Seeking funding and contracts


Finding money to survive is a constant challenge for community radio stations.  Delivering training could be one way that stations could maximise revenue streams whilst fulfilling their ‘social gain’ remit in serving their communities.

We all know that it is increasingly difficult to find funding pots to sustain community radio stations.  When thinking about funding it is important to remember that community radio organisations can offer a unique service to a wide variety of institutions and people.

In the video below, Darren Jenkinson talks about getting funding, and ‘thinking outside the box’.


And here’s Phil Korbel echoing some of Darren’s thoughts – thinking about diversity, and warning against becoming overly dependent on one source of funding.

The USP of community radio

In order to maximise revenue streams from training it is important to consider the uniqueness of the service that community radio stations and think laterally about what you can offer funders.

For instance does your station:

  • Help young people from disparate communities to ‘learn to live together’, not on a superficial level but in a way that involves critical and often challenging debate
  • Have experience in engaging groups that other organisations might call ‘hard to reach’, disadvantaged or vulnerable?
  • Offer a range of real world employment and volunteering opportunities?
  • Provide hands on opportunities to learn digital skills and experiment with media making in a live and real broadcast setting?
  • Help people develop other skills such as skills associated with employability, communication skills, self confidence and research and interview skills?
  • Offer a flexible and informal learning environment, particularly suited to those who have not thrived in more formal learning institutions?
  • Air the views of people traditionally ‘locked out’ of mainstream broadcasting platforms?
  • Bring together older and younger people to work together on intergenerational projects?

The crucial thing in sourcing funding is to identify what you’re good at as an organisation…


Practitioners have suggested that community radio organisations can offer an important creative platform for young people, as suggested in the quotes below (taken from our ‘Yacking away’ report):

“Without community radio there would be no opportunity for young people to express themselves in an environment where they don’t have to follow others’ rules and can have a voice of their own.”

“Community radio plays an important role as a creative platform for young people who don’t otherwise have a voice.”


So it’s important to think laterally about the services that you can offer – community radio organisations can offer a whole lot more than simply training in radio production!


Case study: Employability training

Radio Regen were funded by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities to deliver a project  looking at how the community radio organisations within Greater Manchester could work together to develop a ‘business case’ around community radio training.  As part of this project Radio Regen worked in partnership with Tameside Radio to deliver a two week employability course for unemployed people in Tameside.  The course attracted people who might not enjoy more traditional learning experiences as the setting was informal and making media together proved to be engaging and hands on.

Staff recognised and exploited the diversity of the groups and tailored the course to the individual learners’ needs.  Learners experimented with media making in a live and real broadcast setting – preparing them well for a career in media but also developing thier confidence, ability to work in a team and their knowledge around writing CVs, finding and applying for vacancies and interviewing.

At the end of the course Tameside Radio were clear that they could  offer the trainees a range of volunteering opportunities that would help them to prepare more effectively to enter (or re-enter) the world of work- in administrative roles, sales training and technical support.

Community radio training projects like this have been proven to support people in the most deprived communities to overcome social and personal barriers to work.  They enable participants to develop a wide range of skills for work and life including teamwork and time planning as they make radio programmes about their local area.  They learn to research and interview well and develop ICT and digital media skills that are widely sought after in the labour market.  As learners work together on their radio projects they inevitably improve their communication skills especially in presenting their views to others, raise their self esteem and become more confident and ready to engage in the world of work.

Ideas for how to write good education bids


– make sure you have consulted partners (such as schools and colleges) well in advance of writing the bid concerning curriculum and other learner/ teacher/ school needs

– draw on successful past projects and refer to outcomes and measures (see section on monitoring and evaluation)

– be clear about the learning culture that your organisation offers and what the strengths are of the approach that you take to learning

– develop partnerships with other learning organisations to strengthen your bid

– include information on how you will assess and evaluate learning as well as other outcomes

– think about what this offers from the funder’s perspective, according to their mission and agenda



– promise more than you can deliver in terms of curriculum delivery or accreditation

– get carried away, leaving you with too many intended outcomes to deliver within the resources available

– use too much jargon in your bid; use plain and clear English

– leave writing (or submitting) the bid to the last minute

– think solely about funding radio; think about outcomes a funder would like to see which can be achieved through radio

– give up! There are lots of people competing for the same pots of money, but with the right bid proposal and funder, you’ll get there


Here is Dave Chambers of Preston FM, who has extensive experience of both writing and evaluating bids, with his advice for writing good, successful and realistic bids.

Sources of funding

Below are just a few ideas and links for potential funding opportunities. It’s worth reading through funders’ specifications about what they will fund, etc., as this should inform your decision about which funders to prioritise targeting for your projects.

Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Esmee Fairbairn Foundation


Nominet trust

Big Lottery

Community radio fund

Universities (eg work around widening participation or supporting media students)

Local authority funding pots

Home Office (eg for work with asylum seekers and refugees)


Here’s Dave Chambers again on the importance of making an explicit link in a bid between the your organisation’s aims with those of the funder.



Changing from a ‘funding led’ to ‘service led’ model

Community radio organisations may need to think beyond applying for funding pots if they are to survive.  One way of doing this is to switch from a majority ‘funding led’ model towards an approach that seeks funding but also tenders for contracts by offering unique services to clients.


Bidding for contracts: building partnerships

In order to bid for contracts it is essential to spend time building relationships with learning providers and others in your community.  Many community radio stations already have very positive relationships with a range of education providers.  We know that establishing relationships and partnerships can be time consuming work that is particularly challenging for smaller stations, or those that are volunteer led.  However, in order to secure funding and contracts for your youth radio work it is essential that you network and develop relationships with local education providers and others, such as:

  • Local primary and secondary schools
  • Local colleges
  • Universities
  • Youth services
  • Other community learning specialists
  • Community media organizations

Local primary and secondary schools

Making connections with local primary and secondary schools is not always easy as teachers and senior staff are increasingly busy with the demands placed on them by government in addition to their work engaging young people in learning.  You should think of these relationships as being long term and ongoing.  If you are interested in working with young people it is vital that you establish these relationships and look for opportunities that are mutually beneficial to both parties.  It is also important to be clear that your services should not be thought of as free (even if you might have funding from elsewhere to deliver a project)

Schools are often looking for opportunities to give their students fist hand experience of media industries and the ‘broadcast’ element of the community radio sector is very appealing to schools.  School staff who would be particularly interested in community radio include:

  • English teachers (there is an element of ‘media literacy’ in the English curriculum)
  • Media studies teachers (there is a practical element in the GCSE Media studies course that schools often struggle to deliver)
  • School leaders (might be interested in children producing shows for publicity or other purposes)
  • School staff who are working in roles that involve community engagement

Working with schools: some challenges

When working with schools (especially secondary) it is often necessary to contact the teachers months in advance of starting the projects.  This long lead in time can be frustrating for community organisations who often have to work to tight deadlines.  Practitioners also described the amount of negotiation needed with teachers and schools about what they are going to do.  For instance, there is often a need for the radio work to fit in with the curriculum work, which requires careful planning.  Some practitioners said that it was difficult to balance the relationship between young people and themselves and the teacher.  The community media practitioner often comes across as the ‘cool’ youth worker, whilst the teacher is the one doing the disciplining.  Managing this relationship involves a lot of careful discussion with the teacher as well as suggesting ways of working more creatively. Trainers need to be very adaptable and have to negotiate with teachers carefully.  As teachers are often over worked it can be difficult for them to prioritise sufficient time for these discussions and negotiations. Also, the school year is a very structured one in terms of timetabling (exams, holidays, etc.), so you will need to take this into consideration when you plan your own timetable of activities.

Sustainability is important, as school projects are often short term.  Where projects are short term there can also be concerns around developing relationships of trust with young people.  Practitioners suggested that one way around this is to develop students as mentors for other students.



Partnerships with universities can be useful in providing skilled and enthusiastic volunteers (e.g. media studies/ media production students, business students), access to advice on research methods, and access to a range of ‘experts’ for interviews.  Universities are also increasingly charged with widening participation to the university and some stations have developed positive relationships and financial support through their often unique access to communities that wouldn’t traditionally consider a university as a possible place for them.


At Siren FM the university uses the radio station to teach the practical element of several courses (the station manager is paid to teach some elements of the programme), they also have a relationship with Lincoln College.

Ujima Radio work with the University of Bristol delivering a citizen journalist project linked with the public engagement team at the university.


Youth services and Connexions

The momentum in youth services is currently towards the so-called one-stop shop, currently manifested as Connexions centres. The idea is that advice, support and diversionary activities should all be accessed from the same point, where all of a young person’s needs and wishes can be assessed and met. This should in theory be helpful for community radio stations, meaning fewer negotiations and less bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, youth services in most areas appear to be among the least well-resourced and most overstretched agencies of them all. They tend to have a massive list of activities and projects they would like to be able to fund but can’t, many of which will be just as deserving of grant funding or contracts as you are.

Funded youth work is often intensive and demanding. It is a sad truth that interventions by youth services often come very late in the day for the young people concerned. Once they have been excluded from school or received a criminal conviction, opportunities suddenly arise for activity schemes, special needs education, social support and so on. This means that many of the young people you might be funded to work with could already have deep underlying problems that may sometimes be impossible for you to address. In terms of social gain, it is often just as useful to work with young people who are not yet excluded or in trouble, but who nevertheless feel isolated, neglected or just plain bored. Finding funding to do so can be a major headache, however.

The big selling point that community radio has over many other youth services is that making radio is pretty damn cool. It is often a more attractive option than playing ping-pong or many of the other choices that young people are traditionally offered. Community radio often appeals to young people who wouldn’t be seen dead in a youth centre. This is why most community radio stations could fill their schedules ten times over with young people. (Leicester’s Takeover Radio, run entirely by and for young people, is a case in point.) In practice, the limiting factor is often your child protection policy, which will effectively determine how many young volunteers you can work with at any one time. A fully-trained youth worker is of course a valuable asset to any station and will open up many streams of funding.


Health agencies

The landscape of health care is changing significantly with the abolition of Primary Care Trusts and the creation of Clinical Commissioning Groups. These are clinically led groups which commission health services in an area. There may also be other Foundation trusts, Mental Health Trust, Hospitals Trusts and others – or a specific body such as a Health Action Zone (HAZ), which works rather like an LSP to bring the key players in health service delivery to the same table.

In our past experience, health trusts have proved extremely difficult to engage. They are large, cumbersome democracies and everything that was said above about local authorities applies doubly to the NHS. There is no doubt that community radio has enormous potential value to NHS Trusts, but sadly many Trusts remained to be convinced of this. Trusts have a statutory duty to engage and consult with their own communities on their strategic planning and this in itself should be reason enough, regardless of community radio’s potential contribution to health education, public information and social welfare.

That said, there has been a shift in recent years towards taking a wider perspective on health care, one that recognises well-being, self-esteem, social exclusion and so on as health issues. Involvement in community radio can lead to significant improvements in physical and mental health for the individual, and have a genuine impact on the health of a community. In Wythenshawe, for example, the community radio station ran a series on healthy eating – from growing your own vegetables to the school canteen – long before Jamie Oliver had the idea. There is also a push towards increasing the level of public involvement in decision-making in health services – another function where the application of community radio is obvious.



Housing providers are another sector with much to gain from a community station. A better skilled, more empowered group of tenants is easier to work with. A radio station (or programme) can provide a common focus and foster a good sense of identity. In return, housing trusts often have money available for worthwhile projects, and can also access Community Training and Enabling (CTE) grants from the Housing Corporation, project funding that is only available to social housing providers and their project partners. This was pioneered by Wythenshawe FM with its local social landlord, Willow Park Housing Trust.


Employment services

As noted above, Jobcentre Plus (in partnership with the European Social Fund) was among the first public service agencies to agree a local service level agreement delivered by community radio (the ‘Job Shows’ on ALL FM and Wythenshawe FM). They have much to gain from such a deal, as community radio offers both training in transferable skills and a platform to advise on job-seeking and advertise vacancies.

Jobcentre Plus offices across the country offer a large number of contracts for services such as outreach to ethnic minorities and non-English speakers. Some community radio stations may be well placed to apply for such contracts.


Business support services

Organisations such as Chambers of Commerce and Business Link have advice services and other activities to promote. They often find that small businesses in less advantaged areas are those that need the most support but are the most difficult to engage. Community radio stations may reach such businesses. Business support services could benefit considerably from publicity on community radio, whether through public announcements or advertising, a regular ‘advice spot’ on a general interest show, or even their very own programme. Beyond simple advice surgery spots, there are endless possibilities for such a partnership to promote enterprise, self-employment and business start-up.


Police, legal and judicial services

Police forces across the country have also been fast to recognise the value of community radio. Community policing has been at the heart of their service provision since the late 80s, and community radio offers such officers the opportunity to reach thousands of local residents simultaneously. In many areas (not just the inner cities) public engagement with police officers is suspicious at best and downright confrontational at worst. Rarely does anyone talk or listen sympathetically to a police officer. When people hear police officers talking on the radio, complete with personalities, bad jokes and worse music, it helps to make the police service more human, more approachable and able to do its job better.

Whilst there is obviously real value to this, translating that value into cash may not be easy. Police divisions do have budgetary independence, so in theory they should be able to pay for their use of community radio facilities. Be prepared to lobby hard for a financial arrangement. This may include offering free use of your facilities while the service is being piloted, but make sure that you specify the length of the trial. It may also be possible to engage other judicial services such as probation services, youth offending teams and possibly even prisons. (There would be practical difficulties with working with prisons of course, but many prison governors are on the look-out for new projects to involve and inspire inmates. And they sometimes have money to spend – whether their own or accessed from grants.) Also, most LSPs have a Crime & Disorder committee.

All law-enforcement agencies are currently immersed in the idea of ‘community justice’ and local involvement in policing. This underpins everything from Neighbourhood Watch to ASBOs. Community radio could have a great role to play in making safer streets, offering a voice to the victims of crime, and also as a voice of reason.

Discussions about anti-social behaviour often fall into the trap of tarring all young people (or those of a particular social or ethnic group) with the same brush. Community radio can open up communication and strengthen understanding between generations, or between different sections of the community. That may do more to reduce the fear of crime than anything else.