Supporting Civil Society


The National Lottery Community Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK. We distribute money raised by the National Lottery to good causes which seek to improve lives and communities. We believe people should be in the lead in improving their lives and communities. Our approach focuses on the skills, assets and energy that people can draw upon and the potential in their ideas.

Supporting an active, vibrant and diverse civil society is one of the core elements of the Fund’s strategy. Here, we will say a little more about what we are trying to achieve and how we will do it. This strategy is based on the many conversations we have had, and continue to have, with civil society organisations, Governments and Devolved Administrations and people in communities across the UK.

The National Lottery Community Fund is committed to helping create a civil society where we are all:

  1. Empowering communities;
  2. Developing digital skills;
  3. Encouraging generous leadership;
  4. Building organisational and financial resilience; and
  5. Using data and evidence effectively.

Empowering communities

Strong, vibrant communities are built and renewed by the people who live in them and communities should be enabled to make the change they want to see. This happens at its best when people’s first-hand experiences shapes how services and activities designed. By community empowerment we mean:

  • Sharing power more equitably with communities to create opportunities for people to have a voice and make an impact.
  • Involving people with first-hand experience in decision making.
  • Valuing the diversity of people’s experiences and creating opportunities for them to use their experience to create change for others.

What does good look like?

  • People have the confidence and power to influence decisions that affect their life and their community.
  • People with first-hand experience are at the forefront of driving social change.
  • The leadership of civil society organisations reflects the people and communities they support.

How The National Lottery Community Fund will support change:

  1. We will support applications for funding from organisations which meaningfully embed people’s first-hand experience of social issues into the co-production of their activities.
  2. We will fund community empowerment via our Leaders with Lived Experience programme.
  3. We will work with our grant-holders and partners to increase our understanding of best practice in creating participant-led delivery models.
  4. We will identify and proactively reduce barriers to funding for participant-led initiatives.

Developing digital skills

Digital technology continues to present more and more opportunities for us to adopt new approaches to improving lives and communities. By digitally confident and connected we mean:

  • Civil society organisations are using digital tools and skills to connect with communities and deliver activities which meet people’s expectations.
  • Funders are able to provide the appropriate support (both financial and non-financial) to help civil society organisations increase their digital capability and skills.

What does good look like:

  • A shift in how civil society sees digital, shown by an increase in organisations of all sizes using appropriate digital tools to positively change their ways of working.
  • Civil society organisations having the confidence to use digital tools and services as well as access to support and resources to improve their skills.
  • A change in how funders - including The National Lottery Community Fund – prioritise digital to support applications that take advantage of the opportunities digital can offer.

How The National Lottery Community Fund will support change:

  1. We will launch a UK-wide consultation to gather intelligence about the opportunities and barriers civil society organisations face in being digitally confident and connected and how funders can adapt our grant-making to better support them.
  2. We will identify and work with expert organisations that can support smaller or new civil society organisations to increase their digital skills and capabilities.
  3. We will convene an alliance of social and tech funders to share learning and best practice and explore opportunities for funding collaborations which support the use of digital.
  4. We will launch a new multi-million pound digital funding programme to support applications from across the UK which enables civil society organisations to build their digital skills and embed digital approaches and technology into their work.

Encouraging generous leadership

We all have a part to play in shaping the future success of civil society and this depends on the strength of our relationships and our approach to working in partnership. By generous leadership we mean:

  • A concern with the development and success of the ‘ecosystem’ rather than purely the ‘organisation’.
  • A willingness to share responsibility and power to achieve the common good.
  • Openness with which we share experience, knowledge and skills.
  • The drive to build alliances with individuals, groups and communities to achieve shared goals.

What does good look like?

  • Leaders who are concerned about nurturing shared values and who understand how different roles and skills can complement each other for the common good rather than status and position.
  • Partnerships that look at the big picture rather than each organisations’ priorities, or which bring together smaller organisations rooted in the experience of communities with larger organisations that have the reach to create change at scale.
  • Shared funding, data and systems that give people and organisations the capacity and information they need to achieve their mission.

How The National Lottery Community Fund will support change:

  1. We will support applications for funding which enable leaders to think about their role in civil society and actively foster supportive relationships.
  2. We will support applications which are driven by the principles of generous leadership via our new Partnership funding offer and bring together the right expertise, skills and resources to make change happen locally, regionally and nationally.
  3. We will celebrate and share examples of where generous leadership is done well.
  4. We will grow our capabilities to share data and support partnerships to open up their data and systems to benefit others.
  5. We will review how our procurement, data and intellectual property can add wider value to civil society, as part of demonstrating a generous leadership mindset in all of our work.

Building organisational and financial resilience

We want civil society organisations to have the confidence, capacity and capability to determine their own path and have the right resources to achieve their mission. But to effectively seize opportunities and meet challenges head on, they also need to be able to adapt and respond to the changing environment they work in.

This means that they will have:

  • A clear understanding of their purpose
  • An operating model that sustainably supports their activities
  • The financial flexibility and resources to achieve their goals

What does good look like?

  • Organisations delivering work they know meets people’s needs - not just what commissioners or funders are willing to pay for.
  • Organisations having a clear understanding of the skills and resources needed to achieve their purpose.
  • Organisations that are confident to make bold decisions about their strategy, including saying no to funders and commissioners.
  • Organisations having access to the appropriate funding and support when they need it.

How The National Lottery Community Fund will support change:

  1. We will support applications for funding which allow organisations the time and space to focus on building their resilience and ensure this focus is part of our ongoing conversations with all applicants and grant-holders via our Reaching Communities, Community Led Activities, Improving Lives, People and Communities and standard funding products.
  2. We will work with our grant holders and partners to understand how organisational and financial resilience differs by geography, size and whether groups are in start-up, sustain or growth mode.
  3. We will work with an alliance of funders and commissioners, including existing networks, to challenge how we collectively adapt our approach to supporting organisations to become more flexible, resilient and financially sustainable.

Using data and evidence effectively

Collectively sharing meaningful and insightful data has the power to improve how civil society organisations, funders, commissioners and statutory services make decisions. By using data and insights more effectively we mean:

  • Having access to meaningful data that enables people, organisations and communities to reflect, learn, prove and improve
  • Data which is both quantitative and qualitative, embodying the principle of no stories without stats and no stats without stories.

What does good look like:

  • Organisations have access to the data and insights which reflect their differences, whether this is about having access to systems for monitoring and analysis, the right processes for measuring outcomes, or improved research and evaluation.
  • Civil society organisations can access data and evidence that is useful and improves their decision making.
  • Civil society organisations know how to maximise and share their own data.
  • Funders have coherent asks that can be delivered with proportionate and appropriate resources.

How The National Lottery Community Fund will support change:

  1. We will share useful data and insights about our funding alongside meaningful data from third party organisations.
  2. We will convene an alliance of civil society organisations to challenge how we collect and use data and evidence.
  3. We will ensure our approach to collecting data and evidence is appropriate and proportionate, and support grant-holders to collect and provide data and evidence which is valuable to their organisation and wider civil society.
  4. We will support applications for funding to our Reaching Communities and Standard funding programmes which enable organisations to improve their ability to capture, process and share data and evidence about their work which is meaningful and insightful.