Digital Grantmaking Practice

Shantona

We’re exploring what good digital grantmaking looks like. We’ve developed some materials to act as a guide to the theory and practice of making decisions and judgements about grants that involve digital, data and technology. Here’s what we’ve done so far.

Context

In 2018, the UK Portfolio set up the Digital Fund. This was one way of helping The National Lottery Community Fund become a ‘digitally savvy’ funder, in order to strengthen civil society and make it fit for the future. In addition to running a £15 million funding programme, the Digital Fund team set out to explore what good digital grant making looks like, in order to help build up the confidence, understanding and awareness of good digital grant making across the Fund and the wider sector.

By ‘digital grant making’, we mean the theory and practice of making decisions and judgements about grants that involve digital, data and technology. As we increasingly live our lives through and with digital technologies, this could be any of the grants we make, from a community group that needs to update their website and onboarding processes to meet demand from an influx of volunteers, to a charity that has identified a social need that a certain digital innovation can help address.

Beyond individual organisations, good digital grant making recognises the important role funders have in supporting civil society as a whole to have a bigger role in responding to the many different ways technology is fundamentally changing society. So, digital grant making is about how people and communities are using digital technologies to thrive and how the organisations supporting them operate effectively in the digital age. It’s also about how digital technologies are impacting society and changing peoples’ needs, behaviours and expectations. By engaging in this topic, we think grant makers can support people and communities to have a stronger voice and role in this dynamic.

What we've done so far

Here’s some of what we’ve done so far:

  • Designed a new set of learning materials for grant makers to use to develop their confidence and capabilities in this area
  • Tested these materials with other funders and colleagues across the Fund, including through workshops in all our offices in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, then updated them based on feedback
  • Developed a plan for cascading learning across the organisation, which laid out different stages in the journey to good digital grant making and offered a suggested menu of tactics for supporting people through this learning
  • Developed formal Learning and Development training sessions as part of a new Grant Making Skills programme for all funding staff, which was offered from November 2020 onwards
  • Set up and run a range of informal learning opportunities for colleagues to get peer support, ask questions, have conversations and practice talking about this subject with each other, for example through regular Digital Funding drop-in calls and a community of practice
  • Acted as a point of contact within the Fund for colleagues to get advice, sense-check and learn more about the sector and digital.

We'll be adding resources and materials to this page as we continue to listen to, and learn from, the sector about what works best for them.