £10.8 million.
  • The overall success rate for Catalyser Fund Round 4 will be 12%.
  • Just 23% (fewer than one in four) expressions of interest have been invited to make a full application.
  • We expect around 60% of those making a full application will be awarded a grant.

What made a good proposal?

Youth Voice and co-design is central to Youth Music funding. Priority was given to applicants with solid youth voice and participation practices, who clearly demonstrated how children and young people had co-designed the programme or outlined clear plans for how co-design would take place.

The strongest applicants weaved young voices into their application. They told us about their codesign process, but also what they had learnt from this process, so we could see a clear throughline from co-design to proposed activities. Our Share The Mic Resource Hub has lots of resources and ideas for those that want to further develop their Youth Voice practice.

Good applications demonstrated an inclusive approach to working with children and young people facing barriers and showed a track record in doing so. We could see that the way they work with children and young people is led by their needs and interests first and foremost. Their applications might also have demonstrated how they anticipate people’s access needs, employ staff with similar backgrounds and lived experiences as the intended participants, or have support from partners and other agencies. For projects working with d/Deaf, Disabled or Neurodivergent children and young people we could clearly see how they had designed their work around the social model of disability.

Often, the best proposals were really clear about what they wanted to do. They followed the guidance and addressed each of the questions in turn. Where an application is muddled, we always try to read between the lines. But if you are new to funding or it’s not your area of expertise, then it’s worth getting someone else to review your application before you submit. Remember, if you identify as d/Deaf, Disabled or Neurodivergent then you can apply to our access fund to get help with your application.

What are Youth Music’s current priorities?

Catalyser funds work to sustain, scale up or create sector change. In the current climate, we’re really concerned about sustaining the grassroots youth and community organisations that are so central to our mission. So, the majority of applications invited to make a full application were seeking to ‘sustain’ their programmes.

If you are a very small organisation, are new to this work, or wanted to try something new, then your application was probably declined because Catalyser Fund is not the best fit for your current stage of development. Our Trailblazer Fund is a better match for that.

The small amount of ‘scale up’ programmes we invited to full application demonstrated:

  • A track record of the work they wanted to grow (i.e. with the same groups of children and young people and for similar activity).
  • Demand for increased delivery.
  • Strategic plans for growth (i.e. incremental scale up relative to their current size and turnover).

Why were the majority of applications declined?

One of the hardest jobs we do is saying ‘no’ to funding applications. Now more so than ever, when demand is at an all-time high and the grassroots sector faces a funding crisis. 

Most EOIs were rejected due to competition and available budget. During our decision-making, we consider multiple aspects and aim to be equitable. These aspects include the quality of the application, the type of work proposed, where it will take place, and the organisations who have applied. As many applications we receive are fundable, this process helps us to prioritise our decision-making. Many fundable applications missed out as we prioritised an equitable, diverse and balanced portfolio.

  • Demand was high across all regions, but we received a particularly high number of applications from London and the North West. This made these regions much more competitive.
  • ‘Children and Young People Facing Barriers’ and ‘Young Adults’ funding themes were the most oversubscribed. 

Where does equity come into it?

We try to invest our funding equitably – where it’s needed the most. Applications with little targeting towards children and young people facing barriers were unlikely to proceed.

In general, we prioritised organisations:

  • With a turnover of £100,000 to £250,000 (those big enough to have a track record, but in the category shown to be most at risk of closure in our recent funding crisis survey).
  • Without other core funding.
    • This meant it was difficult for many Arts Council NPOs or Music Education Hub Lead Organisations to be prioritised, unless they were working in cold spots, with partners, and at significant scale.
    • Work in schools, or that looked similar to Music Education Hub core offers (e.g. 1:1 instrumental tuition or whole class instrumental learning), were not prioritised. This is because there is already significant other investment into this type of work.

We also consider 'place' in equitable funding:

  • Each region of the country is allocated a budget range, to ensure that everywhere gets a minimum percentage of investment. Similarly, we don’t want to over-invest in places where we receive the highest number of applications.
  • We prioritise local authorities based on a combination of factors including numbers of children and young people, deprivation statistics, rurality and existing investment.

Our grant-making is participatory, and we involve our advisors in the decision-making processes to bring external perspectives into the process.

What next?

If you’d like to stay in touch with us, you can sign up to our monthly newsletter which has full details of future funding rounds and free online learning opportunities.

For Catalyser Fund Round 4 - applicants who have been invited to submit a full application have around six weeks to submit and will hear the outcome in early November 2024. The next stage remains competitive – we envisage the success rate will only be around 60%.

Trailblazer and Catalyser

  • The next Trailblazer Fund deadline will be 30 August 2024, with awards made in December 2024.
  • The next Catalyser Fund deadline will be May 2025, with awards made in October 2025.