Rural Development Programme (LEADER) 2014 – 2020

Have a business idea, a plan for your community or a project you think could benefit you, your family, your farm or your local community?

Grants of up to €200,000 are available under the Rural Development Programme (LEADER) 2014-2020.  The priority of LEADER is to promote social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas. “LEADER is all about local people coming up with ideas that help to economically sustain and improve the quality of life in their local areas,” says Frank Kelly, LEADER Programme Manager at Donegal Local Development.  He added that “the budget for this LEADER programme has been reduced by up to 50%, from €25 million in the previous programme to €12.8 million this time around, so we are expecting that there will be quite a bit of competition for grants”.

Changes to implementation of LEADER (2/8/2017)

The Department of Rural and Community Development has recently confirmed that LEADER is longer the “Funder of Last Resort” emphasising the importance of LEADER as a funder in its own right.


The condition that LEADER may not fund types of activity that may be eligible under other National/EU Programmes or schemes has been removed, subject to LAGs continuing to ensure LEADER is not double funding and working closely with other agencies to ensure a streamlined approach to potential project promoters at a local level.


“The LEADER Programme is a key instrument in meeting the objectives of the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development, particularly in terms of supporting improved economic and social outcomes for
rural communities. LEADER is an important mainstream funding programme in its own right and should not be seen as a subsidiary to other programmes or schemes. Each Local Action Group (LAG)
should fund projects based on the contribution they can make to the targets set out in their LEADER Local Development Strategy. The previous stipulation that LEADER should not fund types of activity that may be eligible under other National/EU programmes or schemes, or the inference that LEADER is the “funder of last resort”, is not conducive to delivering on the principles underpinning LEADER or facilitating a collaborative approach between all funders at a local level. It also adds an additional level of administration, particularly at LAG level. Therefore, the condition that LEADER may not fund types of activity that may be eligible under

other National/EU Programmes or schemes is being removed
from the LEADER Operating Rules, subject to the proviso that LAGs must continue to:
(i) ensure that LEADER is not “double funding” a project, or the same work/activity with
another public source of funds;
(ii) work closely with other funding agencies to
ensure a streamlined approach to potential
project promoters at a local level, e.g. a Local Agreement with the Local Enterprise Office
in each area must be implemented


Targeted call under Theme 3: Rural Environment

The following sub-theme is now open for submission of Expression of Interests for LEADER Funding.

Sub-theme Protection & Improvement of Local Biodiversity
Location DLDC Catchment Areas
Objectives To support measures which will coordinate, promote, protect and enhance Donegal’s rich biosphere and facilitate opportunities for the development of sustainable tourism, enterprise and social development.


Activity 1: Initiatives that encourage communities to showcase the heritage and natural beauty of their local area. Examples of actions that could be supported include: Delivery of events that showcase the County such as aviation events – marine and water based events – agricultural – garden shows – environment and wildlife events etc. Enabling tidy towns committees showcase their area – e.g. Development of ‘Golden Mile’ initiatives similar to the Galway model.


Activity 2: Creating Awareness of the Environment Amongst Communities- Initiatives that build capacity and create awareness of the importance of environmental protection, combating climate change, and reducing environmental pressures. Examples of capacity building and awareness creating initiatives include: Production of information packs – Biodiversity awareness training workshops – Community-led bird conservation initiatives such as provision of swift nest boxes or bird hides – Community-led initiatives to replant native species such as native wild flowers – Initiatives to eradicate invasive plant species on an area based method.


Other Actions under local biodiversity might include –

·         feasibility studies and action plans in respect of larger scale projects that enhance and protect particular aspects of biodiversity; and

·         local initiatives that support biodiversity and environmental improvements, for example,   the upgrading of parks and river walks, establishment of nature corridors, habitat creation and planting of native species.

Total Budget: €120,000
Grant ceiling: €40,000
Closing Date for Expression of Interest: 30/11/2018


For more details on the above, or to discuss your own ideas for Improvement and Protection

Of Local Biodiversity, please contact Frank Kelly on 0749127056 or by email to:

CLICK HERE  for details about the wide range of projects in County Donegal which have previously benefited from LEADER funding.


Economic Development, Enterprise Development & Job Creation

Social Inclusion

Rural Environment

The LEADER Programme includes 3 main themes and 9 sub-themes as outlined above.  The sub-themes are considered to be the key areas in need of the greatest support and have the greatest potential to promote the sustainable development of rural communities.

The Local Development Strategy (LDS) is a strategic action plan that sets out a framework for the delivery of the LEADER programme in County Donegal. The LDS is a community-led plan and has been designed to leverage LEADER funding to address locally identified needs/priorities and to achieve a defined set of local objectives which were identified following a public consultation process. All funding decisions are underpinned by the LDS objectives and priorities.  For a project to be eligible for LEADER funding, it must be in line with at least one of the LDS objectives. CLICK HERE for information on the LDS objectives.

There are two types of calls; rolling calls and targeted calls. Funding applications for projects that fit under the ‘rolling call’ will be accepted on a ‘first come, first served’ basis’ and are not subject to any application deadlines.

Funding applications for projects that fit under the ‘targeted call’ are subject to application deadlines. Project areas covered by the targeted call will be ineligible under the ‘rolling call’ process for 6 months following the closing date of the ‘targeted call’.

For information on the Rolling and Targeted Calls and to see which call type your project falls under, Click Below:

Information on Rolling and Targeted Calls (PDF)

Information on Rolling and Targeted Calls (Excel Doc)

The Application process is a two stage process as outlined below:


All potential applicants must complete an Expression of Interest (EOI) prior to submitting a funding application.

CLICK HERE to download the EOI form.

Applicants are encouraged to first make contact with the relevant Project Officer prior to submitting the EOI. This initial engagement will enable the applicant to discuss the details of the project with the Project Officer, who will help assess the eligibility of the proposal. CLICK HERE  for contact details of the Project Officer in your area.

The purpose of the EOI stage is to assess the eligibility of the project. A project would be considered ‘eligible in principle’ at EOI stage if the proposed project activities/costs are eligible and if the project activities are in line with the LDS objectives. The applicant will be notified in writing of the outcome of the EOI stage.

CLICK HERE for information on eligible and ineligible activities and costs.

CLICK HERE for information on the LDS objectives.

Those successful at EOI stage will be invited to submit an application as part of the second stage. Applicants will be given an Application Form and Check List outlining all the supporting documentation required to accompany the application.

The application form and all supporting documentation will be reviewed by the Project Officer. Only complete applications will proceed to the Evaluation stage. Incomplete applications will be returned to the applicant and will not proceed any further in the evaluation process.

An Evaluation Committee will assess and evaluate the application based on objective criteria and make a recommendation for funding to the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC). The LCDC will consider the Evaluation Committee recommendation and make a decision on whether to approve funding. The applicant will be notified in writing of the outcome of the Application.

In general, private projects can avail of up to a maximum rate of 50% for Capital and 75% for Analysis & Development, while community projects can avail of 75% and 90% respectively. Basic Services targeted at hard to reach communities may also be funded up to 90% for community projects where there is no commercial basis for the project. Training projects may avail of up to 100% grant rate.

In general a ceiling of € 200,000 grant-aid per project will apply. The maximum grant available for analysis and development is € 30,000. Please note the grant ceiling for projects covered by the targeted call may differ from those outlined above. For details of the targeted call grant ceilings, CLICK HERE.

Grant-aid to any one entity may not exceed €200,000 in any three-year period where the activity has an economic element.  Activity offering goods and services on a market is classed as economic activity regardless if the entity has a for profit orientation or not. (The key date is the date of award of funding, while the three-year period will examine the three previous fiscal years including the current year).

Grant-aid cannot be provided if it will result in displacement e.g. closure/loss of business for another enterprise elsewhere. Displacement occurs where an activity funded using public funds impacts negatively on activity elsewhere. Funded activities do not need to be identical to activities in existence to result in displacement.

Grant-aid cannot be provided where the project could proceed without LEADER funding. The applicant’s financial capacity to deliver the project without grant aid will be examined during the assessment process.


More information about the LEADER Programme is available by contacting the relevant Project Officer for your local area. CLICK HERE for contact details of the Project Officer in your local area.

Frank Kelly
RDP Programme Manager

Sinead McLaughlin
Project Officer

Aisling McGee
Project Officer

Laura Martin
Project Officer

The Rural Development Programme (LEADER) 2014 – 2020 is supported by:

  • The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas CLICK HERE for further information.
  • The Department of Rural and Community Development CLICK HERE for further information

More information about the LEADER 2014-2020 funding programme is available by ringing our Letterkenny office on (074) 91 27056 or our Donegal Town office on (074) 97 23368.