7.3. Lessons learned
The survey shows that European Union funds present an opportunity for a wide variety of social service providers, striking a balance between small and larger entities. These are non-profit and regional public bodies that often serve multiple vulnerable target groups.The range of experience with EU funding is diverse among these organisations: a quarter of them have never worked with EU funding before, while the majority have tackled between one to ten projects.
The perception of funding calls is a crucial aspect of the process. While these funding calls are distinctly defined, one common issue among organisations is the complexity of the language used in project requirements and calls. This can create a barrier, making it difficult for those who aren’t familiar with such terminology to fully understand the details of the funding process.
The responsibility of developing applications predominantly falls to the internal staff of these organisations. However, resource constraints mean that only a third of these organisations can provide sufficient training to their staff on how to apply for funding effectively.
This lack of resources and training contributes to a high percentage (85%) of potential applicants who have been unable, or have chosen not, to apply in the past. The reasons behind this high percentage are varied. Some common factors include insufficient co-funding, tight application deadlines, ineligibility, a lack of support from the Managing Authority (MA), and an inability to dedicate adequate staffing to develop the project.
Furthermore, other obstacles may arise, such as the lack of backing from the organisation’s founder, the complexity of the application form, public procurement or state aid rules, or the time-consuming process of obtaining the necessary supporting documents. The issue of public procurement rules, in particular, can be a stumbling block due to its inherent complexity and lack of clarity.
These rules, which aim to ensure fair competition and proper use of public funds, can be stringent depending on national regulations. This strictness can be a limiting factor, narrowing the window of opportunities for applicants. Co-financing also poses a hurdle for two-thirds of applicants, while sustainability requirements add an extra layer of challenge for a third of applicants.
Communication with the Managing Authority (MA) and the process of reporting can often be another area of difficulty for organisations. A significant number, two-thirds, have found themselves dealing with changing requirements from the MA when it comes to reporting. Compounding the issue, these changes are often accompanied by a lack of support, complex language, and duplication of reporting items, leading to a more convoluted process.
Moreover, three-quarters of these organisations have had experience with project audits, which adds an additional level of complexity to the entire process.
The world of EU funding, while offering vast opportunities, is undeniably intricate:
- the variety of organisations involved,
- the perceptions of calls,
- the intricate process of application development,
- the challenges associated with public procurement rules,
- the issues in communicating with the MA,
- and the complexities of reporting,
all form part of this challenging journey.
Despite these challenges, with the right knowledge and resources, organisations can better navigate this landscape and increase their chances of successfully securing EU funding. This is also why this MOOC, the website and the Helpdesk support team was created.