Small Grants Fund: review

An evaluation of the Wellbeing Fund Open Applications process, an emergency funding programme set up in March 2020 to support the third sector response to the coronavirus pandemic.



This report provides a review of the Small Grants Fund, which was set up as part of the Scottish Government's £50 million Wellbeing Fund to distribute small amounts of funding (approximately £2000 per grant) to voluntary and community organisations, primarily small community groups. It was targeted at organisations whose services had been affected by Covid-19, and who could put the grant to immediate use to help support local families and communities at greatest risk from the effects of the pandemic in the short term.

The fund began operating in late March 2020, and was managed by the Corra Foundation, with funding distributed by a group of national funders: the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), the STV Appeal, Inspiring Scotland, the Cattanach Trust and Impact Funding Partners.

The report is based on end-of-project monitoring data provided by funded organisations, as well as interviews with key stakeholders involved in the implementation and management of the fund. It examines who received funding and what types of projects were supported, the extent to which the funding was used for its intended purposes, and the lessons learned from the management and implementation of the fund. As a result of limited data on the fund, it is beyond the scope of the review to draw conclusions about the extent to which the fund achieved its aims.


  • £4,023,000 in Small Grants funding was distributed through 1,543 grants, with an average grant amount of £2,607
  • Organisations based in the local authority areas of Glasgow City (£524,000) and City of Edinburgh (£305,000) received the largest share of funding
  • Organisations based in the local authority areas of East Renfrewshire (£32,000), Orkney (£56,000) and East Dunbartonshire (£60,000) received the smallest shares of funding
  • The most common target groups that funded organisations were aiming to reach were older people (17% of projects), younger people (13%), people with disabilities (13%) and those facing socio-economic disadvantage (13%). However, 63% of organisations did not provide a response to this question
  • The funding was distributed to organisations focusing on some of the most pressing needs arising from the pandemic, particularly mental health, food provision and physical health. 43% of funded organisations had a focus on mental health, 19% had a focus on food, and 13% had a focus on physical health. However, 34% of organisations did not provide a response to this question
  • Analysis of how a subset of 50 funded organisations said they had spent the grants showed that 59% of instances of spending were on organisational running costs; 32% were on provisions for service users; and 9% were unspecified
  • The most common items that organisations spent their Small Grants Fund awards on were technology for organisational use, general programme costs, staff/volunteer costs, essential running costs, and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Organisations reported using the funding for a mixture of the continuation, adaptation and expansion of their usual services remotely, and setting up new services to tackle the particular problems brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Based on a randomly selected sample of 50 funded organisations, 54% reported using the funding for Covid 19-specific activities; 34% reported using it to adapt and continue their existing services; and 2% used it on organisational costs while suspending their activities
  • The majority of organisations (84%) reported using their funding as initially envisaged. 10% used it for a "slightly different purpose", and less than 1% used it for a "totally different purpose"
  • A subset of 225 funded organisations were asked whether they would do anything differently if they were in the same situation again. 51% reported that they would not change anything, while 38% reported that they would do something differently. The most common changes suggested were ensuring a more organised approach to the project and being better prepared to use digital technology to help their service users
  • Overall, funded organisations and those involved in setting up and managing the fund were generally positive about the implementation of the fund, suggesting that it achieved its aim of distributing funding rapidly to allow organisations to respond quickly to service users' needs. Comments from recipients and those involved in managing the fund suggested a number of lessons that could be learned for future similar funds. These include:
    • Replicating the speed and simplicity of the application and assessment process
    • Allowing for greater flexibility in the amounts awarded, to account for the particular needs of differently sized organisations, to ensure there are no gaps in funding for organisations of particular sizes
    • Ensuring greater cohesion between separate third sector funds to avoid the potential for duplication or under-provision of services and funding
    • Ensuring clarity of award criteria and timelines
    • Ensuring clearer communication between Scottish Government, funding bodies and third sector interfaces



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