If you can’t find a story as epic as a hero striding through the lands of Hyrule, we’ll tell you the story of our little association’s journey to apply for a grant from the French administration (but don’t worry, there will be twists and turns too).
Below is Neil’s account of our adventures.
🔗Why do it?
In our new economic model, we were interested in the various subsidies allocated to associations, particularly in the field of popular education.
After all, if our vocation is to intervene in educational establishments (and essentially in public establishments), it makes sense to us to be financed by public money.
What’s more, the government approvals we’re able to obtain in this area are just as much guarantees of trust to convince school principals that we’re an association stamped “gentle” by the Government, and that it’s worth their while to finance us an intervention in their establishments (yes, these approvals really do serve this purpose).
We identified a two-stage approach:
- Apply for departmental JEP approval (Jeunesse Éducation Populaire), awarded to associations involved in popular education activities.
- Once JEP approval has been obtained, apply for the FONJEP grant. Reserved for JEP-approved associations, the FONJEP subsidizes a salaried position in an association up to €7,100 per year for three years.
* 7,100€ is slightly less than half the cost of a part-time SMIC (70%). The total cost of the position would be around €16,000 a year, or €904 net for the salaried employee per month (who said anything about precariousness and self-exploitation?!).
🔗Applying for JEP approval
We’re now preparing the prerequisites for applying for JEP accreditation. There are two types of approval:
- national approval, which requires the association to be active in at least four different administrative regions;
- départemental approval, which in our case would be issued by the Charente department (since we’ve moved our head office to Angoulême.
We naturally turned to departmental approval, as we didn’t tick all the boxes for the other.
To qualify for this approval, we have to meet two categories of prerequisites, which you can find on this page.
The first category represents the common core of approval, which all associations applying for state approval must meet. Here are the criteria:
- Serve the public interest;
- A democratic mode of operation;
- Guarantee the association’s financial transparency;
- Sign the republican commitment contract (even if we know what abuses it entails).
We must then comply with the specific criteria for JEP approval:
- Be a registered association for more than three years;
- Organize popular education or youth activities;
- Guarantee strong democratic principles within the structure: freedom of conscience, the principle of non-discrimination and transparent management.
To proceed with the application, we need to send an email to a person designated as contact on the associations.gouv.fr website containing all the required attachments.
On March 13, we submitted our application by email, containing 14 (fourteen!!) attachments, all required for processing our request:
- A letter signed by our president, Brume, stating the reasons for the request;
- The notice of creation and modification of our association in the Journal Officiel, with our bylaws and internal regulations;
- The list of members who make up our association’s governing bodies (our Bureau);
- The latest transcripts of our general meetings;
- Our moral and financial reports for 2021 and 2022;
- Our projected budget;
- A signed attestation committing our structure to the Republican Commitment Contract.
We received a reply the same day, from the recipient of our email who acknowledged receipt of our file and forwarded it (with a copy) to her manager.
And now we have to wait four months. Unlike most administrative procedures, if the public administration fails to reply within this timeframe, our application is considered implicitly rejected.
🔗A first call
On May 30, after two and a half months of waiting in anguish, I broke down and decided to call the person in charge to ask him “if he had received our file and if it was complete”.
A brief summary of our conversation.
His reply: “Oh yes, indeed, I did receive your e-mail, but, er… well, it’s completely gone by the wayside. Sorry, it happens. But in any case, given your request, we were probably going to refuse if we had seen it, because your documents are signed with an address in Paris, so we would have considered that you are in Paris and that you have no reason to request approval in Charente”.
Indeed, in March, we had not yet finalized the move of our head office to Angoulême, the application for domiciliation having been officially validated on April 29, 2023 (and funnily enough, the receipt declaring the change of head office was signed by… the head of JEP approvals himself, who obviously wears several hats!).
However, we had no idea that the mention of a non-charentaise town in the signature of our documents (where it is common to sign “date, place and signature”) would be eliminatory for our file. But fortunately for us, the person in charge simply missed our email, so we weren’t turned down! Welcome to the wonderful world of French administration.
So I ask him if it’s possible to examine our file, bearing in mind that we are indeed located in the Charente.
“Yes, no problem, so you’ll still have to resend your file, changing all the signature locations, get them to re-sign and update the date. But don’t send it to me, I’ll be leaving the department within 24 hours, so I’ll give you an e-mail address…”
We take note of the new e-mail address to which we send our file the next day.
🔗A second call just in case
Well, since the person in charge of our file had obviously left his post and our last mail had been ignored, we thought it would be a good idea to call back a week later (and not three months later) to ask if our file had been received and if it contained all the required documents.
The answer from the person who took my call: “So, in fact, the person you called last week has left his post, and he has no replacement. His position is vacant at least until September, so we can’t process any more JEP applications until he’s replaced. Do you need it soon?”
“AH. Well, ideally, to apply for FONJEP by the end of 2023 or early 2024?”
“In that case, we can make an exception given the situation, you can try to submit a FONJEP application even if you don’t have the necessary approval. The next FONJEP applications will be processed in January 2024. Contact my colleague who deals with FONJEP approvals… “
Emotional elevator in my head, they like to do that at the administration, it’s probably to give an epic side to our journey. We note down his colleague’s telephone number, and call him a few days later at a prearranged time.
The FONJEP grant, now within reach in this twisted situation, is one of the preferred ways of financing a salaried position within the association. Even at minimum wage part-time, even on a barely decent salary, even if you have to go through a whole heap of tax returns… getting paid is a bit more appealing than being a full-time volunteer, isn’t it?
We’ve noted two types of FONJEP, listed on the Académie de Poitiers website, which we could fit into the boxes:
- the FONJEP JEP, the one that requires JEP approval (but which we could apply for without approval as an exception), which lasts three years and is renewable twice;
- the FONJEP Jeunes, which focuses on the integration of young people into employment, does not require JEP approval, but only concerns future employees aged between 18 and 30 (which is just about the age range of everyone on our Contribution Committee), lasts for three years and is non-renewable.
How convenient: if they refuse the first, then we can ask for the other!
🔗The FONJEP call
Do you know that exhilarating feeling of finally reaching the final boss, after having obtained all the green lights, waivers, receipts and other A38 passes, and having talked to all the NPCs in the kingdom? That was pretty much how I felt at the time.
I called, introduced myself and asked about FONJEP JEP.
“Ah yes, you’re La Contre-Voie, my colleague told me about you [I’m getting to know all the people who work in this department, and obviously it’s mutual]. So, I’m going to have to stop you right there, because we really do have a lot of requests, so we only give priority to requests for full-time positions so as not to create insecure positions - and you’re asking for part-time. What’s more, we require the association to have been approved as a JEP for at least three years… whereas you don’t yet have approval.”
I’m a bit taken aback at first, having read the 40-page circular that describes this scheme and all the help pages on the government and Poitiers academy websites, I’ve never heard of this “3 years after approval” criterion, which seems to have been put in place in our department because of too many applications.
I also appreciate the argument about the creation of precarious positions - it’s true that full-time volunteering for 5 years is a much more stable and permanent way of life. Much better paid…
I then play our joker, the FONJEP Jeunes, justifying that we meet all the criteria for this FONJEP:
“Oh no, but the FONJEP Jeunes was a one-shot deal, it was part of the “1 jeune 1 solution” scheme, they only did it for one year, it’s over, we don’t give any more. The information on the academy’s website isn’t up to date.“
In 20 seconds, this person has just ejected us from the set: back to square one!
And so ends our long journey to apply for the FONJEP. The moral of the story: don’t wait 2 months before calling to see if your application has been received, and sign your documents at your head office address.
We’ll be continuing our quest for other subsidies, approvals, certifications and other administrative recognitions, in the hope of finding a way to pay ourselves. In our sights at the moment: the FDVA for January 2024, grants from Nouvelle-Aquitaine and contact with the region’s SRANE (ex DANE). More in the next episode!