Graphic showing key stats: 103 charities, supported by 11 digital teams, each sharing their learnings with 10+ charities

The National Lotteries Community Fund has helped a huge number of charities to go through a digital discovery process in Autumn 2020.

Wow. The numbers are staggering. 

103 charities funded via Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response. Each will carry out early stage research into developing their digital services. 

Eleven digital agencies funded to guide them through their four week ‘Discovery’ journey.

Over 1000 other civil society organisations set to benefit from the learnings gained.

Why has Catalyst allocated funds to so many? Well, the evidence is clear...

Digitally mature charities responded better to COVID-19

The Charity Digital Skills Report shows that since the pandemic started, digitally mature charities have been responding fastest to their users’ needs. 

The Discovery process is vital to understanding their needs. It’s when early stage user research takes place. This funding will help 103 charities become more user-centred and more digitally responsive.

Thank you, The National Lottery Community Fund

Each charity will receive £5000 to cover 20 days of staff time working on the project. The funding comes from The National Lottery Community Fund’s COVID-19 Digital Response programme. The programme is both progressive & collaborative. Because of it the Catalyst network will be working at an unprecedented scale to help charities design digital services.

A four week programme, with funding and support

Yes, this is a rapid programme. It’s a deep dive induction into how to start a digital project. Similar to a Design Hop, but with knobs on. 

Each organisation will go on a four week full-time ‘Discovery journey’. By the end they will have:

  • Identified the needs and behaviours of their respective communities
  • Explored how to serve these needs using digital, data and design 

They will learn how to: 

  • Do user research
  • Work with user stories 
  • Carry out user interviews
  • Use tools like Knowledge Boards to challenge and validate assumptions

Eleven teams of digital experts will support them. The programme will end on October 23rd, when charities will be ready to test their concept. They’ll also have the opportunity to apply for further funding.

Networked approach a first

This is the Catalyst network doing what it is being built for, at scale.

Working at this scale is made possible by the strength of Catalyst’s networks. No individual organisation could provide this depth of support to so many charities at once. So digital experts from across the Catalyst network have stepped up. The eleven teams will be guiding groups of 8-10 charities each.

Once the work is completed the 103 charities will share what they have learnt with ten others from their network. Each charity has already nominated who their ten are. We expect learning to cover:

  • New ways of working e.g. user research
  • Using digital, data and design to empower your community
  • Navigating your digital journey when your staff team lacks digital confidence

They will use a variety of ways to share learning e.g. blogs, webinars and online peer learning sessions. 

Some basic stats

90% of those who applied got funded.

85 of the 103 funded deliver frontline services. 18 are anchor organisations supporting other charities. 

100 of the 103 are working with:

  • People with disabilities
  • LGBTQ+ communities
  • Ethnic minority groups

In most of the charities funded, people with lived experience made up over 50% of the leadership.

The future of digital funding for charities

This funding award is a landmark moment. Charities are rapidly switching on to digital’s potential to deliver services. But they need support and guidance in how to do it. Expectations are growing that more funders will support this movement. 

The National Lottery is committed to funding digital services. We will shortly announce those grantees who have been selected for the Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response ‘Development’ phase. This is for charities who have already been through a discovery process and are more confident and advanced in their digital journey. 

The programme will run for 10 weeks from 16th November until 5th February (with a two-week holiday break). We’ll be announcing more details soon.

Five things you can do if you didn’t apply or didn’t get funded

Not everyone made it through. And some charities weren’t ready to apply. Here’s what you can do to get your organisation more ready for digital funding.

  1. Read the 16 most useful Catalyst blogs since the pandemic began
  2. Develop your digital strategy - Digital Candle can help
  3. Take a Design Hop - a similar programme, but based on a ‘self-serve’ model. Complete the course in your own time.
  4. Join a fortnightly Zoom call to hear how charities are tackling real-life challenges
  5. Look out for our upcoming blog on how to improve your application for digital funding

Our Catalyst network - what we do

Support & services

Our free services help you make the right decisions and find the right support to make digital happen.

Learn what other non-profits are doing

39+ organisations share 50+ Guides to how they use digital tools to run their services. Visit Shared Digital Guides.

Flowers with multicoloured petals collage that says Hope

What’s given us hope this year?

Ellie Hale
Ellie Hale
Jo Morfee
Jo Morfee
Megan Gray
Megan Gray