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£4.95m fund opens to help sector improve digital capabilities

Melanie May | 19 August 2020 | News

Charities and other civil society organisations are invited to apply to a new £4.95m fund aimed at helping to improve the sector’s digital capabilities.
The fund is a partnership between The National Lottery Community Fund and the Centre for The Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST), supported by the Catalyst network, and offers charities funding and expert support worth up to £60,000 each to spend on projects.
The Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response is open to any social organisation that is part of a formal or informal network of ten or more other charities, and is committed to proactively sharing learnings within their networks.
The partnership prioritises those that have been disproportionately impacted as a result of Covid-19 and applicants must also be working with one of nine key groups facing disproportionate challenges as a result of the crisis: older people; those pushed into crisis; people in medical or end of life care; people who experience health inequalities, loneliness and social isolation or poor mental health; children and young people; disabled people and families hit hardest.
Applicants must be able to show that they have a network of other charities that will be able to share their work, and benefit from it. The scheme’s partners are particularly interested in receiving applications from user-led organisations and those representing ethnic minority communities, LGBT+, disabled and other marginalised communities.
Funding will be a mixture of direct grants and payment for support from digital agencies. Two funding avenues will be simultaneously available for application: a four-week ‘Discovery’ phase, in which a small amount of funding will pay for charities to work together in cohorts with a support partner to understand and research the problem they are trying to address, and a ten-week ‘Development’ phase, in which charities will work with a designated support partner to develop a digital solution.
Not all charities that go through the Discovery phase will move onto the Development phase of the project, and charities that can show they have already been through a Discovery process can bypass this stage and move directly to Development.
Applications are open now at the Catalyst site. Those for the Discovery phase will close on 7 September, and those for the Development phase on 20 September. The National Lottery Community Fund has committed £4.95 million to the partnership, with £1.75 million made available in direct grants, and the remaining £3.2 million allocated to fund the expert support.
Commenting on the scheme, CAST’s Director Dan Sutch said:

“Covid-19, and social distancing in particular, has demonstrated the importance of digital in ensuring social organisations can continue to serve the needs of their communities. And we’ve also seen clear evidence that organisations that are better equipped to use digital, data and design have been able to respond more quickly to the new needs and environment in which we’re operating.
“This scheme will enable charities to access funding to dedicate their time and focus to developing their digital practice, and vitally, access the support of digital partners from across the Catalyst network who are experts, not only in digital, data and design, but in supporting charities. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have an opportunity to intentionally design how we can best take advantage of digital, data and design to most effectively serve communities across England.”



Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.