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research report

Beneficiary involvement in funding processes at BIG

A study by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research

March 2013

Leila Baker, Charlotte Hennessy


This report presents findings of research undertaken on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) to explore beneficiary involvement in funding processes. Specifically, we looked at:



  • Approaches to beneficiary involvement that BIG and other funders have used.

  • What works well/less well for different purposes, situations and audiences.

  • The benefits for the funder and beneficiaries of being involved at different points in the funding process.

  • The practical, ethical and representational challenges of involving beneficiaries.

Research activities included: interviews with BIG staff; case studies of four BIG programmes; interviews with a small number of other funders; and analysis of relevant BIG documents and literature on participation.


The key messages:



  • Approaches to beneficiary involvement in funding processes at BIG vary according to the purpose, intensity and methods of involvement, as well as the nature of the beneficiary group. There is no single, simple solution.

  • The idea of ‘invited spaces’ can help to shed light on the dynamics of beneficiary involvement at BIG: beneficiaries are invited to participate in BIG’s space – i.e. the already established funding development framework.

  • We suggested that BIG should maintain its flexible approach to beneficiary involvement and continue to avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach. However, there is a common set of areas for consideration in successfully involving and supporting beneficiaries and our report offers a draft framework to support BIG in future involvement of beneficiaries in funding processes.


(Beneficiary involvement in funding processes at BIG 2013)


(APPENDICES Beneficiary involvement in funding processes at BIG 2013)

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