30 Sep

Funding Masterclasses Part VI: Options Appraisal

Funding Masterclasses Part VI

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.

Option Advantages Disadvantages
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

Liz Abell

Managing Director

23 Sep

Great Britain Challenge funds secured to help Marine Industry

Plymouth and Portsmouth Councils have succeeded in winning Great Britain Challenge funds to support Marine Industry exporting and inward investment activity between now and March 2016.

The plan is to attend a number of overseas Marine Industry events, working with UKTI and the Universities to take companies keen to export to these markets, and to meet potential inward investors within the destination. In some instances this will involve a stand at the event, and in others more of a Trade Mission.

Participating companies will benefit from a ‘collective presence’, organised events, expert UKTI exporting support, and financial contribution to travel costs.

Please read links to flyers below to find out more!

Join Plymouth & Portsmouth at the Amsterdam Metstrade Event

Join Plymouth & Portsmouth at the San Diego Blue Tech Event

Join Plymouth & Portsmouth at the Shanghai Marintec Event

Join Plymouth & Portsmouth at the Washington Oceans Business Event

23 Sep

Funding Masterclasses Part V: The Technical Bits – Risk Assessment

Funding Masterclass Part V

Now we start to look at the technical areas of an application form. And even if you aren’t completing a form, but requesting investment from a bank for example, assessing risk should still form part of your business plan as this demonstrates that you have critically looked at what you want to do.

Risk assessments are about identifying what could go wrong, what you would do to stop this happening and how you would deal with issues if they occurred. It isn’t rocket science, and for an experienced project manager risks can be obvious, but for others with less experience it can be daunting.


The detail required will depend on the intended funder. For some, only a very basic question may be asked, such as ‘What risks will you face?’ Other may request the information is given in a certain way – this isn’t to trick you, but for the funder to be able to see the information they require in a regular format. The detail required usually concerns the risk, the impact it would have, the likelihood or probability of it occurring and the action you will take to reduce it.  This may take the form of a table – see example below.


Risk Impact (H, M, L) Likelihood

(H, M, L)

New website doesn’t work and orders can’t be taken High Low Detail Specification drawn up. Company with proven track record to be used to develop. Beta testing of site before launch. Staged payments.  

Even in a basic risk assessment you may be asked to assess impact and likelihood of occurrence using categories (high, medium and low) but in more complex applications you may be asked to use a numbering scale which will be defined for you. Colour coding may be used so that the high risks are easily identified.

The risks you will face in developing a project or your business will be unique, but there are common themes worth considering as ‘what ifs’:

  • People – a key person leaves or you can’t recruit the right person?
  • Money – grant arrives later, costs go up or you are offered less than expected?
  • Buildings – works overrun or builders find something unexpected? eg asbestos
  • Equipment – not fit for purpose or breaks down after purchase?
  • Demand – too popular or too few orders/users?
  • Goals/aims – don’t achieve what you set out to do or timescale changes?
  • Context – competing business opens up nearby or new legislation/policy impacts?

Even though some risks will be outside of your control, a funder will be looking to see that you are aware of the world in which you operate. Don’t be tempted to say ‘no risks’ as there will be some for every project, neither over analyse and detail hundreds – the listing you provide should be appropriate to the size and scale of the project, and the amount of funding you are requesting.

And finally, just because a project has risks it doesn’t mean it won’t get supported. Any funder wants to be reassured via the risk assessment that you are aware of any pitfalls, and are ready to manage them if they occur.

If you need help to identify the risks in 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 info contact Sophie Price 01837 658643

Liz Abell

Managing Director

16 Sep

Funding Masterclasses Part IV: Showing your Project is Needed

Funding Masterclass Part IV

This is one of the areas that applicants find hardest to complete effectively.   Sometimes it is called “evidence of need” and sometimes there is a question like “how do you know your project is needed?” on an application form.

Whatever the exact question, the funder is trying to find out what research you have done and what you found out from it. A good answer will list a range of pieces of research and what the main findings and conclusions are from each, and use this to build a picture of how your idea will usefully fill an identified gap.

For businesses, the question can be a little confusing because your idea may not be “needed” but it might still be a brilliant idea.  In this case, think about it as demonstrating that you have spotted an opportunity that you are ideally placed to respond to.


So what types of research are expected?

Firstly, desk research.  The internet provides a fantastic means of seeing what is out there and accessing existing research and statistics.  You should check whether anyone else is already doing what you have thought of, and whether there is any evidence that your target market actually want what you are proposing to provide.  Local authorities (district and county councils) often have a publications section which may include information about your area, and general statistical information can be found on the Office for National Statistics website.  If there is a governing organisation for your type of organisation, they may publish research and information which is helpful.  For businesses, a google search on relevant products and services will show an indication of what already exists.

Secondly, market research with your target market.  This may be your local community, or it could be existing customers, or it might be new customers that you would like to attract. You can carry out market research in a number of ways; face to face e.g. having a stand at an event, targeted telephone interviews, or using a survey.  Each has their pros and cons, but for small projects a simple survey is often easiest as it can set up online for free and then completed either online or by hand.  You could leave it out for your customers to complete.

Designing a good survey is an art in itself, but three top tips are:

  1. Keep it short and simple – then more people will respond
  2. Make sure your questions are focused – think about what you want to find out, then ask the right question(s) to get this answer
  3. Test it out on colleagues/family/friends first – they can tell you if it makes sense.

When you have completed your research, summarise the findings on your application form.  If you have carried out your own market research, include details of when and how you did it and how many responses you received.

If you would like some help with your research, including professional survey services, our team of experts are available to help.  For more info, Sophie Price 01837 658643

Liz Abell

Managing Director

09 Sep

Funding Masterclasses Part III: Showing you are the Right People to Do It


Funding Masterclass Part IIIMost funding application forms include questions about your organisation, your staff and their skills.  Sometimes, you will specifically be asked why you are the best organisation to do the work.

This can be very challenging to respond to, as you came up with the idea, and of course you want to implement it.  It might also provide valuable employment for your staff, or help your organisation become more profitable, both perfectly valid reasons.

However, when a funder is looking at an application, there are three other considerations.  Firstly, and this is particularly for community or business support type projects, is there another organisation who could do it better?  Secondly, particularly for business development ideas, will this have a negative impact on other businesses?  Thirdly, if another organisation has submitted a similar application (and you would be surprised how often this happens), how can they choose between you?

Funders have a responsibility to use their money as wisely, efficiently and fairly as possible, so they must take all of these factors into consideration.  So how do you deal with this?

The easiest way to do this is to think like a funder.  You need to demonstrate in your application why you are the best people to carry out the work.  Perhaps you have particularly good connections with the groups of people you plan to work with, or maybe you have lots of experience of similar work and have had positive feedback previously.  Maybe you have come up with an idea that can be shared with other organisations to bring them benefits too, so there is less competition involved.  Or it could be that your business idea is based on a particular product that only you supply locally.  Or maybe you can do it more efficiently (in terms of cost or timing) than others because of your organisational setup. You need to make sure you include all of your relevant credentials, connections and qualifications that demonstrate why you are most suitable.

Think of it as being like a job application; make sure you tell them everything that will help to show why you are the best.  Never assume they already know about your organisation and what you have achieved, as most funders can only consider what is actually written on your application form.

If you are finding it difficult to write your application or haven’t enough time to dedicate to it, and would like some help, our team of experts are available to help.  For more info, contact Sophie Price 01837 658643

Liz Abell

Managing Director

08 Sep

Six More Businesses Awarded Funding by the new South Devon Fishing Industry Development Fund!

Six more businesses have been awarded money by the new South Devon Fishing Industry Development Fund (SDFID). The funding was available for fishing industry projects between Plymouth and Brixham to help grow business turnover, promote local fishing, increase sales of seafood and sustain local jobs. The awarded applicants were diverse and exciting and demonstrate the innovation and enterprise that exemplifies the South Devon Fishing Industry.

The Nathan brothers and Justin Weeks are using their money to assist with the purchase of new equipment which will enable them to catch different varieties of fish.

Mark Taylor, a one day a week fisherman now has funding to help him buy the lobster pots, backlines, net haulers, nets and shooting rail that he needs.

A scallop nursery project in Torbay was also awarded funding. The nursery takes baby scallops (known as spat) from Norway and will grow them until they reach 40mm in size.  They will then be placed on the seabed and harvested by local fishers.

Experienced diver Frazer Pugh has returned to Devon from Australia to start a new business The Hand Picked Scallop Company, based at Brixham harbour. His funding will go towards obtaining a fishing licence and equipment for the boat.

Dartmouth based Dean Corbett is a line and rod fisherman who sells direct to Brixham Market. He has received funding to increase the chilled storage facility on his boat the Deborah Jane.

The funding awarded has been for 50% of the project costs, and in addition each applicant received a free day of advice to help with the application process and creating a business plan. A small amount of funding is still available, but you must be quick if you are interested! Please contact the DR Company on 01837 658643 or sdfish@drcompany.co.uk .  This funding has been made available for the South Devon Fishing Industry Development Project from the Coastal Communities Fund.


02 Sep

Funding Masterclasses Part II: The Most Frequent Mistake on Funding Applications, and How to Avoid It

Funding Masterclass Part II

Having managed a series of multi-million pound funding streams, and reviewed hundreds of applications, there is one thing that we often see which leads to applications being rejected: Not being clear about what you want to do.

For example, we often see descriptions such as “We want to help our community by setting up local provision of important education and training services that will help people to gain more skills and have a better chance of getting work.”

And that gets us thinking, “That’s lovely, but what are you actually thinking of doing?” It could be anything from that description – building a new classroom, employing a trainer, purchasing a minibus to transport people to a local college, setting up an online course with a local mentor, etc.

It is much better to describe clearly what you plan to do, such as “We plan to build a single room extension to our existing village shop which will act as a training room and meeting place for local people. The room will be furnished with tables that can be set out as a cafe to help make the shop more financially viable, or joined together into a training layout that can accommodate 10 people. We will employ qualified trainers on a part time basis and link to the local community college to provide accredited business skills courses.”

And that gets us thinking “That’s lovely, and we completely understand what your project is about, so we can start to get behind it”.

Remember when your application reaches the funder, it is likely to be one of many. The sooner someone assessing it can grasp what you are thinking of doing, the better your chances of success as they will read everything else within that context.

If you are finding it difficult to write your application clearly or haven’t enough time to dedicate to it, and would like some help, our team of experts are available to help. For more info, contact Sophie Price 01837 658643

Liz Abell

Managing Director