New COVID-19 Digital Response fund for charities

The National Lottery Community Fund has opened a new fund to help charities scale-up their digital capabilities in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A laptop and headset.

Making effective use of digital technologies has been critical during the pandemic (Photo: Chris Champbell via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Annette McGill

The COVID-19 Digital Response fund is offering expert support and grants of up to £60,000 to charities in England looking to develop their online capabilities. The fund will provide £1.75m in grants to charities, while the remaining £3.2m will fund support from advisors.

Two-part structure

The Digital Response fund is structured in two parts: Phase One is a discovery phase during which charities will receive a small amount of support to research digital solutions to a problem they are aiming to address. To apply, charities must be part of a network of  charities with whom they can share their learning.  

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 deadline for Phase One applications is September 7th, 2020. Successful applicants will hear back by September 18th, 2020.

Phase Two consists of a development programme for charities that have completed Phase One. Applications for the second phase close on September 20th, 2020.

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, an initiative set up to boost the charity sector’s digital development.

The pandemic has triggered a rapid digital transformation across workplaces. Charities have been forced to rapidly adapt their working practices and rethink how they can deliver services. Charities facilities managers have been challenged to help implement digital working, including supporting staff working from home. 

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.”