Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response

Emergency funding of up to £60k available to nonprofits in England that are committed to proactively sharing learnings with other organisations in their networks.

Funding overview

Area: England‍

Funding size: £5,000 to £60,000

Application open: 19th August 2020, 9am

Application deadline:
7th September 2020, 5pm (Discovery Programme)
20th September 2020, 5pm (Development Programme)

This fund is aimed at organisations whose work has been affected by COVID-19 and who need emergency funding to continue to deliver essential services. It will support them to develop the digital, data and design capabilities that allow them to address urgent issues and serve the most vulnerable.

This funding is a combination of direct grants and payment for support from digital agencies. 

Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response is a partnership between The National Lottery Community Fund and Centre for The Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST), with support from the Catalyst network Thanks to National Lottery players, The National Lottery Community Fund has committed nearly £5 million to the partnership.

What are the funding opportunities? 

We know that the most effective digital projects start with a Discovery phase. This is where organisations validate a problem area through engaging directly with the people affected by that problem, before moving onto developing and testing solutions. 

We're offering two funding streams to support this:

The Discovery Programme

  • This programme is an excellent learning and development opportunity for nonprofits looking to progress their digital ambitions. 
  • Four weeks of funding and support, as part of a cohort of 8-10 organisations with a similar level of digital maturity, to understand and research the problem you are trying to address.
  • You will work with a digital partner to identify the needs and behaviours of your community, and how digital, data and design can best support them.
  • You will receive a £5,000 grant to cover the cost of one member of your team full time, or a number of people who, between them, are working on the programme for 20 days. This is to ensure you get the most out of the programme, and are able to complete all the key activities. It should also allow a couple of additional days' time at the end of the programme to help put into practice some of the next steps identified in Week Four.
  • During this programme you will capture your learning in a report or, if appropriate, develop a brief for further digital/design/data support.
  • If you find you’re able to solve your problem using existing digital tools or resources, you’ll learn how to use and embed these into your organisation.
  • Applications open: 19th August - 7th September (5pm)
  • You’ll hear back: 22nd September at 5pm (Note: this date has changed since it was first published)
  • Programme runs: 28th September - 16th October
  • Final week, including sharing learnings and wrap-up: week of 19th October.

At the end of the Discovery programme you can submit a brief for the assessment process of Catalyst’s Development programme (see below), which will start on 11th January. A second round of applications for Development funding will open on 26th October. For announcements and updates, sign up to our newsletter.

The Development Programme

Organisations that can show they have already been through a Discovery process will be eligible to move directly to Development.

  • 10 weeks of funding and support to build on the learnings from discovery and develop a solution to your validated problem area.
  • The programme runs for 10 weeks: 1 week to get ready, 8 weeks working time, 1 week to wrap up.
  • You are invited to apply for up to £60,000, which will be a mix of grant funding and support from a digital agency/expert.
  • Applications open: 19th August - 20th September (5pm)
  • You’ll hear back: 1st-2nd October
  • Open procurement with digital agencies/experts through the Catalyst website: 5th-31st October
  • Development preparation: Week of 16th November
  • Development process: 23rd November - 29th January (allowing for two weeks’ down time over the holidays)
  • Final week, including sharing learnings and wrap-up: week of 1st February

Deadline for spending

This is emergency funding which needs to be spent by the end of March 2021. This will require all projects to be concluded ahead of this date. Please see our FAQs for more detail on this.

Who can apply?

Organisations must be nonprofits (see definition in the FAQ) based in England and delivering charitable activities to vulnerable communities in England (see list below).

For all programmes, organisations must be part of a formal or informal network of ten or more other charities committed to proactively sharing learnings from the programme within their group. Networks include infrastructure bodies, federated organisations, and other groups, e.g. a local or subsector community of practice.

Organisations must not have received any other COVID-19 funding towards addressing this challenge.

Organisations must ensure that any funding they receive from this programme (when added to previous public funding they have received) is within the levels that enables them to be compliant with the current rules on state aid.

Organisations must do one of the following:

  • connect with older people; 
  • connect with disabled people; 
  • provide advice and support to people who are pushed into crisis; 
  • support those who are in medical care or end of life care; 
  • provide essential items directly to families who are hit hardest;
  • support people who experience health inequalities; 
  • support people who experience loneliness and social isolation; 
  • support people who experience poor mental health; 
  • support children and young people to achieve their potential.

Please see full definitions and criteria in the FAQs.

Unsure if you are eligible? Use our Support Assessment.

We are particularly interested in applications from:

  • User-led organisations: organisations where the majority of the leadership (i.e. at least half of senior team and trustees) are from the communities the organisation serves.
  • Organisations led by and for marginalised communities and those most affected by the COVID-19 crisis (particularly Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic; Deaf and Disabled; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and/or women-led groups)

How to apply

First, please check that your organisation is eligible for the programme, using our Support Assessment. Check our full eligibility criteria in the FAQ.

If you are eligible, you can apply now. You will need to create a SurveyMonkey Apply account in order to create and submit your application. It is a quick and secure process. 

If you are unable to use SurveyMonkey Apply, please request an accessible Google or Word document from CAST by email to

How the overall funding will be spent


A portion of the funding goes directly to successful grantees . This can pay for existing core costs that are supporting the delivery of this project, plus any eligible new costs associated with it.

Digital Partners

The majority of the funding pays for external support. The majority of the funding pays for external support. We will invite a diverse range of specialist teams that offer digital, data and design services to submit proposals to work on your challenge. Applications go through our Open Projects process, meaning the best placed team works on the project.

Support for applicants

Application templates

Before submitting details into SurveyMonkey Apply, you can prepare your application by downloading our template application form. Templates:

Email us a question

If you have a question about the grant, eligibility criteria or application process, please email us at We’ll aim to respond within two working days.

Missed our Q&A webinars?

If you were not able to join our Q&A webinars, the presentations slides and recordings are now available online:


Apply NowSupport assessment


Application templates

Before applying, you can prepare your application in a template: