Big Lottery Fund awarded nearly £25m to solicited bids since start of 2010
John Plummer, Third Sector Online
New figures show more than £11m was given to Social Finance and £4.5m to the Big Lunch
The Big Lottery Fund has awarded nearly £25m to solicited bids since the beginning of last year, according to figures released on Friday.
Two charity chief executives last week criticised the practice of soliciting bids, under which the BLF invites organisations to apply for funding rather than leaving them to apply for themselves.
The two said it was unfair and lacked transparency. They also questioned the number of awards made to London-based organisations, such as the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, which shares a building with the BLF.
The BLF has the power to solicit bids when it sees fit. Of the £25m awarded this way over the past 18 months, £11.25m has been given in two instalments to Social Finance, a company developing new voluntary sector financial products, including the social impact bond.
The Eden Project has also been solicited twice, on both occasions for its initiative The Big Lunch, an annual national community-building event. It received £4.55m in total.
Other beneficiaries include the Media Trust, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Your Square Mile.
A BLF spokeswoman said it had solicited 14 awards since the beginning of last year out of 14,000 total grants. A BLF statement said:"We maintain a broad dialogue with the voluntary sector at large about emerging programmes, themes and strategies and occasionally this throws up an opportunity to invest in the delivery of outcomes we are not reaching through our demand-led programmes.
"We have made no secret of our powers to solicit and it is part of our intelligent funding approach to grasp those opportunities."
Organisations funded by solicited bids
Social Finance £11.25m
Eden Project £4.55m
Media Trust £1.9
The Young Foundation £822,508
Enterprise UK £250,000
Third Sector Research Centre £198,143
Local Government Improvement and Development £100,000