£5m digital fund for charities launches

19 Aug 2020 News

A £4.95m fund to help charities scale up their digital capabilities has opened for applications.

Funds are provided by the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) and distributed in partnership with the Centre for the Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST), supported by the Catalyst Network.

Charities that are part of a network of at least 10 charities can apply for a combination of grant funding and support worth up to £60,000. 

Some £1.75m will be given away in grants, while the remaining £3.2m will fund expert support.

The programme is organised into two parts: a four-week Discovery phase, to help charities understand and research the problem they are trying to address, and a 10-week Development phase, to develop a digital solution.

Charities can either get funding for both parts or just one – for example, they can get funding directly for the Development phase if they can demonstrate they have already been through a “discovery” phase.

They will need to commit to sharing their learnings with their network, which can be formal, such as for a federated charity, but also informal as long as applicants can prove its existence.

Charities will also need to be working with groups that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. This includes older people, people 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.

NLCF and CAST also said they are “particularly interested” in applications from user-led organisations or those representing marginalised communities.

Organisations can apply via the Catalyst site until 7 September for the Discovery phase and until 20 September for the Development phase.

Pandemic ‘has demonstrated the importance of digital’

Dan Sutch, director of CAST, 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.”

Dawn Austwick, chief executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, nearly £5m has been made available to this new partnership, helping civil society organisations to access specialist knowledge and much needed resources to boost their digital skills and services. 

“That’s why we’re excited to be working with CAST to reach more charities at this critical time so that National Lottery funding goes to where it is needed now and equips organisations to think about digital needs for the future.”

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