Catalyst Awards FAQs

Find out more information about the Catalyst Awards by reading our frequently asked questions, including important information about eligibility, our assessment process and more.

What do we 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 a fundable organisation that will deliver the project.

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 [email protected] for more information.

How long does the application process take?  

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

Do you offer support to applicants with accessibility needs?

We offer the application form as a Word Document and will always consider additional accessibility requests on a case-by-case basis. Where possible, we will do our utmost to meet them. We, unfortunately, cannot accommodate every request as we have a small team and limited resources.

If you have specific needs, please contact the Catalyst team as soon as possible. Please note that due to workload, we are unable to offer additional support to applicants in the final week of the application period.

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 [email protected] 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? 

Before application submission: We publish all information relevant to Catalyst applications in our application pack. If you have any additional questions on how we assess applications, you can contact [email protected]. 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 decision email.

Can I send additional information to support my application?

We accept websites and imagery as part of your submission if they support an answer to a specific question on the application form. We do not accept websites or imagery in place of answers, or where they are intended to provide general information rather than support a specific answer.

Website URLs can be included in the text of your application. Please email any imagery to [email protected], 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. However, please ensure to request feedback for your application if you are considering applying again. If the panel feedback expresses concern with the suitability or alignment of the project without grant programme, we do not recommend that you reapply without substantial changes to your project.

Always ensure you consider the round brief/outline carefully before applying. You can contact the Catalyst team at [email protected] to discuss whether or not to consider reapplying.

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? 

Our two grants are distinct, and it is unlikely that a single project would fulfil the criteria for both. You are welcome to apply for two separate projects that strongly meet the individual grant criteria, however, we are unlikely to fund you for both projects in a single round.

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? 

Unfortunately, we only have the resources to fund 5-10% of applications. We are reviewing our processes to try and improve this number.

What is the assessment process; how are decisions made?

Our priorities when assessing applications are the impactalignment and suitability of the project. You can find more information on how we assess projects in our application pack (available when funding rounds are open). The assessment process is made up of three steps:

  1. Our Catalyst team reviews the applications to make sure they are all eligible under our guidelines.
  2. A shortlisting panel made up of RSA staff reviews all applications and marks them against the criteria. The shortlisting panel discusses applications and makes initial recommendations.
  3. The decision panel reviews the recommendations, deliberates, and agrees final Award decisions. The decision panel is made up of a mix of individuals from the RSA Community, including Fellowship Councillors, Fellows, RSA staff and participants in other RSA Programmes.

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 [email protected] in the first instance, or see our complaints procedure if you remain dissatisfied.


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