With so many great financial literacy projects competing for funding, how do we differentiate between the expressions of interest we received? Here, we outline some of the factors that helped some organisations stand out in 2015.
The solution not the problem
Most applications we received were strong in outlining a problem in financial literacy (ie a community need). However, some applications were stronger in outlining a convincing plan to solve the problem and have a lasting impact on their target audience.
As part of the project description, we ask about the distribution plan. This is a major factor in selecting projects to progress to the next stage.
- FLA is keen for any project (large or small) to benefit the largest number of people possible. Projects need a clear idea of how to achieve this, not just a hope. Some projects target a small group where intensive interaction is necessary, so we understand these will only reach a modest number of people.
- It is not easy to get people engaged in educational programs about financial issues. It is one thing to announce a workshop; the difficult part is often getting people to come and be engaged. Stronger applications gave more reason for confidence that they could solve this problem.
Evidence and stages in development
This year we communicated more strongly that we were interested in seeing projects based on firm evidence of ‘what works’. We saw an increased number of applications that understood the typical stages in building an evidence-base within a project:
- Research and scoping stage
- Pilot stage with evaluation
- Demonstration stage, testing the model to a wider range of scenarios
- Large scale roll-out
FLA would prefer to fund a pilot stage, and then consider funding for a wider roll-out if there is firm evidence of success. FLA has invited full applications for a number of pilot projects that are well researched, incorporate evaluation, and show promise of wider impact over the long term. On some projects FLA may be suggesting a slightly higher budget in order to properly fund evaluation.
Proposals were not successful if they wanted to do a large-scale rollout before the model had been piloted and proved successful.
Addressing a gap
A number of applications proposed developing new education resources (programs, publications, websites, videos), without showing there was a gap that needed to be filled. In some cases people had not checked for existing resources. Stronger applications had looked at existing education resources, and explained why they thought there was a gap. FLA is keen to avoid duplication of effort, and will only fund projects where there is clearly a gap.
Applicants did well in setting out actual and proposed partnerships. This gave a sense of buy-in, and confidence that they could draw on a range of experience. We recognize that a successful project often requires skill in several different disciplines. Partnerships are one way to address this. Partnerships were often important in improving distribution; ensuring the education program reaches as many people as possible.
Proposals with a strong wider benefit or a longer-term benefit rank more highly. Most commonly, the wider benefit was the lessons to be learned from a pilot project with a strong evaluation component. If the project succeeds, it will provide an evidence base and inspiration for other organisations to do similar projects.
Amongst the projects that were invited to submit a full application, there were no projects that only have a local impact, with no potential for wider benefits. In a competitive process, projects with wider potential benefit generally ranked higher.