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Focus On Series

Making Grants Efficiently in the Culture, Media and Sport Sector

Making Grants Efficiently in the Culture, Media and Sport SectorAudit Summary

Publication Date:
May 2008

Audit Office:
National Audit Office - UK

Link to full report: 

Audited Entities

  • Arts Council England
  • Big Lottery Fund
  • English Heritage
  • Sport England

Audit Objective(s)

  • To assess whether there is scope for grant-makers in the culture, media and sport sector to improve the cost-efficiency of their grant-making processes.

Audit Scope

  • A sample of eight grant programmes that covered a material amount of grant expenditure: a total of £647 million in grant funding, representing over a third of the total £1.8 billion in grant expenditure of the sector in 2006-2007. The programmes also represented a range of different types in terms of the value and volume of grants they distribute and the objectives they set out to meet.

Audit Criteria

  • Not available.

Main Audit Findings

On measuring the costs of grant-making processes:

  • The grant-makers held little information by which to judge the efficiency of their grant-making. They had not routinely undertaken an analysis of the costs of their processes and the Department and the grant-makers had not agreed common indicators to assess and compare costs or efficiency across the sector.
  • The cost variations among programmes which had similar features suggest there is more grant-makers could do to understand the differences and identify the relative efficiency of their processes.
  • For some programmes, more work was needed by the grant-maker to understand where costs fell and to evaluate whether the costs of grant making were proportionate to the outcomes delivered.

On opportunities to improve the cost-efficiency of grant-making:

  • Practice within and outside the sector demonstrates a number of methods grant-makers have employed to enhance their processes and so reduce the costs of grant-making, both to themselves and to applicants. Key areas include managing the demand for grants, mapping and streamlining processes, and sharing systems or facilities.
  • There was little evidence that grant-makers had sought to learn from one another by sharing information on the costs and processes of grant-making. There was, however, an established forum for sharing knowledge among the lottery distributors on which the grant-makers could build.

Audit Recommendations

  • In order to understand their cost of making grants and so identify where they can make efficiency savings, grant-makers should collect information on the costs of grant-making on a consistent basis.
  • The Department should agree with all grant‑makers a common framework for reporting administration costs.
  • Grant-makers should identify the scope to increase the efficiency of grant-making by comparing their grant programmes, or elements of them such as the application process, both internally and against similar programmes in other organisations.
  • Grant-makers should review whether the costs of making grants are proportionate to the size of grants awarded.
  • Grant-makers should explore how they might estimate the costs to grant applicants of preparing applications and providing information for each grant programme they manage.
  • The Department should facilitate an initiative across the sector to share information about the administrative costs of grant-making.
  • Grant-makers should build on each others’ existing work to enhance efficiency by identifying further opportunities to improve their processes.