In the last of this series of blog posts on what we look for, I’ll briefly consider why we tend to provide grants of approximately £10,000. Firstly, we’re aware of the fact that not all projects will fit within such a neat budget and we don’t only fund £10,000 projects. In the past, we have funded several larger projects, but have tended to do so as part of a consortium of funders. Our grant to Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, for example, is part of a multi-million pound, EU-funded, four-year project, while our grants to NotInMyCountry and Co-Creation Hub have been made in conjunction with other funders, namely SPIDER and Omidyar Network.
As a relatively small funder we’re realistic about the impact that our level of funding can have and we recognise that our £10,000 contribution could easily be lost in among a much larger project. We believe that we can make a much greater impact by funding organisations and projects working on a smaller scale, although we will consider much larger projects where we believe we can have an impact or where it provides opportunities for us to raise the profile of technology in development.
The main reason that we provide the size of grants we do, however, is that there are few funders willing or able to work with small, grassroots organisations who might only need a few thousand pounds to get their project up and running. These organisations often lack access to start-up funding and many of the larger funders simply can’t provide the small grants they need as they are generally designed to provide much larger levels of funding for bigger, more established organisations. We, on the other hand, have the time and ability to identify and work with grassroots organisations and are able to take calculated risks where we think the potential outcome is worth it. There is no greater feeling than seeing a small organisation you have funded take off and become a real success story. One of our first grants was to the Kenyan organisation, iCow, who with just a few thousand pounds in funding and income are now looking to scale not only throughout Kenya, but possibly beyond too.
This is the final of my blog posts on what we look for when considering grants. I’ll be writing a couple of complimentary posts on what we don’t look for and the kinds of ‘optional extras’ that we’re fond of, such as Open Source Software. Just to reiterate, however, this series of posts shouldn’t be taken as an absolute and immovable guide to what we’re willing to fund, but rather as an indication of the sorts of things we try to look for in organisations and projects. We have – and will probably continue to – break our own ‘rules’ as we aim to be as flexible as possible and will sometimes come across a project that is simply too good an opportunity to pass up. If you think there are things that we’ve got wrong or other things that we need to consider, then we’d be very happy to hear from you.