Monday, 17 September 2007

The Reality of Funding in Cambridgeshire

The Funding Fair 2007 provided useful information and contacts to organisations and individuals interested in funding their organisations and activities. This article will include a summary and useful links for both those in the arts and those working on social/community projects as well as a brief mention of people or organisations I talked to with both my artist and business networker hats on.
It was a glorious day, the tail end of summer, when I arrived in Cabourne for the funding fair on the business park! Fourteen funding agencies and three community groups had set up display stands and were actively talking to the visitors dropping in. Four seminars were also on offer and I attended the “Arts Project Funding” and “Sustainable Funding”.
Whilst the superficial message was bleak for arts funding from local and regional government agencies within Cambridgeshire (capital funding only and at a reduced budget), there was an underlying wealth of information and assistance available to the artist in our region. South Camrbidgeshire District Council Art Development Officer Andy O’Hanlon (tel: 01954 713343) has a friendly team with “start” (supporting arts development) and useful information on the SCDC site, if you know where to find it ( ).
Two very useful documents that I gathered were:
  1. the “Cambridgeshire’s Toolkit for the Arts” available at the bottom of the page from; the page also introduces the arts development team!
  2. the “Funding Toolkit 2007 Update”, available at . Whilst this covers a broader range of funding sources than just the arts, it has an excellent five pages of Funder – mentals, hints and tips on how to plan applying for funding effectively
I also blessed the Arts Council table with my ignorance and learnt that again, whilst applications were considered from a whole breadth of arts, it was worth taking time preparing and gathering information to improve chances of success. Providing grants from £200 to £30000, their website is and has a regional section.
Funding for community and social activities was also feeling the financial squeeze, with many participants attending because they were looking for imminent renewal of funding for existing projects.
Two factors were affecting sustainable funding. Firstly, the trend in funding was towards the establishment of new projects. Second, the proportion of monies available from grants had declined to 38% with fee income solutions now making up the majority of sustainable funds. David Coulson of the Social Enterprise People introduced us to the concept of the structured market within the voluntary sector, where voluntary groups needed to educate and collaborate with the authorities to identify tasks and solutions the voluntary sector could fulfil on a contract basis. This required a longer term planning and looking to the future, patient work and networking – and no guarantee that the participants would actually gain the contracts arising!
Here again the Funder-mentals section of Funding Toolkit mentioned above will be invaluable to those aiming to be more successful in any bids for funding or contracts.
People and organisations I met included;
Bev Sedley of Lifecraft (, a Cambridge based mental health charity who is also an accapella singer and part of a local singing group.
Richard Taylor of Arts and Minds (, currently interested in storytelling and mental health.
Marie of the Peterborough Women’s Centre ( who aim to provide training and support for all women in an empowering environment.
Cambridgeshire Community Foundation ( who manage funds and grants on behalf of patrons in this region.
Mondegreen EB ( who fund community projects within a 10 mile radius of landfill sites.
Overall the event was informative and useful and I would recommend anyone involved in funding to look out for the Funding Fair 2008!

Friday, 14 September 2007

New free online tools for small businesses

Collaborative networking is one way that small businesses can work loosely together to provide serives that are greater than the sum of their parts. I'm therefore always on the lookout for tools that can be of help.
Recently, I discovered Goggle's free document and spreadsheet facility. This goes one step further than the shared folders that can be used currently by Windows Live Messenger users in that two people can simultaneously work on a text document online and see the respective changes in real time.
People can be invited in as collaborators or simply as viewers - all that is needed is a free Google Account.
At the moment I'm using the facility to create, share and edit documents with two other companies, one in the UK and one abroad, on a joint project. The other advantage is that I can then access the documents from anywhere online if I wish to in a secure password protected manner.
Whilst the formatting settings are not as sophisticated as those of Word on my PC, I can create credible documents formatted online. If I need to prettify the final version, the document can be saved in a variety of standard formats for processing on my own machine.
If sharing documents with clients or colleagues is something that could benefit your company, give Google Documents and Spreadsheets a trial!