Many community organisations rely on funding to keep the lights on, but grant application processes can be overly complex. What if there were information sessions to help with that?

During April and May, six Helping Hands information sessions were held to give tips to volunteers seeking funds for their local community projects. The first was held in Ballina, Co Mayo, on 25 April.

Minister for Rural and Community Development (and Mayo TD) Michael Ring has often expressed his exasperation at the paperwork involved in securing funding. He was on hand to launch the Ballina event.

Minister Ring pictured at Ballina event

Minister Michael Ring pictured at the Helping Hands event. Photo: Allen Meagher.

The events were aimed at community groups that have previously had no success or limited success applying for funding, but all were welcome to attend.

Sessions gave advice on how to make a better application and how to identify local supports that community groups can draw on, including funds people might not know existed. Attendees were also able to meet key staff, make contacts and engage in one-on-one discussions.

The five other events took place in counties Donegal, Cork, Limerick, Tullamore and Coolock. They were run by the Department of Rural and Community Development, Pobal, local authorities, the Irish Local Development Network and local development companies.

If you weren’t fortunate enough to attend, Helping Hands guides are available for download here and here.

Some volunteers still chasing funding after 40 years

If you could shoot 40 years into the future, would you meet the same people volunteering as you do now? Most likely.

Would they still be wondering where to get funding to keep the show on the road? Yes.

My family moved to Ballina around the time the pope visited Ireland, in 1979. I lived there as a kid for two years and loved it. I was in the Scouts and played tennis and rugby. (Thanks, of course, to the adults who volunteered in these clubs and groups.)

Benny Walkin

Benny Walkin pictured at an event celebrating his 48 years with the Scouts.

On 25 April 2019, as I strolled into Helping Hands, I didn’t think I’d make connections from way back in my youth.

I met a Scout leader going in.

“Did you have Benny Walkin?” he asked.

“I did. He’s hardly still involved?” I said.

“He is. Still going strong.”

I was astonished. That meant that Benny had given over 40 years of volunteering to the Scouts.

Inside, I met Vincent Frawley, who had come to live in Ballina in 1978, a year before my family moved there. I remember taking tennis lessons one summer. Vincent may well have been one of my coaches. He’s still involved.

From 1979 to 1981, we liked to drive out to Lacken to see the unspoiled beauty and play on the beach.

A woman from Lacken had driven in – on her one night off from being her husband’s carer – to pick up tips. She’s been volunteering for 25 years with Lacken Community Care and other groups. Over 60% of the population in her area now consists of older people, and they need to find out what grants are there to support their community.

The draw of superb information evenings such as the one in Ballina is that they connect fantastic groups with grant schemes they might not otherwise know about. They aim to help people to identify local supports that community groups can draw upon.

Just one of many tips given: “Don’t lower your chances by using old data when your population might have grown. Use the latest CSO figures.”

Interested in reading more about the state of Ireland’s community development sector? Check out our latest issue.