In a previous blog we recommend you stay focused on your idea, and here we are contradicting ourselves by asking you to consider alternatives! But this isn’t to confuse you, but for you to be sure that the project you have chosen and the way you intend to deliver it, is the best way to meet the need.
A technical part of an application, the options appraisal is where the funder is asking you to consider what other ways there are to achieve what you want to do. A well-thought through business plan would also contain this information.
For many, the question can appear irrelevant and unnecessary, and often appears out of context, disturbing the ‘flow’ of the form. The options appraisal requires you to take a journey back in time. This can be challenging, with you feeling like you are going over old ground, resurrecting the past and perhaps contentious issues that have been discounted previously.
The detail required will depend on the funder. For some, only a very basic question may be asked, such as ‘What other ways of delivering the project are there?’ Other funders may request the information is given in a certain format. Like the risk assessment, this isn’t to trick you, but for them to have the information in a regular format. This may take the form of a table – see example below.
|Do nothing||No cost||Business doesn’t grow and achieve potential|
|Refurbish and extend existing premises||No removal or relocation costs.
|Would disrupt production.
Planning permission likely to be refused (see letter from planning officer)
The options that need to be considered will depend upon the project proposed, as each is unique, but the common question to consider is ‘are there better ways to achieve the objective?’:
• more/less staff
• larger/smaller piece of equipment
• relocating rather than refurbishing and vice versa
• buying rather than renting and vice versa
• phasing rather than all at once
• another organisation delivering
As a rule of thumb, the first option you give should be ‘Do nothing’. Even though you may think that it isn’t an option, for the funder it is. Don’t be tempted to say ‘there are no alternatives’ as that is rarely, if ever, the case. Stay objective – don’t be tempted to over emphasise the advantages or disadvantages, funders have great experience can sniff out weaknesses! End with the option you have chosen to deliver as arranging in this format enables the ‘story’ of your project to unfold, and makes the business case for the preferred option.
To summarise, an options appraisal can help you rethink your project idea and gives assurance to a funder that the way you have chosen to deliver has been thought out and is cost effective.
If you need help to assemble the options available to deliver your project, to write or check over an application or business plan, our team can help you. As a not for profit organisation, we are able to offer this service. For more information contact Sophie Price 01837 658643