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Project consultation: What do I need to do?

June 5, 2015

At the Big Lottery Fund we provide grants for projects that cover health, education, environment and the community. Those projects that receive funding demonstrate a clear evidence of what’s important to communities. It can be quite confusing to know what we mean by this so we’ve asked our Funding Team to help explain what consultation is.

What is consultation?

Consultation is essentially asking people what they want and what they need in the local community, or as a group of people.

Why should I consult with people?

Without consultation there is no evidence to show that the project is needed and wanted by the community it will be working with.  The more evidence you have, the more confidence the funder has that your project will work in the longer run.

Who do I need to consult with?

It depends on the amount of money that you are asking for. If you are applying for a small grant of below £10,000 from our Awards for All programme, we would expect you to have consulted with those you are hoping to work with. For example, if you are working with isolated older people, it is worth asking them what type of activities they would like to do and whether there are any other services they need help with. If you are applying for larger amounts of money under our People and Places  programmes (grants of £10,001 to £500,000) we would expect a lot more consultation. For example, if you’re an organisation looking for a grant to support young people with mental health difficulties it would be a good idea to ask those young people, their friends and families, volunteers, community groups, schools, similar mental health organisations, and healthcare professionals.

A good rule-of-thumb is to do as much as you can, and try to speak to as many relevant people as possible.

_DSC0052.NEFWhat do I need to do?

The best thing that we can suggest is to conduct a short survey, questionnaire or even a focus group for what you would like to ask people.

The most important thing to remember is that you mustn’t ask closed questions that lead people into a particular answer. For example, you shouldn’t ask people, “Do you think that we should build a community centre?” as this will lead them into thinking that you should have a community centre.

A better question to ask would be, “What do you like / dislike about your area?”, “What are the priorities / issues for your area’’ and ‘Do you have any ideas for addressing them?’’ as these invite people to share their views on what matters most to their community and what are the key areas that they would like to work on. Sometimes, you might find that there is no need to apply for a grant after all.

When do I need to consult with people?

It’s important to understand what your community wants to achieve before you apply. We would expect consultation to have been undertaken in the last 3 years.

Our consultation Top Tip

When filling in a grant application, please tell us:

  • Who you have spoken to
  • How many people you have spoken with
  • When, the date you consulted with them
  • What method you used- questionnaire, focus group, email, social media, meeting
  • And what the main findings of the consultation were

Still have questions about consultation? Let us know in the comments section and our team will help you out!

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2015 10:53 am

    Very handy reminder for what to focus on in evidencing need. Thank you.

    • July 15, 2015 2:55 pm

      Thank you for your comment Barry. Please follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with our latest news. @BigLotteryWales.

  2. July 9, 2015 4:08 pm

    We feel we have a good idea of what is meant by consultation and submitted a variety of outcomes and findings following our last submission under People and Places which included questionnaires from beneficiaries, parents and carers, outcomes from lobbying conferences and focus group meetings. unfortunately our bid was unsuccessful. What more should we do on this?

    • July 15, 2015 2:57 pm

      Thank you for getting in touch Kathy- I would recommend that you speak with the Funding Officer that assessed your application as there may be other areas in the application form that could be improved on. Please email us at and we will provide you with the contact details of the person that assessed your application.

  3. Jonathan Ashton permalink
    July 13, 2015 9:59 am

    Dear P&P Grants Team

    Having conducted a variety of consultations to develop new projects around funding opportunities, I feel your prescribed solution sounds somewhat unrealistic. A good project occurs in the overlap between need and desire, the remit of the organisation / any partnership that can be put together, the potential of that organisation / partnership, timing and money. A meaningful consultation has to reflect that reality. Unless you have the appropriate focus to the research, you are stopping the people you consult from saying anything relevant.

    I remember trying exactly the approach recommended above with a group of older people in sheltered housing in Newcastle when I was helping set up a community centre there. I started out by telling them who we were, why we were thinking of opening a new centre in the area and asked what did they want. They told us they wanted us to change the basis of the pension system. Perhaps they had a point, but as a charity with a service provision remit, there wasn’t a lot we could do with that information! When we got into more focussed questions, we got much more useful information. You see the same thing occasionally with Local Authority consultations for strategies: they pretend to start with a completely blank sheet of paper and then they can’t do anything with the results. Again, you don’t get far asking big open questions of a group of people with “moderate” learning disabilties (another mistake I’ve learnt from!) With people with dementia, a short question and short answer that stands on its own may be the best you can do.

    I agree you need to try and make questions as open as is realistic and give people the chance to show you where you’re wrong and need to revise your plans. Service users / potential service users are experts by experience.

    However, consultations are a much more skilled process than you are suggesting, here. You need to enable your service users to create as much change as possible, which means being efficient and asking good questions. With a session with disaffected young people, you might be lucky to keep them engaged for 20 minutes. Leading them up the garden path by presenting a completely blank sheet of paper can just disempower them.

    Jonathan Ashton

    • July 20, 2015 7:48 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us Jonathan. We receive many more applications to the Big Lottery Fund than we can fund, and use evidence of need as an indicator of whether something is really needed with those it is hoping to work with. We sometimes find that projects use leading questions with beneficiaries which skews whether it is the right method to address the needs or whether it is a local priority for them.

      As you rightly suggested, it can help by framing the consultation with the context first. For example, ‘These are the types of issues experienced by young people in this area, what three activities would help to address them?’

      With any consultation, the method for consulting should be appropriate to the group you are working with. A series of questions may not be appropriate for a vulnerable group and you may choose to use informal discussions from a focus group instead. Consultation is not an exact science but having good unbiased evidence of who you have spoken to is key.

      Many thanks again for getting in touch.


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