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Catalyst Awards FAQs

What kinds of projects can Catalyst fund?

As a registered charity, the RSA can only fund projects for exclusively charitable purposes, as defined by the UK Charity Commission.  For more information on what is considered charitable, please see charitable purpose and public benefit

To satisfy this, projects must:

  • benefit the public in general, or a sufficient section of the public - what is a ‘sufficient section of the public’ varies from purpose to purpose
  • not give rise to more than incidental personal benefit - personal benefit is ‘incidental’ where (having regard both to its nature and to its amount) it is a necessary result or by-product of carrying out the purpose

Who is eligible to apply?

We accept applications from Fellows globally.  The criteria for Seed and Scaling Awards differ slightly so please read them closely.

Seed Awards can be paid to fundable organisations (see below) or individual Fellows who will carry out the work themselves and be directly accountable to the RSA for the work undertaken.

Scaling Awards cannot be paid to individual Fellows and must be paid directly to the organisation delivering the project, which must be structured as one of our fundable organisations (see below).

Fundable organisations:

  • Non-profits and charitable organisations globally (listed on the applicable national register) which have an aligned non-profit governance structure akin to the charity structure within the UK.  
  • UK charities, non-profit organisations and social enterprises that will run/oversee and take responsibility for a project in the UK or abroad.  
  • Other organisational structures (such as certain companies limited by guarantee and some registered societies) that can prove some form of asset and mission locks built into their corporate governance rather than being purely profit making.

Governance checks may be required to ensure that financial or in-kind support can be made available.  Contact catalyst@rsa.org.uk for more information.

How long does the application process take?  

It takes about 3 months from the application deadline to the announcement of successful projects.  Please bear this in mind when applying, for example in your activity timeline. 

When will I know if I have been successful? 

We email decisions about 3 months following application deadlines. 

What happens if I am successful? 

Within a few weeks, you will receive your grant paperwork and details of your RSA staff point of contact (Relationship Manager) for the duration of your funding. 

Seed Awards will receive an agreement to complete and send back to us. 

Scaling Awards will be discussed and agreed with the Catalyst Fund Programme Manager. All successful projects from your grant round will be announced via a blog on our website. 

What if my project changes? 

We are a signatory to the Covid-19 Funders' statement, standing with the sector to support grant recipients in these rapidly changing circumstances.  It is natural that a project will change and adapt over time, and we welcome learning and iteration. 

If you need to change how you allocate the funding from your initial application by £250 or more, or you are no longer able to continue your project, then please contact Catalyst@rsa.org.uk as soon as possible. The team will be able to discuss the opportunities available to you. 

If you need to return the funding, the Catalyst Fund Programme Manager can discuss this process with you. You will still be eligible to apply for further funding in the future. 

Is there a deadline for when I should spend the funding? 

Seed Awards should generally be spent within 12 months from the award date. 

Scaling Awards should generally be spent within 18 months from the award date but can be adapted to your agreed payment schedule.   

Can I get feedback for my application either before or after submitting it? 

Prior to application submission: The criteria for all award rounds in published on our website. If you have any questions on the criteria, you can contact catalyst@rsa.org.uk. You may be able to speak with the Catalyst Fund Programme Manager about the aims of a specific grant round.  Please note that out of fairness to other applicants, we do not review applications ahead of them being submitted. 

After application submission: Once you have received the decision of the panel, you can request feedback on your application by replying to the email. We will always aim to provide you with feedback when requested, but occasionally grant rounds are too popular for us to deliver this, despite our best intentions. If you have any questions about your application, please email catalyst@rsa.org.uk. 

I want to send additional information to support my application. 

We accept websites and imagery as part of your submission. However, please note that due to time available to view applications, we base our assessment on the content submitted to us in the online application form – this is where attention should be focused. 

Website URLs can be included in the text of your application.  Please email any imagery to catalyst@rsa.org.uk, citing your application number (e.g. CATMIN-1000) in the subject line.  You will be able to view your application number only after you have submitted it.

How many times can I apply to Catalyst? 

There is no limit to the number of times you can apply for Catalyst. Please ensure you consider the round brief/outline carefully before replying to ensure it fits your project.   

You can apply for the same project more than once. If you have previously been unsuccessful in your application to Catalyst, please refer to the criteria carefully to ensure you are a right fit for this funding. 

What can the budget be used for? 

Applications for both Seed and Scaling Awards should provide a clearly allocated and justified budget breakdown. Budget can be used towards covering project monitoring and evaluation costs. 

If any of the following expenses are included, please take extra care to justify them as integral to the success of the project. We are simply looking to ensure that they do not reflect ongoing business costs, which are generally not fundable, and clearly contribute to the project achieving sustainable social impact.

  • Travel 
  • Website development
  • Equipment
  • Films or books - these should have a public reach beyond the duration of a grant; there should be a life to the project beyond the production of the film or book 
  • Salaries - applications with over 50% of the grant budget dedicated to salaries are rarely successful 
  • Marketing campaigns and associated printing costs - applications with over 50% of the grant budget dedicated to marketing are rarely successful 

Can I apply to both Catalyst grants simultaneously for the same project? 

It is not advised to apply for both awards simultaneously. If your project fulfils the Scaling Grant criteria then it is unlikely be applicable under the Small Grant criteria, and vice versa. If you have two projects that you are considering that fulfil the separate criteria, then do consider whether you would have the capacity to deliver on both if they were to be successful. 

Can I get a copy of my application? 

We use an online system which allows you to view your submitted applications. We also recommend that you keep a saved copy of your practice form for your own records.

How likely is my project to receive funding? 

Catalyst is very popular. In recent rounds we have funded 5-10% of applications. 

Can I get more information about how Catalyst is managed? Who makes the decisions? 

Your work will be evaluated against the criteria in a two-stage process: shortlisting and decisions.   

Step 1: Firstly, a shortlisting panel reviews all applications and marks them against the criteria.  The shortlisting panel discusses all applications and makes initial recommendations.  The shortlisting panel is comprised of RSA staff. 

Step 2: The decision panel reviews the recommendations, deliberates and agrees final Award decisions.  The decision panel is mainly comprised of Fellowship Councillors and Fellows and may include invited members of the RSA community to ensure a diversity of perspectives. 

The Catalyst process is managed by the Catalyst Fund Programme Manager working with Service Administrators and other colleagues in the organisation.  The Catalyst Fund Programme Manager facilitates both the shortlisting and decision panels. 

I would like to give feedback, report a problem or make a complaint about the Catalyst Process. How do I do this? 

If you would like to report a problem or make a complaint about the Catalyst process, please email catalyst@rsa.org.uk.

Catalyst Awards

The Catalyst Awards programme offers seed and scaling grants for RSA Fellows to test and grow their ideas to achieve social impact.

Contact the Catalyst team

Any questions? Call us on +44 (0)20 7451 6895