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Digital Fund Weeknotes 18 (18th — 22nd March)

Last week was the first week I’ve missed Weeknotes – I was knocked out by flu and am still recovering this week, so this will be a brief and patchy reflection!

A request — now that more people have been through the experience of applying to the Digital Fund, it would be great to see people fill in this short survey where we are collecting feedback on the process. Please pass on to anyone you know applied.

Me, on the right.

What we are doing

This week and last we’ve been sorting out replies to the remaining handful of people we’ve not got back to about their applications. We had to have a few more team Sifts to make collective decisions. Beyond that we’ve been focussing our efforts on supporting people we’ve invited to put in a full proposal.

We’ve invited 46 organisations to put in a full proposal but we will only be able to fund about 25 of those.

The process of this next stage involves a back and forth on Googledocs between the Funding Officer and the applicant— rather than a submission of a full proposal. I think of this more like intelligence gathering and iterative proposal development. We know what information we need to see, and mostly this is information that the applicant already has, whether in their strategy documents and business plans, so we use the Googledoc as a way of asking questions, seeking out and collecting the right information, and iterating over time so that we (in the Digital Fund team) feel we have all we need to make the case for the organisation to be funded. It is our team (not the applicant) who then have to summarise all the information we’ve gathered in to a coherent narrative, in to a document like the one shown below.

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The document template that we have to complete to send to the Panel/Committee

Once we’ve completed this, it needs sending to the UK panel or UK Committee (depending on the amount being asked for) a week in advance, so that the people assessing it can come to meeting with questions ready for us to answer.

We will be doing a lot of these over the coming months, and also making some hard decisions about which not to take through to panel/committee stage.

What we are learning

This week we took our first batch of full proposals through to the UK Panel. I’m going to write a longer post about the UK Panel process next week, but one learning point for me — it really was an effective mechanism for making decisions and for bringing in different view points and perspectives on what we should fund.

One of the proposals we’d taken through to the panel was something I was still unsure about and it was a real relief to have the responsibility of the decision taken out of my hands and into the hands of a group of people. I was really happy with the outcome.

What we’re celebrating

Short but sweet celebration this week — Kamna has joined the team 2 days a week. She’s brilliant and will be working closely with me on the learning content that we’re developing to share across the wider organisation, as well as supporting the team doing user research and due diligence on the applications we’re developing into full proposals. You can read more about her below.

Also,of course that we have our first few grants to announce, but that will take a few weeks to make public whilst we sort some legal and contractual things out.

Who works here? — an introduction each week from inside the National Lottery Community Fund

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3 things you do in your role?

  • Produce and share policy updates for all England funding staff on any key areas they might want us to look into, or to clarify TNLCF’s policy position on a particular issue. We have in the last year provided an update on everything from our support for infrastructure organisations to our support for animal charities!
  • Developing the England Policy Network (which now has over 65 colleagues) with the aim this year to be more learning focused.
  • Engage with and support the regional funding teams to deliver our Reaching Communities funding product, while adopting a Continuous Improvement approach.

What are you working on at the moment that you’re inspired or excited by?

I am very excited about the Reaching Communities & Partnerships One Year On event in Birmingham next week that will bring together 200 colleagues across England who are involved in delivering these products. We will be celebrating the fantastic work that has been done over the last year, reflecting on what some of the challenges have been and are going to explore how we can improve our impact and best support communities to thrive. It will be great to meet colleagues from different teams and come together around our shared vision.

What is your burning question of the moment?

What more can we do to support organisations so they don’t have to keep re-inventing the wheel just to access funding? Or have to keep piecing together bits and pieces of funding to stay afloat? What is their long term ambition and how can we help them get there? I think this is where the potential of digital and design thinking can really help and I’m looking forward to what the digital fund can help catalyze in the sector.

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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