Building Connections Fund

Following the Prime Minister's wider endorsement of the Jo Cox Commission recommendations on Loneliness in January 2018, the £11.5 million Building Connections Fund has been set up to support projects that are able to prevent or reduce loneliness.

Suitable for
Voluntary or community organisations
Total available
Main fund: Close to £9 million
Application deadline

Main fund: Friday 24 August by 12 noon. Awards will be made by December 2018 and projects can be funded until March 2021

Image credit: Silverline, an example of a project funded for similar work under the People's Projects

What’s it all about?

The £11.5 million Building Connections Fund is a partnership between Government, The National Lottery Community Fund and the Co-op Foundation which was set up in response to the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness to support projects that prevent or reduce loneliness.

The fund aims to:

  • increase social connections, helping people form strong and meaningful relationships and creating a sense of community and belonging, and helping people feel more connected
  • support organisations to build on their existing work, eg by reaching more people, or working in a new area or with a different method or group of people
  • encourage organisations to join up with others locally
  • improve the evidence base and use learning to inform longer term policy and funding decisions.

The fund is split into two strands

All grants will be made by December 2018 and can run until March 2021, by which time all money must be spent. You can apply to both strands, however you cannot receive funding for the same project. We will share information between the strands to ensure we make informed decisions in cases where we have received similar applications.

Main fund strand

The main fund is made up of close to £9 million, which will be distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, making grants of between £30,000 and £100,000. Applications are now closed.

We’re offering funding to organisations with existing projects that are already helping to build connections to prevent or reduce loneliness and want to do more to build on this work. We are interested in funding projects that could reach more people and / or join up with others and include ways of utilising existing expertise in the sector, increasing geographical reach and improving impact.

Youth Strand

The Youth strand is made up of £2 million, which will be distributed by the Co-op Foundation, making grants of up to £80,000.

The Youth strand is open to organisations with existing youth-focussed activities that could be effective at helping young people avoid long-term loneliness. Successful applicants will receive funding to explore youth loneliness in greater depth, test youth-led innovations within their existing provision, and share their learning as part of a national network. You will be supported to evaluate your activities and capture your impact, which will add to the evidence base.

What we're interested in

We’re interested in funding projects that:

  • make the best use of community assets and joining up local services to connect people in different local places, from urban to rural, in the workplace, community hubs or pubs or facilitating social mixing in local buildings, indoor and outdoor spaces, and parks. Or in different ways, using digital or technology, transport and travel, participating in sport or volunteering.
  • enable communities to bring people together and build connections, helping people across all ages, who may be more likely to feel lonely, and encouraging those who are at highest risk of loneliness to participate. If you are working specifically with young people, you may be eligible to apply to our Youth Strand of the fund.
  • understand more about the individual benefits of preventing loneliness and what works, resulting in benefits to people's health and well being, so that they live longer, healthier, more independent lives and improve their opportunities for employment.

Why is this fund important?

Many people experience loneliness at some point in their lives. The late Jo Cox, a British Labour Party politician, started a conversation about loneliness that inspired Government, third sector, communities and others to celebrate initiatives that bring people together. To build on this, the Prime Minister, in January 2018, publicly committed Government to establish a dedicated Fund to tackle loneliness, as a part of a wider endorsement of the Jo Cox Commission recommendations including publishing a strategy to prevent and reduce loneliness and developing a loneliness indicator. Tracey Crouch MP, the lead Minister for Tackling Loneliness, announced the fund on Tuesday 19 June.

Loneliness is commonly defined as “a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship. It happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want”. 5% of adults in England reported feeling lonely “often” or “always” between 2016 and 2017 (ONS). Although a number of factors such as age, health, caring responsibilities, neighbourhood and frequency of meeting with family members or friends are found to have an impact on loneliness, these and others can interact in complex ways for different people.

We know that great things can happen when communities are given the tools and the space to come together. Strong relationships and connections between different groups of people, community groups, public services and charities ensure that people get better access to activities in their area, and can prevent them feeling lonely in the longer term. Government has collaborated with The National Lottery Community Fund and Co-op Foundation who have collective experience of working with local organisations to reach more people and help build strong, welcoming communities.

As well as supporting more projects, more work is also needed to understand what causes loneliness, who is at risk and why, and how we can work together to best tackle it. With this funding, we have an opportunity to increase public awareness of loneliness and reduce the stigma, and build the capability of voluntary and community organisations in the longer term by building evidence, supporting initiatives to scale up and join up with other local services to reach more people.

Who should apply?

We welcome applications from England-based projects that meet the aims of the Building Connections Fund.

We can fund:

  • charities
  • community and voluntary sector organisations
  • social enterprises
  • not-for-profit companies (including community interest companies)
  • groups or organisations working in partnership (as long as they are led by a voluntary and community sector organisation).

We can’t fund:

  • organisations based outside the UK
  • individuals or sole traders
  • applications made on behalf of another organisation
  • organisations aimed at generating profits primarily for private distribution
  • organisations that are mainly fundraising bodies or fees for professional fundraisers
  • schools, colleges and hospitals
  • statutory duties, or services run by state or public authorities, however we welcome applications for projects joining up with statutory organisations and involving both voluntary and public sectors, provided they are led by and funding is only received a voluntary organisation.

You must also meet the following criteria:

  • The value of the grant requested in each financial year is not more than 50% of your annual income.
  • You are applying to extend or increase the reach or impact of an existing project.
  • Grants cannot be used to deliver existing work currently being funded by anyone else.
  • You have a UK bank account in your organisation’s name.
  • Your organisation has at least two unconnected people on the board or management committee (not related by blood or marriage or living at the same address). Unregistered organisations should be constituted.
  • You will spend a minimum of 20% of your whole budget before 31 March 2019 and give evidence of your spend by mid April 2019.
  • You’re committed to working with our evaluator and implementing a shared measurement approach, and sharing the resulting evidence, data and learning.


We’re committed to equalities and want to fund projects that follow our equalities principles.

Visit our website for more information on our equality principles

Get in touch

If you have any questions about eligibility, get in touch with us.

Phone: 0345 4 10 20 30
Text relay
: 18001 plus 0345 4 10 20 30 (for those with a hearing or speech impairment)

What can you spend the money on?

Money must be spent on activities that will directly prevent or reduce loneliness and help to build connections between individuals and communities.

Revenue costs

These could include (but are not limited to):

  • staff salaries
  • training and organisational development
  • equipment to facilitate activities
  • venue hire
  • communications campaigns
  • marketing
  • project activities and other resources to help run the project or intervention
  • resources to implement or develop the project
  • costs for learning and evaluation (recognising that you will be working with an evaluator as part of your funding).

Capital costs

We've had feedback that transport is fundamental to people’s ability to make social connections, particularly in isolated areas.

Because of this, you can apply for up to 30% of your funding for capital costs to buy, maintain or improve fixed assets that are linked to transport and travel.

You will need to secure competitive quotes on all purchases, keep a record of any assets acquired or improved with the funding, and may be subject to additional conditions.

We can't fund:

  • advocacy or appeals
  • debts, loans or any type of retrospective funding
  • political activities or religious activity (although we are able to fund religious organisations if they are providing benefit for the wider community).

For the main fund

The Building Connections Fund closed for applications on Friday 24 August at 12 noon. Please go to the funding section of our website to see our open funding programmes.

What to expect when you apply

The information you submit will be reviewed by a team from The National Lottery Community Fund, who will decide whether the idea is something we can fund and will be subject to checks.

Your proposal will be assessed at a The National Lottery Community Fund and Government joint decision-making panel, alongside a report by the relevant Funding Officer.

If you’re successful you’ll be notified that you’re on our short list and asked to provide additional information about your organisation and accounts. We'll carry out checks, such as person verification and anti fraud before we confirm that you have received an award.

If you’re unsuccessful you’ll get an email from us letting you know the decision.

For the Youth Strand

Applications have now closed for the Youth Strand. Please visit the Co-op Foundation website for more information.


As an organisation that gives out public funds, we carry out some checks on the information you provide us. Learn more about our checks