Earlier this year, we conducted our annual funding programme survey, which is designed to help Youth Music reflect on how we are doing as a funder. This survey was sent to everyone who has applied for funding from Youth Music, whether or not they were successful.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated in the funding programme survey (the response rate – at 23% – was much higher than in previous years). We appreciate your time and openness in responding. The data has now been analysed and the associated report (which can be downloaded from this link), contains a series of recommendations. It is heartening to see that the response to the survey was generally very positive, particularly for the staff team who have worked hard over the last year to maintain a high level of service against the backdrop of a reduced staff structure and in a year where we have awarded more grants than ever before.
On the grant-making side, there are two clear areas identified where we will take action as a result of the recommendations. One of these areas is in relation to feedback for organisations whose applications are declined. This is something we have been trying to improve with each grant round. We are now able to offer more detailed and specific feedback, which can be followed up with a phone call if necessary. As a result, we are hoping that the response to this question will improve next year!
The other area where applicants were less satisfied was in relation to the amount of time and resource required to make an application (in proportion to the amount of money requested). At present, organisations go through the same application process regardless of whether they are applying for £10,000 or £100,000. One solution put forward by the report authors to address this issue was the introduction of a small grants programme. In principle this is something that we would be keen to do, but we would need to explore whether it is practical within our existing resources and workload. We will investigate this further, seeking other solutions to address the problem if a small grants scheme is not viable.
Elsewhere, there were some technical problems experiences with our application templates and online application form. We have recently upgraded the software we use for our online application form and have seen a decrease in enquiries as a result. We’ve also tested and reviewed the application and requirement templates we use. We will take on board some of your other comments as we continue to review our application questions, forms and modules in ensuring the programme is fit-for-purpose, and have also updated our ‘frequently asked questions’ page to take account of some of the report’s recommendations.
Youth Music Network
We are about to begin a new phase of development on the Youth Music Network, and have used your comments to inform our priorities. The development list features things like the introduction of notifications for new content; a better ratings system; and improved navigability. You will begin to see further changes with time but resource implications mean that these might not happen overnight.
Evaluation and research
There are some recommendations related to our evaluation and learning activities. Throughout August we will be reviewing and analysing all of the evaluation material you have submitted to produce our annual impact report. We will continue to do this on an annual basis and also look for other opportunities to further our evaluation practice and dissemination. We are also planning further professional development activities around evaluation, following on from the successful outcomes training we have delivered in previous years. Watch this space for more details!
One other recommendation was to consider increasing the number of project visits we make, including as part of our evaluation and assessment processes. We (the Youth Music staff team) are all eager to attend as many visits as possible, but we need to balance this within our overall workloads and our organisational budget. At present we prioritise visits as part of our grant management process, but we are currently looking at how the visits we undertake can better support our learning and evaluation function. In the meantime, please continue to share your opinions and learning via the Youth Music Network.
For those of you who suggested that we diversify our income to provide more grant-making opportunities, rest assured that we’re aiming to do just that in pursuit of our vision and mission. As a national funder we will continue to champion the cause of music-making for all children and young people, using the knowledge and intelligence we gather to make the right funding decisions, generate more income and drive fresh thinking across the sector. We know that it would never be possible to achieve our vision without the enthusiasm, dedication and innovation shown by all our funded partners, so would like to thank you for supporting us on this journey.