Investing in Communities Fund round two: final funding guidance

Investing in Communities Fund 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2026: guidance note for applicants.

Supplementary guidance

Eligibility of organisations for ICF grant funding

Please refer to the eligible applicant organisations section of the ICF Round 2 guidance note for details. 

National organisations

ICF is a community-focused fund and is therefore not aimed at larger organisations operating at a national level.  As part of a place-based approach, ICF supports partnership working that can enable smaller groups to access the fund via a collaborative application, however, the fund will consider applications from different group sizes that meet the eligibility criteria.  Depending on the nature of the proposal, national organisations may wish to consider partnering with an eligible locally-based applicant organisation that can support, co-design and co-deliver with the local community.

Credit unions

While we recognise the important role of Credit Unions in providing financial support for people as part of the community response, we would not expect credit unions to apply in their own right for direct project delivery funding given the ICF criteria.

Faith-based organisations

Faith-based organisations are eligible to apply, providing they meet the eligibility criteria. However, the fund will not pay for costs associated with the promotion of any religion.

Third Sector Interface (TSI) organisations

TSIs can apply if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Organisations working with communities of interest

Such organisations can apply if they meet the eligibility criteria and the proposal fits with the aims, objectives and other funding criteria.  Amongst other things, your application will be assessed on how strongly it evidences a place-based and holistic person-centred approach, involving all sections of the local community; and how effectively it evidences that it will enable all sections of the community to participate in all stages of the development, design and delivery of the project/service.  Applications must also demonstrate the ways in which the proposal will contribute towards collaboration and partnership working, and an understanding of the local community, its needs and connection with other services.  We encourage partnership working as a way to deliver joined up services that deliver holistic person-centred approaches addressing the four areas for action.

Unincorporated community groups

We can only consider applications from organisations that meet the eligibility criteria when they submit their ICF application.  However, this would not prevent your organisation from partnering with an eligible applicant organisation as part of a collaborative proposal.

Managing a local challenge fund

With the sole exception of Participatory Budgeting activity, organisations cannot apply for ICF grant to run a subsidiary fund (for example a local challenge fund) for other organisations to bid/apply into even if these deliver activities intended to address the aims and objectives of ICF.  ICF supports a partnership approach to develop fully formed proposals that have already identified the projects/services prioritised by your community; and it is these that must form your ICF proposal.  If successful, this will enable grant funding to be distributed through the ICF grant applicant organisation to the partnership groups to enable delivery of the specifically identified projects/services.

Funding towards the costs of Participatory Budgeting (PB) events and activity

Organisations can apply for ICF grant towards meeting the cost of holding Participatory Budgeting (PB) events and as a contribution towards subsequent PB activity that has been approved by the local community. ICF will consider applications that include PB activity where this is to enable the active involvement of the wider local community in helping to inform decisions on local spending priorities in accordance with the PB Charter for Scotland.  The minimum and maximum amounts you can apply for towards PB activity in each financial year are £20,000 and £100,000 respectively, including for all associated costs where applicable – for example, to run the event including staff costs, venue hire etc.  The PB activity must contribute to all four areas for action.

Supporting research in collaboration with partner organisations and communities

A project that looks to influence local policy through conducting research in collaboration with partner organisations and communities could potentially be eligible for ICF grant funding. However, your application would need to include details of how the research findings would be used to support your local community/communities to address each of the fund’s four areas for action.

Project start dates and other funding sources

Successful ICF applications will be expected to commence activity on or as soon as possible after 1 April 2023, and no later than 30 September 2023.  However, if you have, for example, secured some or all of the funding you need for your project in 2023/24 and are looking for ICF funding for 2024/25 and/or 2025/26, we will consider an application as part of this funding round providing the application demonstrates a good fit with the ICF criteria, and its aims and objectives.  However, please be aware that we may need to prioritise projects that seek ICF funding from 2023/24.  ICF funding for 2024/25 and 2025/26 will be subject to confirmation of annual spending reviews.

Applying to ICF Round 2

Your organisation will not automatically receive ICF grant funding via the next funding round to enable it to continue with its current ICF Round 1 project. ICF is an open challenge fund, meaning that we will consider all Round 2 funding applications with reference to the aims and objectives of the fund as set out in the guidance note and other supporting documents.  However, if your project has previously received ICF grant we expect that you would consider it appropriate to mention the relevance of this as part of your ICF Round 2 funding application.

Definition of ‘financial year’

For the purposes of ICF grant, the financial year runs from 1 April in one year to 31 March in the following year.  For example, the financial year 2023/24 covers the period from 01/04/2023 to 31/03/2024 inclusive. ICF applications should therefore profile requested ICF grant to align with the relevant financial year in which the project costs are expected to be incurred and the annual activities and outcomes are expected to be achieved.

Demonstrating a fit with all four areas for action

To be considered for grant funding all ICF applications must demonstrate how they will deliver against all four areas for action. Annex C of the guidance note provides details, and this also includes confirmation of the weighting attached to each of the four areas for action.

Funding for continuation of a project/service already funded through previous grants

In addition to new projects/services, ICF will also consider existing projects/services where there is a clear continuing need that this remains a priority for the community and providing the application meets the fund’s aims, objectives and funding criteria.  This includes projects/services that have evolved to build on previous learning.

Target client groups that can be supported by ICF grant

ICF will support projects and services that address all four areas for action in accordance with the guidance.  Subject to the proposal demonstrating a clear fit with the fund’s aims, objectives and the other funding criteria there are no restrictions on the target client groups the fund will support, providing this is delivered in a holistic person-centred way.  We encourage partnership working as a way to deliver joined up services that deliver holistic person-centred approaches addressing the four areas for action.

Feasibility studies

If your organisation intends applying to ICF for funding towards a feasibility study and you are unsure whether to also include a funding request to follow up on the outcome of the feasibility study, we encourage you to consider the funding likely to be required to deliver future phases of the project should the feasibility study be supportive.  We will work with you to consider funding for future phases, but please be aware that we may not be able to fund costs if significantly different to projected costs.  In addition, if you apply for funding for less than the full three year period please note that we may not be able to consider further funding within the overall period of the fund.

Applications covering more than one community of place in the local authority area and the maximum ICF funding limit

Applications covering more than one community of place are likely to reflect a scaling-up of project costs to support a wider range of high impact outcomes.  We will therefore consider single applications that request more than the £350,000 limit over the three consecutive financial years, where the amount requested is justified clearly in the application.  However, as key priorities of the fund include collaborative approaches, partnership working and joined up services this may enable your organisation to attract match funding as a contribution towards the project costs. Similarly, with a larger scale project, economies of scale should enable you to reflect on the most effective and efficient way to design and/or deliver the project. Please note that we may only be able to offer a reduced grant award.  Should you decide to submit a separate ICF application for each discrete community of place within a single local authority area this is also acceptable, noting that each application will be assessed on its merits with reference to the four areas for action and the other ICF criteria. 

Proposals covering more than one local authority area

For proposals designed to support communities in more than one local authority area we recommend that you complete separate applications for each local authority area.  This will help ensure that you have the opportunity to fully describe how the project will be delivered within the communities in each area. You should note that each application will be assessed on its merits with reference to the four areas for action and the other ICF criteria. 

Geographic focus

ICF allows for project/service delivery across an area (e.g. a town, village or local authority) providing the proposal clearly fits with the funding criteria, including the four areas for action.  Amongst other things, applications must demonstrate that the proposal has been identified and developed with the involvement and support of people living in each of these communities, also reflecting the diversity of these communities, and working in partnership with other local community/third sector organisations as well as the public sector, as appropriate, in which these communities are based.  This includes demonstrating the ways the project will connect with other local organisations, activities and services to ensure the project/service is well linked, and that shared local skills, assets and resources will be used collaboratively to best effect. 

Number of applications

There is no limit to the number of applications your organisation can submit.  However, each application will be considered separately with reference to the fund’s eligibility and assessment criteria (please refer to Annex B and Annex C of the guidance note for details).  As we are unlikely to be able to support all applications that are submitted you may wish to indicate your organisation’s preferred order of priority if submitting multiple applications.

Demonstrating your proposal is based in an area of disadvantage

You can use evidence from any relevant and trusted published source such as the Scottish Index of Multiple DeprivationPoverty in Rural Scotland: Evidence Review,  Rural Socio-Economic Performance IndexScottish Attainment Challenge Equity AuditClosing the Poverty-Related Attainment Gap, or from other forms of research/local feasibility studies/lived experience case studies etc.  Please remember to cite the source of evidence in your ICF application so that it can be validated.  The evidence should be as recent and relevant as possible, so that you can relate this directly to your proposal.

Taking account of inflation

Where applicable, you should allow for reasonable annual inflationary increases in your application over the requested funding period, such as annual salary increases for staff posts to be supported through the grant funding.  For successful applications, we will be unable to commit to future increases in the grant funding available during the ICF funding period, including for costs that you might have forgotten to include in the application. 

Supporting documentary evidence

We will only be able to consider information that you provide in the application form itself and the project budget template.  Please do not include any supplementary attachments or hyperlinks as these will not form part of the assessment of your application.  Therefore, please read each question in the application form carefully and be clear, specific, relevant, accurate and concise when answering the question.  Please be aware that we may share extracts from your application with the relevant local authority for your area and the Third Sector Interface. 

Letters of support

You do not need to provide letters of support with your application.  The only information that needs to be submitted is the completed application form and project budget template.  If you have letters of support for your proposal you can, if you wish, mention these in the application form.  We may subsequently request a copy of these.

Release of ICF grant

For successful applications, payment of ICF grant will be made quarterly in arrears following receipt of a completed grant payment claim.  However, if there is a need for project salary costs to be paid at the start of each quarter then we may be able to facilitate this.  If this is the case, please let us know in the application form – as part of the project budget template – why this is required. 

Project costs

Capital costs and revenue costs

Revenue (resource) expenditure covers the costs of operational day-to-day activity to support delivery of the project or service.  For example, project staff salary costs and direct overhead costs incurred solely and specifically in delivering the ICF-funded project and/or service.  Capital expenditure, on the other hand, creates or enhances an asset.  Capital expenditure includes the acquisition of property, plant and major items of equipment, and fixed assets - all of which are expected to be used for more than one year.  Scottish Government applies thresholds to determine whether costs are capitalised or fall within revenue expenditure, and we will assess the type of cost that is applicable from the information you provide in the project budget template.

Small-scale capital costs

ICF is predominantly a revenue fund, supplemented with a small capital budget.  £20,000 is the maximum you can apply for per application towards complementary small-scale capital costs, but only where this forms part of the main ICF revenue project or service. 

Vehicle purchase

ICF can support small-scale capital costs up to £20,000. This can include a contribution towards the purchase of a vehicle to be used for the benefit of the community where this directly supports the delivery of the ICF project or service.  We would expect any vehicle purchase to be for an electric or hybrid model supporting our net zero ambition.  However, we would encourage you to first consider other relevant funding sources for this type of purchase, such as those listed below (each of which has its own eligibility criteria):

If you are unable to secure funding for the purchase of a vehicle from the above funds and intend to apply to ICF for this instead, please briefly explain the reasons for doing so in your ICF application.

For other forms of funding, SCVO’s Funding Scotland website includes a free online search engine from small grants to funding for big capital projects, which you might also find helpful.

Professional fees

Reasonable professional fees will be considered where a clear rationale for these is included in the application form.

Training costs

We will consider reasonable and proportionate training costs if your application includes a clear justification for this being required to support/enable the proposal to be achieved. This includes training costs to support your organisation to increase its climate knowledge/ literacy.  You may also wish to explore peer learning through the Community Learning Exchange which can cover small associated costs for participation.

Match funding

Your project proposal can request 100% ICF grant to cover all eligible project costs, however, securing additional funding – for example, from partnerships and other funders – is welcomed, as this indicates stronger support and collaboration.

ICF grant funding can be used as match towards supporting the costs of an existing project that your organisation is already delivering, but only where the proposal meets the requirements of ICF and where the rationale for ICF grant funding being required is clearly explained in the application.

Application form

We have published a list of the main questions in the application form for information, noting that these questions may still be subject to minor changes prior to the launch of the fund.

Word/character limits for application form answers

The ICF application form will be shared in the required format when the fund opens for applications, including confirmation of whether the application will work with word or character counts.  For those organisations intending to draft some of their answers before the fund formally opens we suggest that you work to an average of approx. 6 or 7 characters per word. When completing the application form we recommend that you ensure your final answers fit with the confirmed count limits as part of the recommended quality assurance checks undertaken by applicants prior to submitting their application(s). 

Feedback on draft applications

For reasons of openness and transparency we are unable to comment on draft proposals or applications.  However, if you have a specific question regarding the fund that is not addressed in the guidance note or other supporting documents please email the ICF mailbox at and the ICF team will respond as soon as it can.

Application formats

If you require the ICF application form or other supporting documents in an alternative format for accessibility reasons, please email the ICF mailbox ( as soon as possible so that we can explore alternative options with you. Please do not wait until after the fund opens for applications to contact us.



Back to top