Author: Ian Wells/Laura Cornette
Version Date: 21 October 2021                                      


As a result of Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) on 1 April 2019 the Dorset Council Communities team, Culture and Arts team, council members and colleagues undertook a comprehensive review of its historical grant programmes including those inherited from the six sovereign councils.

The purpose of the review was to consider and harmonise the many grants programmes in existence before LGR and to provide several new grants programmes that make a positive and lasting difference in our communities, prioritise our resources, support marginalised and under-served groups and to realise their cultural ambitions across the Dorset Council area.

Additionally, with the adoption of Dorset Council’s Corporate Priorities in 2020 we now seek to provide greater targeted support to those organisations that seek to meet our priorities, and, to prioritise support to those with protected characteristics.

Administering a grant scheme can be complex and due regard is given to important factors when developing and launching a scheme such as pre-determined criteria, the application process, assessment and shortlisting principles, advertising and monitoring and evaluating of council grants.

It is important that the council puts in place adequate systems and processes to assess the suitability of grant applications thus ensuring the application process is fair and transparent.

The following information provides an overview of Dorset Council’s Grant process for the new Community and Culture Project Fund. Applicants are advised to read the fund criteria and eligibility thoroughly before submitting their application.

Grant programme

The Community and Culture Project Fund is a new small grants programme that replaces the Social Inclusion Fund, Leisure Development Fund and the Community Impact fund. The Grant programme cuts across several themes including Communities, Play, Sport, and Culture (Arts and Museums).

The fund is focussed upon providing a small one-off grant for up to one year for the delivery of projects or specific activities that meet Dorset Council’s fund objectives.

Applying for a grant

The method of application is via an online application form. The application form is accessibility friendly and guidance on how to complete the form is contained on the fund’s webpage. Should applicants have a connectivity issue with the online form or are unable to complete the form then they are advised to speak to the Grants Manager/Officer to discuss.


The Community and Culture Project Fund is available to a wide range of local organisations, charities and community groups. Organisation’s that can apply are:

  • Registered Charities
  • Constituted Community groups and Voluntary and Community sector organisations
  • Community Interest Companies that are Limited by Guarantee (see additional guidance below)
  • Social Enterprises (Companies limited by guarantee that have a clear not-for-profit clause in their governing document and clear charitable or social objectives that meet the priorities of the funding programme)
  • Churches (provided they are not promoting religious beliefs)
  • Newly established groups that can meet the council’s mandatory requirements around governance
  • Town and Parish Councils

Compliance and supporting documents

Applicants must be able to demonstrate that their organisation or group has robust policies in place and can evidence that they have the appropriate levels of governance when applying for a grant.

Applicants will need to evidence in their application that they have as a minimum:

  • a management committee, Board of Trustees or Board of Directors with at least 3 unrelated people as members
  • a written constitution or governing document that sets out the purpose and management of the organisation
  • a bank account in the name of the organisation with at least two unrelated cheque signatories required for payments
  • a copy of the organisations last 12 months approved or verified accounts
  • an up to date Safeguarding Policy
  • appropriate and current insurance cover for their organisation’s business/activities
  • an up to date Equality Policy or statement
  • an up to date GDPR Policy or statement

Dorset Council priorities

  • all applicants must demonstrate how they meet at least one of Dorset Council’s Corporate priorities in their application
  • all Cultural themed applications (Arts and Museums) will need to demonstrate how their project meets at least one of the Council’s Cultural Strategy outcomes

Supporting documents – why do we need them

In addition to fulfilling the fund criteria all applicants applying for a grant will need to demonstrate that they have in place the mandatory governance that we require. The table below summarises what we require and why we need it. This list is not exhaustive, and applicants are advised to check the fund criteria at the time of applying for any additional documents that may be needed.

Evidence we require and why we need it.
Document Why we require it
Constitution/Memorandum of Articles and Association Demonstrates that an organisation has some form of rules about how it is governed
 Annual accounts These can be audited or independently examined accounts or an income/expenditure spreadsheet depending on the size of the organisation. Demonstrates the financial position of the organisation regarding income, expenditure, loans, liabilities etc. New organisations without annual accounts may submit a financial forecast as an alternative
 Bank statement  Demonstrates that the organisation has a bank account in their name, and we can confirm bank account details. Important that it shows account name, sort code and account number clearly of applicant
Community Interest Companies (CIC)


  • Must be registered with the Office of the Regulator of CICs and must be Limited by Guarantee
  • Must have objectives that show clear community benefit
  • Must have a sound business model where 50% or more is earned through trading, unless the CIC is less than 3 years old or is able to demonstrate why this is not achievable
  • Salaries and benefits paid to directors must be reasonable and proportionate to the work that they do and the financial position of the organisation, in order to prioritise the services/activities being delivered
  • CICs where Directors have significant control that enables them to overrule other Directors in decision-making, are ineligible

Exclusions to grants (what we will not fund)

Applicants are advised to read the Fund criteria and eligibility before applying. The following are not eligible for funding: 

  • public bodies to carry out their statutory obligations
  • the promotion of religion or political causes
  • retrospective funding – grants for work that has already started or been completed
  • organisations seeking to provide a Bursary; 1:1 coaching or an individual Grants programme using our funding
  • organisations seeking to use grant funding in the Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole area
  • organisations with excessive amounts of unrestricted funding or more than 12 months’ reserves
  • medical research, feasibility studies
  • organisations previously funded in round 1 who have not completed their project and end of project report
  • capital equipment projects
  • Dorset Council will not support national charities but can support local branches of national charities if they are financially independent and locally managed
  • educational establishments such as schools, colleges and Universities (unless friends of or PTA)
  • salaries or professional fees including those of Fundraiser
  • projects duplicating an existing service or provider in the same locality

 Grant application process

  • all requests for funding must be submitted on the council’s online application form
  • if applicants are digitally excluded, we may accept an alternative application method. If this is the case, please contact us to discuss
  • we will not accept any applications that are submitted after the closing date
  • the digital form we use is accessible and easy read. See the council’s accessibility statement for further information
  • Dorset Council welcomes discussions with applicants about their project prior to submitting their application
  • online application forms require organisations to set out the details of their project including a breakdown of the project budget, how they have identified the need and how they will measure impact
  • applicants will need to download supporting documents at the time of applying
  • on receipt of a completed application form we will carry out a robust assessment against fund criteria including eligibility, compliance and undertake due diligence checks
  • ineligible applications or those not submitted using the council’s online application form will not proceed to assessment
  • should the council receive a high volume of applications we may need to provide successful applicants with a lesser grant (partial award) where we think the project will have impact and still meet our objectives
  • an award will only be made on the receipt of supporting documentation and a signed agreement which includes details of the terms and conditions of the grant

Decision making process

Dorset Council Officers will shortlist, review and make recommendations for funding via its Grant Panel(s).  

  • there will be two grant panels. One panel will consider applications from the voluntary and community sector, whilst the second will focus on applications from the Cultural sector
  • each Grant Panel will comprise of at least three Specialist Dorset Council Officers (one acts as the panel Chair), the portfolio holder for communities and at least one representative from an external partner organisation who brings with them their expertise and knowledge of Dorset’s Community and Cultural sectors
  • applications will be screened by each member of their respective grants panel to ensure fairness
  • external partner, The Arts Development Company, will sit on the grant panel. Where a conflict of interest occurs the relevant Officer/representative will not take part in the assessment and the conflict of interest will be recorded
  • an assessment summary of all eligible and shortlisted applications, with Officer recommendations are put forward by the Council’s Grants Officer/Manager, to be considered by each of the grant panels. The recommendation by the Grants Officer/Manager is for guidance only
  • the Panel will assess each application against the fund criteria and use a scoring matrix to agree and prioritise awards. Decisions are made by a majority vote. Where there is no majority the council’s Portfolio holder for Communities will have the deciding vote. The panel decision is final
  • if an applicant withdraws their application after the panel decision has been made, the Chair, in consultation with the other panel members, can agree to award the grant to another applicant
  • any decision to amend the award if the project or organisation has changed, or new information comes to light that affects the application will be considered by the Grants Officer/Manager and Panel Chair, in consultation with other panel members as appropriate

Data Sharing

Dorset Council will share basic data information regarding your application with other local grant managers/funding streams. This will enable us to make informed funding decisions, avoid duplication of funding and and ensure value for money is achieved through our grant making processes. Dorset Council will also ensure that applicants data is stored appropriately. See details of our Data Privacy and GDPR policy.

Communication of award and release of funding

  • Dorset council will seek to provide all applicants with a decision within 6 weeks of the grant fund closing date. Where the council receives a high volume of applications this may need to be extended
  • the Panel/Officers may also need to obtain further information about the application, and this may require additional time before confirming a decision. Where this is the case the applicant will be notified
  • release of funding will depend upon the type of grant being offered. Funding decisions can be for a full award, a partial award or decline
  • funding for this fund will be made available as a single one-off grant payment to the applicant before the project starts
  • for newly established groups (those who have been in existence for less than 12 months) the grant payment may also be subject to the applicant fulfilling certain conditions e.g. provision of a safeguarding policy or confirming appropriate governance
  • grant payments will be via BACS payment upon receipt of an appropriate invoice from the applicant

Appeals, complaints and feedback process

  • where an application has been declined no feedback will be provided unless requested by the applicant. There is no appeals process as all decisions made by the panel are final
  • Dorset Council welcomes feedback from all applicants on our application process and we are continually looking at ways to make improvements to ensure that the process is efficient and effective
  • in the event that an applicant is not satisfied with the service or advice that has been provided by the council then they can make a complaint following Dorset Council’s Complaints Procedure

Monitoring and evaluation

Dorset Council has in place a robust and consistent process for monitoring and evaluating its grant monies. The process will include:

  • agreed outcomes contained in the applicants grant agreement
  • clear information and timescales relating to the monitoring process which may also include the collection of data around social impact, return on investment, or community benefit (impact)
  • a range of monitoring methodologies e.g. face to face; phone; virtual or via a grant survey
  • proportionality – the monitoring process will be proportionate to the size of the grant awarded
  • a ‘Designated Officer’ being allocated for your project for the term of the grant
  • regular monitoring which will be at six monthly intervals followed by the completion of an end of project report or survey. In some cases, where the level of investment and risk to the council is higher additional monitoring may be required
  • feedback from the ‘Designated Officer’ to the applicant where performance issues exist and suggestions on how to improve

Further Information

If you require further information on the Communities and Culture Project Fund or Dorset Council Grants Policy, please contact any of the following:

Laura Cornette, Business Partner, Communities and Partnerships
Telephone, 01305 224306

Ian Wells, Grants Monitoring Officer, Communities and Partnerships
Telephone, 01305 224307

Tracy Cooper, Community and Recreation Officer, Environment and Wellbeing
Telephone, 01202 795286

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