A mix of direct grants and support from digital agencies are available to not-for-profit organisations in England whose work has been affected by COVID-19 for developing the digital capabilities that allow them to continue to deliver essential services.

Funding body: National Lottery Community Fund
Maximum value: £ 60,000
Application deadline: 07/09/2020

The COVID-19 Digital Response Fund is a partnership between The National Lottery Community Fund and Centre for The Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST), delivered with support from the Catalyst network.

Objectives of Fund
This emergency funding is intended to support England-based not-for-profit organisations dealing with the impact of the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis to develop the digital, data and design capabilities that allow them to address urgent issues and serve the most vulnerable.

Value Notes
Funding of between £5,000 and £60,000 is available.

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

A total of £4.95 million is available. This includes around £3.2 million of expert support, which will be provided to organisations along with tools and freely available shared learning resources. Around £1.75 million will be made available in direct grants.

The Fund expects to be supporting around 65 organisations in total.

Who Can Apply
Applications are accepted from not-for-profit organisations based in England that are delivering charitable activities to vulnerable communities.

The following types of organisations are eligible:

  • Registered, exempt, or excepted charities.
  • Community Interest Companies.
  • Community Benefit Societies.
  • Social enterprises.

To be eligible organisations must be doing work in one of the following areas:

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

Priority will be given to:

  • 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).


The following are not eligible for funding:

  • Payment that supports lobbying or activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, Government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action (any lobbying activity).
  • Using the grant funding to petition for additional funding.
  • Input VAT reclaimable by Grant Recipient from HMRC.
  • Payments reimbursed or to be reimbursed by other public or private sector grants.
  • Contributions in kind (i.e. a contribution in goods or services, as opposed to money).
  • Acquisition or improvement of fixed assets by the Grant Recipient (unless the grant is explicitly for capital use – this will be stipulated in the Grant Offer Letter).
  • Gifts to individuals other than promotional items with a value of no more than £25 a year to any one individual.
  • Entertaining (entertaining for this purpose means anything that would be a taxable benefit to the person being entertained, according to current UK tax regulations).
  • Statutory fines, criminal fines or penalties.
  • Liabilities incurred by the Grant Recipient before the issue of the Grant Agreement unless agreed in writing by the Fund. Liabilities incurred by an Onward Recipient might be eligible to improve a Grant Recipient’s liquidity in line with the objectives of the Programme.
  • Use to purchase buildings or land.
  • Activities that make profits for private gain.
  • Campaigning activities (this Fund wants to support the delivery of direct services for vulnerable people).
  • Loan payments.

Eligible Expenditure
There are two funding streams available:

Discovery Programme

The aim of this Programme is to allow organisations to validate a problem area through engaging directly with the people affected by that problem, before moving onto developing and testing solutions. It is a learning and development opportunity for organisations looking to progress their digital ambitions.

Organisations receive four weeks of funding and support, as part of a cohort of eight to ten organisations with a similar level of digital maturity, to understand and research the problem the organisation is trying to address.

Organisations will work with a digital partner to identify the needs and behaviours of the community in question, and how digital, data and design can best support them.

Organisations will receive a £5,000 grant to cover the cost of one member of their team full time, or a number of people who, between them, are working on the programme for 20 days.

At the end of the Discovery Programme organisations can submit a brief for the assessment process of the Fund’s Development Programme (see below).

Development Programme

Organisations receive ten weeks of funding and support to build on the learnings from the Discovery phase and develop a solution to the validated problem area.

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

Organisations can apply for up to £60,000, which will be a mix of grant funding and support from a digital agency/expert.

The Fund offers a mix of grant funding and support by a digital partner:

  • The majority of the funding will cover the cost of external support. A diverse range of specialist teams that offer digital, data and design services will be invited to submit proposals to work on the challenges identified by the organisations.
  • A proportion of the grant can be retained by the organisation itself to cover the cost of staff working on the project, and other direct eligible costs associated with it, such as:
    • Investments in systems.
    • Investments in people.
    • Investments in infrastructure (excluding purchases of buildings or land).
    • Dedicated capacity development.
    • Staff salaries.
    • Project activities.
    • Running costs.
    • Small-scale refurbishment (excluding refurbishments which significantly improve existing land or building assets).
    • Equipment.
    • Organisational development.
    • Contributions to fixed costs.
    • As this is emergency funding, all money needs to be spent and all projects concluded by 31 March 2021.

How To Apply
There are different application deadlines for the two funding streams. Applications for the:

Discovery Programme must be submitted by 5pm on 7 September 2020.
Development Programme must be submitted by 5pm on 20 September 2020. A second application round will open on 26 October 2020.
The FAQ document and the online application form for the Fund are available on the website of the Catalyst network.

Useful Links
Catalyst – COVID-19 Digital Response

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