Rufford Small Grants provide recipients with career-making experiences, supporting them to enhance their capabilities and grow their projects.
At the start of 2023, staff at The Rufford Foundation spent time reflecting on what we do well, and how we can improve our approach to funding biodiversity conservation. As part of a strategic planning process, we took on board comments from donors and key contacts in the conservation sector as well as feedback from our grantees. Throughout the year, we have already begun to deliver new activities, and we are delighted to share important components of our new 2023-2026 strategy. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see an infographic of our strategy.
“Our strategy has been designed so that we can increase our focus on supporting early-career conservationists,” says Stuart Paterson, CEO. “It will help us gain a better understanding of their projects as well as their future plans, with the aim of supporting more people to reach our higher-level grants.”
Whilst the new strategy does not represent a radical move away from our successful small grants model, there are three headline changes.Increased funding for small grants
The Rufford Small Grants Programme enables us to identify and fund conservationists at the very start of their careers when they often do not have the track record required by other donors. Our open and flexible approach is attractive to applicants and our funding criteria are kept intentionally broad.
Starting in 2024, we shall increase the total amount of funding to the Rufford Small Grants (RSG) Programme, increase the amount of funding for each grant and reduce the number of stages from 5 to 4 to match the ambition of our grantees and enable them to raise more funding in a shorter timescale. New funding levels will be up to £7,000 for a 1st RSG, up to £8,000 for a 2nd RSG, up to £12,000 for a Booster Grant and up to £18,000 for a Completion Grant.
We are revamping our application form, which will improve the application and review process, and we expect our online application site to be ready with the new form in early 2024.Awarding core funding for conservation organisations
Many individuals and organisations in the conservation sector are appealing for core funding to counter the restrictions placed on project-based support. New to this strategy, Rufford Organisational Grants will be our contribution to overcoming some of the barriers identified by NGOs: lack of core/flexible funding; the costs of project fundraising; limited staff time to develop strategies or build an organisation’s capacities and resilience. We shall pilot this funding mechanism over the next three years, conducting our own research to identify potential applicants for funding who will be invited to apply.Enhancing capacity of Rufford Small Grant recipients
Building on the successful Rufford Conference programme (2012-2022), we shall launch a new series of learning events which will enhance capacity, create national networks, increase the number of follow-up applications, and build trusting relationships between Rufford and grantees. Themes and specific topics for learning will be based on a needs assessment of grantees in each location. In 2023, we piloted learning events in Brazil & Namibia.
“Having met many Rufford grantees over 16 years, I appreciate their dedication and understand the challenges they face,” says Simon Mickleburgh, Grants Manager. “These changes will greatly strengthen our ability to fund those who are the key to future conservation efforts.”
We are grateful to key donor and conservation contacts who provided their input in the planning process, Nick Perks for facilitating the strategic review, and Olivia Smailes for her design work.