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Digital Fund Weeknotes 10(14th — 18th January)

First a few events. And a book recommendation!

I’m going to be speaking at the Trusts Fundraising Conference next month about the Digital Fund, and about strengthening the social sector more widely. I’m also hosting a breakfast for other funders next month on digital trends in 2019 and beyond.

On Thursday this week, I (with my Point People hat on) hosted an event with Anand Giridharadas and a group of leading thinkers and social change makers in the UK, to talk about the ideas in his new book — Winners Take All. More on that to follow but I’d recommend reading it if you’re at all interested in philanthropy, power, social change and challenging the status quo (because it is no longer working).

Back to the Digital Fund team.

What we are doing

We had our team intensive in Newcastle on Tuesday and Wednesday, going through all the applications where there was a difference in opinion. We managed to get through them all, and have spent the rest of the week making sure we can meet our hard deadline of Monday 21st Jan — every single one of the 1200 applicants needs to have heard back from us by then.

And once we’ve met that deadline, we still have 191 calls to do out of the 268 calls we are doing in total.

There has not been any time to do much else. If I owe you an email, sorry 😳

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Tuesday evening in Newcastle.

What we are learning

As we take more people through to the next stage of the process — an invitation to put in a full application (we’ve 15 so far) — I’ll be able to share more about what ‘good’ looks like and specifically how organisations demonstrated our Success Criteria. If you’ve not read those, they are here for Strand 1 and here for Strand 2. Sometimes it wasn’t clear whether organisations had read the Success Criteria or only seen the eligibility criteria. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Strand 1

Some common reasons for saying no to people with Strand 1 applications were:

  • They didn’t have enough previous online service delivery.
  • Their application was primarily about adding a new service to existing services.
  • The application lacked indicators that the applicant was thinking about changing core ways of working — it was really an upgrade of “business as usual.”
  • Linked to the above, there were many applications that wanted to build better digital infrastructure (important and necessary) but without signs of thought about changing core business.
  • There was too small an ask in terms of money and therefore ambition.

Strand 2

Some common reasons for saying no to people with Strand 2 applications were:

  • There was not a working digital service with evidence of users.
  • The service didn’t offer significant benefits that can only be delivered with digital tech.
  • It was not obvious that the current online service the applicant was running offered cheap scaleability.
  • We had many applications from organisations teaching digital skills and inclusion — this is not the same as a digitally-enabled service, which is what we were looking to fund.

This is just an initial download after our session together this week as a team — reflecting on what we have learned and seen from the data. Next week we’ll publish a slide deck with some more developed insights and ideas for how we respond to them.

We’ve got learning we want to share with the wider sector and other funders — primarily to work out how we collectively problem solve around the needs of the sector that the Digital Fund has uncovered.

What we’re celebrating

Um, it’s Friday?! This has been a long week. The team have pulled together brilliantly, under a lot of pressure and some hard deadlines, whilst still managing to make time for reflection, share learning and make a new team member feel welcome. Thank you John, Amy, Billy, Joel, Cath, David and Livia.

Run UK Portfolio at National Lottery Community Fund, Co-founder of the Point People, Policy Fellow IIPP, Founder Stewarding Loss, International Futures Forum.

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