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Digital Fund Weeknotes 02 (12–16th November)

What we’ve been doing

This week we continue to go through applications. We are getting an average of about 20 a day, which as you can imagine, means the Digital Fund inbox is busy.

This is all being eased though by an addition of two new people to the team. Billy, who is a secondee from the Public Affairs team in London, and Amy a Funding Officer who’s based in the Cardiff Office. We’ve got a further two people joining next week, which means we’ll be a team of 6 (not counting John who needs to get back to his main job, and Tom, who leaves at Christmas).

Alongside going through more applications, we’ve started having calls this week. Calls are the next stage of the application process. In pairs, we have 45 minutes with people who’s initial application matched our eligibility criteria, and the calls are purely to get more information to help us decide whether we invite people to put in an indepth proposal.

The questions (sent to people in advance of the call) we’ve been asking this week are —

  • A bit about your organisation, its mission, history and current size (including staff, income and the number of people you work with/support).

And we already know these are going to change for next week, as this week we’ve learnt which questions work and what questions are missing.

We also had our first “Sift” meeting, have started to put together an Invitation To Tender for the support we will be offering organisations who receive funding, and had a meeting with the Communications and Engagement team to start planning some strategic comms around the fund.

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Today’s workshop.

And today we hosted a workshop with a group of people who either are or work with small charities, community groups and associations (those that make up local infrastructure) to help us develop ideas about how the Digital Fund can strengthen them. I’ll write more about this next week.

What we’ve been learning

I’ve had my head in the implications of tech for the last few years and it has been amazing the last few weeks to see the value in the applications of tech again — to be reminded of the opportunities tech can afford. Some of this is really simple stuff too in terms of the tech, like digital channels where survivors of abuse can retain some anonymity but are able to come forward and seek and receive help.

It’s been interesting to recognise how much attention we’re paying to the experience people have in interacting with us offline too, down to how we’re conducting the phone calls and preparing people for them. It’s a good example of experience design.

I’ve also been reading up on bias in decision-making as I want to be more conscious of my own biases going into the first round of calls. As part of this I’m trying to keep note of my mood before I go on calls — that may sound ridiculous but it’s not okay to feel tired or hungry or dehydrated or irritable when I head in to some calls, and not others. I at least want to have more awareness this around this.

And today I learnt from Poppy, from the Small Charities Coalition, that 91% of charities in the UK are entirely volunteer led, which is a shocking fact!

What we are celebrating

Personally I’m celebrating being here — I’m loving the Big Lottery Fund so far — it’s one of those organisations that after every new person I chat to I realise how much expertise there is in the room.

On a call this week with a grant applicant they shared how painless the process had been so far — this feels like something to celebrate, and a hat tip to the design and digital teams who’ve worked hard to make the application experience more user-centred. The same person also commented that as the CEO of a new-ish charity she’s constantly needing to “ask a lot, of a lot of people” and that our process so far hasn’t’t required her to do so, which was a relief. It was a good reminder of how funders should be mindful of what they ask people to do (more of ) when applying for funding.

Written by

Senior Head, UK Portfolio at The National Lottery Community Fund & Co-founder of the Point People. Previously Strategic Design Director at Doteveryone.

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