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Some of what you believe about digital funding isn’t true. And some of it is, partly. This guide will help you think smarter.

This resource is for anyone involved in making grant applications to fund their organisation's digital costs. That includes funders aswell as fundees.

It lists some of the myths that influence perceptions and decisions around digital funding. For each one it explains why it isn’t true, and why they are also partly true. It will help you check what you think you know about grant funding for digital costs.

The power of myths

Humans naturally seek to make sense of the world through stories. These narratives, while not always entirely accurate, serve as tools for understanding complex concepts and coping with challenges. For the human brain the need to make sense is higher than the need for accuracy. Because when we make sense of things the mind becomes calmer and life feels more manageable.

Let's apply this sensemaking behaviour to the situation of fundraising in a small charity. Its usually hard to make sense of why a grant application fails. Feedback is typically generic and leaves gaps. We fill in this missing information in order to make a story that's easier to understand. Over time professional myths are born from weaving together various facts, evolving over time as circumstances shift. This is what we see happening with digital funding.

So, let's look at some digital funding myths.

Myth 1: It is harder to make a case for core digital costs vs digital project costs

This isn’t true. Tools exist that can help you measure your digital progress and show funders why you need funding. These measures are different to others but just as valid and robust. It’s possible to create a set of OKRs and measure your digital progress against these. Digital maturity matrices offer clarity. 

It’s also partly true: some funders don’t fund any type of core costs. So don’t apply to them.  


Myth 2: Other costs are more important than digital ones

Non-profits and funders both believe this sometimes.

This isn’t true. A good digital infrastructure will elevate every part of your organisation. But a weak infrastructure will make it less relevant to beneficiaries and potential employees. As your digital practice and ways of working fall behind others the effort to transition becomes harder.

It’s also partly true. Digital isn't always the most relevant aspect of a project or an organisation. And sometimes you won’t be able to make lots of progress with digital. But you can still do small things often. 

Tip: List all the ways that digital tools and skills help you run your organisation. Then, when making an application use this list to help you talk about the relevance of digital to your organisation.

Myth 3: Digital is only about projects, channels, tools, marketing 

This is a myth shared by some funders and non-profits.

This isn’t true. It’s more than only these things. It’s also the infrastructure sitting at the core of your organisation and the digital skills and practices that your staff use. It should be informing how you deliver your organisational strategy.

Tip: To help you think about what digital means to your organisation use Catalyst’s digital strategy guide.

Myth 4: funders aren't interested in funding digital costs

This isn’t true. They have consistently told us that they are interested. They now see funding digital costs as part of funding ‘business as usual’ in an organisation.

What is true. Funders are sometimes less confident in funding digital than other more traditional costs. This can make it seem like they are less interested. But you can give them confidence in your application. 


Myth 5: Funders believe that funding digital is a one off cost or project

This isn’t true. Funders recognise that digital costs persist, just like staffing and other infrastructure costs like building maintenance. They want to know how you’ll maintain the work after the grant ends. 

Tip: Read Dot Project’s articles about understanding your current digital costs and budgeting for future digital costs.

Myth 6: Funders need to have good digital understanding to fund digital costs

This isn’t true. Funders need to understand how charities operate. And they need to be able to have good conversations with applicants to understand what they are asking for. But it’s OK if they don’t understand how technology works. They can bring partners into the assessment process to help. 

Why it’s partly true. Funders do need to understand that digital is a means of delivering both services and internal operations. That it's a means of transforming an organisation and improving its effectiveness. And that engaging digitally is something that people expect to be able to do with their world.   

Tips: Read what we mean by digital and what we mean by digital funding

Further information

The links above are a good place to start. You could also read:


Image credit: Martin Deutsch. Used under a CC2.0 license.

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