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New online grants portal for people in poverty developed by charity collaboration

09 Dec 2021 News

People experiencing financial hardship can now use a new online grants portal to access support from different charities. 

The Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO) worked with grantmaking charities and social impact start up Lightning Social Ventures to create the tool. 

Using a single application, ACO said the grants system will allow people in financial hardship to find and apply for grants from multiple providers quickly, easily and securely. Its aim is to reduce the paperwork and stress involved in applying for grants. 

An early beta version of the tool is available, having been tested with the charities the Smallwood Trust, Teaching Staff Trust and the Electrical Industries Charity joining as early pilot partners.

The beta version of the grantmaking tool will be piloted over the next six months, ACO has said. 

The Social Innovation Council

This beta initiative has been named the Social Innovation Council and involves the Smallwood Trust, Turn2us, The Charity for Civil Servants, End Furniture Poverty and the Royal British Legion.

The project has been largely funded pro-bono by Lightning Social Ventures, with external funding received through a combination of grants and investments. Founding partners also contributed a small participation costs of the Social Innovation Council.

Other funders and charities are able to join the portal now. An ACO spokesperson told Civil Society News: “We are keen to engage more funders over the coming few months to ensure that people registered on the portal have access to as wide a range of support as possible.” 

Increase in demand for grantmaking systems

With 15 million people facing poverty in the UK following the Covid-19 pandemic and the rises to costs of living, the initiative feels its new tool is “critical to ensure that support is accessible to those who need it”.

ACO wrote that existing grantmaking processes can be challenging to navigate with lots of paperwork and individuals can be left waiting weeks to find out the outcome of applications. 

A person with lived experience of financial hardship, Martha Smith (pseudonym), had to leave her job and was left with no income after experiencing domestic abuse. 

After applying for a grant from the Smallwood Trust, Smith gained the support she needed. She said: “The grant helped to tide me over while I was looking for a new job, and took away the stress of needing to pay my mortgage. [This new portal] just streamlines the application process and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. It makes everything so much easier and it saves time.”

Not only will it streamline the application process for individuals, but the tool promises to streamline the process for charities, too. The collaboration claims that the online grant tool will fold in financial technology solutions such as open banking to speed up processes and reduce the chances of fraud.  

ACO chief executive, Donal Watkin, said: “This has been an exciting example of what can be achieved when our sector takes a collaborative approach to solving a problem. With a clear vision set by a core team, and working with a human-centric approach to develop a product that meets the needs of users and organisations, we’ve developed a potentially game-changing solution for the sector, by the sector.”

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