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Supporting training for UK Search and Rescue volunteers.

UK Search and Rescue Volunteer Training Fund  

The aim of the UKSAR Volunteer Training Fund is to assist Search and Rescue volunteering, by providing support for the costs of volunteers' operational training, to help improve safety and the quality of UKSAR services.

Grants available

Grants are available from the UKSAR Volunteer Training Fund (UKSAR VTF) to support UK Search and Rescue (SAR) organisations with the training costs of their operational volunteers. Training must improve both the capability of the organisation and its volunteers, and reflect the proven operational need in the local area.

We will prioritise applications which focus on high quality operational search and rescue training. Due to the pressures faced by SAR teams during the pandemic, we are particularly interested in:

  • core skills training for new or existing volunteers, linked to proven operational need in the local area
  • avoiding skills fade for existing volunteers, caused by delays or reduction of training opportunities during the pandemic
  • revalidation of core training for existing volunteers
  • training which incorporates appropriate wellbeing approaches

In addition, skills cascade training, ‘Train the Trainer’ opportunities and cross-team collaboration, which seek to future-proof a team’s training needs to a reasonable extent, will be viewed positively. However, we recognise that this is useful but not always possible in every situation.

Please note, limited funds are available and unfortunately we will not be able to award grants to all organisations which apply, however partial grants may be made.

All training must be completed between April 2022 and March 2023.

Who can apply?

UK charitable SAR organisations seeking support to train their volunteers are eligible to apply.

Umbrella organisations listed below may make global applications to the Fund on behalf of their affiliated groups or for core training.

If you are affiliated to one of these SAR bodies, you may wish to contact them with sufficient time before the deadline to review your training request or discuss how they can incorporate your training needs into their application for funds.

  • Association of Lowland Search and Rescue
  • British Cave Rescue Council
  • Mountain Rescue England and Wales
  • Royal Lifesaving Society UK
  • Scottish Mountain Rescue
  • Surf Lifesaving Great Britain


If you are not affiliated to one of these SAR bodies, and meet the eligibility criteria below, you will be able to apply on an individual organisational basis.

Eligible organisations may be either well-established or newer teams, and are those which:

  • provide both search and rescue services as part of their core activities
  • can show their activities are tasked by the relevant statutory authority or, for flood, are on the national or community asset register
  • provide this on a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week basis (where appropriate)
  • can prove that their training requirements reflect a confirmed operational need in their local area
  • are a constituted organisation in the UK with a charitable governance document

What training costs can be funded?

  • Operational training for SAR volunteers in the UK which directly correlates with specific operational needs in the local area.
  • Courses related to the training of operational SAR volunteers, which are central to your activities
  • Hiring external trainers for course delivery
  • Administration costs, if essential to training courses
  • Volunteers’ travel costs and accommodation when this is integral to the training itself. You will need to provide a clear explanation and breakdown of costs. If accommodation costs are not integral to the training, you must fund these separately.
  • Costs of training equipment (eg manikins or training defibrillators)
  • 75% of the costs of the training
  • Training costs incurred between April 2022 and March 2023

A breakdown of training costs must be provided. Partial funding may be made.

In order to ensure that the greatest number of teams can be supported with the funds available this year, the Fund will provide up to 75% of training costs. We encourage all SAR charities to develop a variety of sustainable ways to fund their training and therefore we require all applicants to commit 25% of the costs of training. This is a change from 80%/20% in previous years. 

Due to the wide range of size of organisations that apply to the UKSAR Volunteer Training Fund, there is not currently an upper limit for grant requests. We expect requests for support to be a minimum of £1,000, depending on need, scale and impact. The decision making process will review value for money to ensure that funds are used effectively.

What we will not fund

  • Non-charitable organisations
  • Organisations working outside the UK
  • Organisations not tasked for search and rescue by the relevant statutory authority and/or not recognised as viable SAR asset
  • Applications made by individuals
  • Disproportionately sized requests, compared to organisation turnover or activity levels
  • Request for training which is beyond core operational training needs in the current year
  • Requests for activities which are not directly to the training of operational volunteers
  • Equipment not directly related to the provision of training of volunteers (i.e. if it would be for ongoing operational use) 
  • Training in the operation of drones
  • More than 75% of the total costs of the training
  • Costs to be incurred after 31 March 2023

Important: Before you apply

Application process

If previously funded through this scheme, applicants must have completed prior reporting requirements (ie, on what training was delivered or is planned between April 2020-March 2022).

All organisations must complete the online application form by the deadline. This asks for core information about your charity and includes questions to help us understand what support you need and why, and what difference a grant would make to your volunteers and to your community. We also ask how you will fund the required 25% of the costs and whether your organisation is developing a longer-term plan for your training needs. We will check the documents you provide, and review your Charity Commission records, website and other publicly available information.

Umbrella organisation applicants must:

  • upload a list of training for each team covered by the grant request, with an appropriate breakdown of costs, along with a detailed narrative of what is needed and why
  • provide confirmation that each team is appropriately tasked by the relevant statutory authority or are on the national/community asset register
  • confirm that any grant will be allocated to the teams as agreed
  • confirm that you can report back on the use of the grant in due course


Individual team applicants must:

  • list the training covered by the grant request, with an appropriate breakdown of costs, along with a detailed narrative of what is needed and why
  • upload a letter of support from their tasking authority confirming that the training will support operational need in the area and/or proof of current inclusion on national/community asset register
  • ensure that your records are up to date on the relevant Charity Commission site (England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland)
  • confirm that you have a bank account in the charitable organisation’s name
  • confirm that you can report back on the use of the grant in due course


Please ensure that you have read the programme details above carefully before deciding on what your application will cover. Please ensure you have contacted your tasking authority in good time to seek a letter of support. 


  Online application form availability         

               Wednesday 15 September - Wednesday 27 October 2021 

Deadline for applications

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Notification of grant decisions

End of January 2022 

Grant payments 
April 2022

Training completed / grant spent
March 2023

 Reporting on impact of the grant
April 2023

How to apply

To begin a new application form

1.  Click on the button below to begin a new application

Start a new application form today  

2.  Log in to CAF’s online grant making portal with your email address and a password (or click ‘new applicant’ to register if you have not previously used it).

3.  Complete a short series of eligibility questions.


To resume an existing application

To return to a partially completed or submitted form you will need to log in to your account at the grants portal by clicking below:

Return to an existing application

Important information

After successfully completing the eligibility questions, you can then access the full online application form to answer questions about your organisation and training, and upload the documents required.

If you wish to share your part-completed application with colleagues (e.g. to review it prior to submitting it), you can do so via the ‘email draft’ button on the top right hand corner of any page of the form, or print a draft at any time.

The application form can be saved; it does not need to be completed at one time. You can log back into the portal to complete it later.

Submit your application by Wednesday 27 October 2021.

Helpful resources

Watch our video on how to write great grant applications 

Tools, guidance and resources to help your charity adapt

Explore our Survive, Adapt, Thrive resources for charities

How your data is used

If you apply for this grant programme, you will be directed to CAF’s carefully selected service provider (Blackbaud) to enter the details of your grant application. Your data will only be used for the purposes of this programme. CAF will act as data controller for the purposes of your data.

Please refer to CAF’s privacy policy  for more information on how your data will be used.

How to contact us

If you have any questions on the application process, please contact the CAF Grant Making team on +44 (0)3000 123334 or email UKSAR@cafonline.org



  • What is Search and Rescue (SAR)?

    Search and rescue organisations use available volunteers and facilities to locate persons in distress, potential distress or missing. They also recover and deliver them to a place of safety, providing initial support as needed.

    SAR organisations must be recognised as viable SAR assets by the relevant statutory bodies (either the Police or the Coastguard).

    An operational SAR volunteer is a person who gives their time, effort and skill in responding to emergencies by carrying out lifesaving SAR operations, as required 24/7, as part of an organisation recognised by the statutory authorities.

  • Do we need to be a registered charity?

    No, you do not need to be registered as a charity to apply for a grant. Applications will be considered from any organisation whose mission has charitable purpose, and which has governing documents outlining this. If you are not a registered charity, you will need to complete CAF’s Grant Eligibility Application form in order for CAF to carry our due diligence checks on your organisation. This will be sent to you if your application is selected.  

  • Should we send you our application directly?

    If you are affiliated to an umbrella body, please contact them to ensure your training needs are included in their consolidated application. If you are not affiliated to a SAR umbrella body, please complete your application via the online portal.

  • Can I apply as an individual volunteer or do I need an organisation?

    You will need an organisation or charitable group to apply on your behalf.

  • Can we include volunteers' travel and accomodation costs in our application?

    Yes, you can apply for funds for direct training and additional costs that may be associated with this including travel and accommodation costs if this is integral to the training. Please ensure this is detailed in your application and is proportionate.

    We reserve the right not to fund all travel or accommodation costs.

  • Why are you requiring us to commit 25% of the cost of training from other sources or our own funds?

    Unfortunately, the UKSAR Volunteer Training Fund does not have unlimited funds available. We intend to extend the life of the Fund by strategic adjustments to the amounts awarded over the next few years while ensuring that the greatest number of teams can be supported.

    We also encourage all SAR charities to develop a variety of sustainable strategies to fund their training and we have always required all applicants to commit a proportion of the costs of training. This year this has increased from 20% to 25% and it is likely to increase again in 2022.

  • Can we apply for costs that have already taken place?

    No, expenditure must take place in the 12 months after the grant is paid (ie, April 2022-March 2023).

  • Can we apply for funding for equipment?

    Only equipment that relates directly to volunteer training (eg training manikins or training defibrillators) will be supported by this fund. Broader operational equipment and running costs will not be supported.

    We would expect that, prior to an application, any operational equipment or assets required to implement the training/learning are already in place. For example if you are applying for members of your team to gain DEFRA Flood Rescue Module 3 (Water Rescue Technician) training, the expectation would be that your organisation already has access to boats, ropes and appropriate rescue equipment.

  • Can this fund support our business development or other activities?

    No. The fund is purely to support volunteer training for operational search and rescue purposes only.

  • Can we apply for training to take place outside the UK?

    The Fund supports UK SAR activities. It will not support any training intended for overseas search and rescue work. We would expect any training supported by the Fund to be undertaken in the UK, unless there is an exceptional reason why this training needs to be undertaken overseas.

  • What happens if we don't provide a support letter from the appropriate tasking authority?

    Applications that are not accompanied by appropriate supporting documents will be ineligible.

  • Is the deadline final?

    Yes, please make sure you get your application submitted to us by the deadline shown above. There is one deadline per year. 

  • How do you decide who receives funds?

    Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) will review each application against the published criteria and prioritise these. The UKSAR VTF Grant Making Advisory Panel, made up of statutory organisations and individuals with SAR expertise but unconnected to any applicant, assess each request against the published criteria.

  • We've received a training grant but it’s less than we requested. Why?

    The funds available are not sufficient to support all organisations for all their training requests. During the decision making process it may be decided to provide part-funding, or that only some training needs can be supported in some cases. There are no guarantees of support, even if an organisation has received funding in previous years. 

  • What happens if an organisation is funded?

    A grant offer will be made and the organisation will be asked to accept the grant and provide details of their bank account. Funds will be forwarded by BACS directly to the organisation’s bank account in April 2022. If an organisation is offered funding, but is not a registered charity, further due diligence checks will take place before the funding can be confirmed. In the event that the grant is under-spent, not used for the intended purpose, or not used within the intended time period, we reserve the right to reclaim all or part of the grant funds. Funded organisations will be required to complete an impact report as a condition of receiving the grant.

  • What happens if an organisation is not funded?

    If an organisation is not offered funding via this programme, they will be informed and general feedback offered.

  • Can we re-apply next year?

    Yes, we welcome further applications regardless of whether you have been successful or unsuccessful with previous requests. We aim to provide constructive feedback to enhance and develop your next application.

  • How is our data used?

    If you apply for this grant programme, you will be directed to CAF’s carefully selected service provider (Blackbaud) to enter the details of your grant application. Your data will only be used for the purposes of this programme. CAF will act as data controller for the purposes of your data. Please refer to CAF’s privacy policy  for more information on how your data will be used.

  • How can I contact you?

    If you have any questions on the application process, please contact the CAF Grant Making team on +44 (0)3000 123334 or email UKSAR@cafonline.org

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