Catalyst and the National Lottery Community Fund COVID 19 Digital Response, charities

CAST and The National Lottery Community Fund have joined forces to help more charities meet increasing demands for digital transformation in the current climate.

Charities and other civil society organisations are invited to apply for funding and expert support worth up to £60,000 each, which can be spent on projects to improve the sector’s digital capabilities.

The fund, called Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response, is open to any social organisation based in England that’s part of a formal or informal network of ten or more other charities, and is committed to proactively sharing learnings with this group.

The partnership prioritises those that have been disproportionately impacted as a result of COVID-19 – in line with the wider approach taken by The National Lottery Community Fund to get resources to those that are hardest hit by the pandemic as quickly as possible. Applicants must be working with one of nine key groups facing disproportionate challenges as a result of COVID-19: 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.

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. Applications opened on Wednesday 19th August at the Catalyst site.

Thanks to National Lottery players, The National Lottery Community Fund has committed nearly £5 million to the partnership, which will be used to support the digital needs of civil society organisations as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Of this, £1.75 million will be made available in direct grants, with the remaining £3.2 million allocated to fund expert support, which will be provided to organisations along with tools and shared resources.

To be eligible to apply, charities must be able to show that they have a network of other charities who will be able to share their work, and benefit from it. This may include being a federated charity, or an infrastructure organisation, but applications from other charities who can show evidence of a network will also be accepted. 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.

Catalyst will be reaching out to existing digital partners as part of the scheme, as well as taking on a range of new specialists to work with charities across the Discovery and Development phases. Projects will be managed through an Open Projects portal, whereby experts respond to briefs posted on behalf of charities. Any agencies with specialisms in digital, data or design are invited to visit Open Projects for more information.

Speaking about 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 – taking the best from the sector’s response to COVID and building towards a more responsive and resilient sector”.

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund, added, “Thanks to National Lottery players, nearly £5 million 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.”

Applications are open now at the Catalyst site. Applications for the Discovery phase will close on 7th September; applications for the Development phase will close on 20th September.

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