‘We already have a number of success stories’
Woonveste is a housing association based in the region of Heusden, Haaren and ’s-Hertogenbosch. The organisation provides less well-off people in the area with affordable, good-quality housing. Woonveste invests in sustainable real estate and the liveability of neighbourhoods in the area. ‘Our collaboration with Subsidiefocus helped raise awareness.’
Woonveste invests in a sustainable housing portfolio by, for example, making existing homes more energy efficient and by equipping new homes with energy-saving features. The organisation used to make barely any use of grants for this, and did not evaluate the chance of receiving grants for far-reaching renovations or new-build projects. Furthermore, they did not feel they had the capacity to systematically apply for grants. Whether or not they applied for grants depended on coincidences.
There was, however, a feeling within Woonveste that there must be opportunities to apply for such grants, and so it was decided to bring an external partner on board. When looking for a suitable funding consultant, the organisation felt it would be important to be able to hold regular discussions with them. ‘That did not necessarily mean the consultant would have to be based close by, but it is helpful to be able to meet regularly in person. It is also easier to talk by phone if you can picture someone’s face’, says Mathilde van Beek, Financial-Economic Policy Officer at Woonveste.
Woonveste got in contact with Subsidiefocus in early 2010, and Subsidiefocus carried out a funding scan for them, based on current as well as proposed activities, which it linked to funding opportunities. The scan resulted in an overview of potentially relevant funding programmes for Woonveste. Van Beek: ‘It was a really positive experience for us. We received a rigorous report setting out all the opportunities for our organisation. And that helps to remind our people that it really is worth taking the time to think about grants opportunities.’
Subsidiefocus presented the results of the funding scan to the Woonveste management team and at the regular meetings of the maintenance and development departments. ‘That worked out well’, in Van Beek’s view. ‘Staff now regularly ask if certain issues should be examined by Subsidiefocus. The presentation really raised awareness.’
Support and advice
The funding scan report formed a point of departure for further collaborations between Woonveste and Subsidiefocus. ‘In addition to support in application procedures, we wanted advice on how to raise awareness of grants among our staff’, says Van Beek. The two parties concluded a framework agreement, under which Subsidiefocus and Woonveste have at least one meeting per quarter to discuss developments and plans.
Subsidiefocus fulfils a coordinating role for Woonveste. It takes stock of and evaluates Woonveste’s plans with regard to funding opportunities, and subsequently takes care of the application and related correspondence. This makes a positive contribution to Woonveste’s projects. ‘One of the first projects on which we took advice from Subsidiefocus involved sixteen highly energy-efficient homes. It was far from certain that these investments would be sufficiently profitable. The grants for which Subsidiefocus applied for the project gave us the breakthrough that was needed for us to give the project the green light’, says Van Beek. Subsidiefocus’s advice also increased awareness of grants within the organisation. ‘People did not really consider it before. Now we have the advantage of an external party that makes time for it and raises awareness. We already have a number of success stories, which is good for morale in the organisation.’
These grants allow Woonveste to invest more in sustainability and energy efficiency. It did not take long for Subsidiefocus and Woonveste to lay down firm foundations for a successful collaboration, based on clear communication, fulfilling agreements and good availability. ‘It is easy for us to get in touch with Subsidiefocus, they respond quickly to our emails and if they cannot answer a question immediately, they let us know, look for an answer and come back to us. That sounds simple, but it is certainly not something that everyone does’, concludes Mathilde van Beek.
To find out more about Subsidiefocus, email Roy Hoven or call him on +31 (0)73 646 5475.