Sector Challenge Programme

Grants of up to £10,000 for English organisations working in early years; financial wellbeing; mental health and wellbeing; and sexual abuse and domestic violence.


Area: England‍
Funding size: £5,000 - £10,000
Application deadline: 27th November 2020, 11.59pm

There are 12 Sector Challenges across four sectors most affected by COVID-19: early years; financial wellbeing; mental health and wellbeing; and sexual abuse and domestic violence.

For each challenge, we are funding three charity or civil society organisations working in that area to come together with a digital partner to explore solutions using digital, data and design. Your charity will receive between £5,000 and £10,000 depending on the budget in your application.

The Sector Challenge Programme is part of the Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response fund.

The programme will be run by CAST, a technology charity, and supported by Shift, a design charity, and DOT PROJECT, a digital cooperative, who will provide support to two cause areas each.

Why get involved

This grant provides an opportunity to :

  • Advance your skills and knowledge
  • Learn from experts and take part in a design process where you explore various approaches to potential digital solutions
  • Share experiences and ideas with your peers
  • Be part of designing an approach or solution which has a meaningful impact on the sector you work in, and the communities you support

Key dates

  • Applications Open: 16th November 2020
  • Applications Close: 27th November 2020
  • Applicants Notified: Week of 14th December 2020
  • Projects Begin: 11th January 2021
  • Projects End: 26th March 2021


Applicants need to be an incorporated English organisation with at least one paid member of staff, and serving communities within England and which meet the National Lottery criteria. This includes infrastructure bodies, federated organisations, and others who convene formal or informal sector groups. See our FAQ for more details about who can apply.

Clusters will work in four different cause areas: early years; mental health and wellbeing; sexual abuse and domestic violence; and financial wellbeing. To be eligible to apply, your organisation must have one of these causes as one of your primary areas of operation.

Participants from your charity must be available and able to engage with other organisations, the digital partner and the programme coordinator throughout the full 11-week programme: 11th January - 26th March 2021. 

Your receipt of this grant must be compliant with State Aid regulations - see specifications here.

Unsure if you are eligible? Use our Support Assessment.

How to apply

Apply by clicking the button on the right.

Though each cluster has three charities or civil society organisations, you apply alone, not as a group. Each application will be scored independently, so we cannot guarantee that we will be able to fund the organisations you might like to work alongside.

You are allowed to apply for more than one challenge but it is unlikely that you will be chosen for more than one.

We know that COVID-19 has hit hardest in already disadvantaged communities and that addressing these new challenges requires a solid understanding of deep-rooted issues. We strongly encourage individuals and teams of all different backgrounds and identities to apply for our grants.

Digital Partner selection

The open contracting process we have to follow under National Lottery contracting guidelines dictates that you cannot select your digital partner as all partner applications have to be assessed in exactly the same way to ensure that only the best are successful. However, we are interested to know if you have previously worked well with a digital partner and we will consider ‘good fit’ when selecting digital partners.


Apply nowSupport assessment


Application templates

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