Participatory Grant making and The National Lottery Community Fund
Hannah Paterson, Senior Portfolio Manager – UK at The National Lottery Community Fund talks about Participatory Grant Making (PGM) and how she tests PGM as part of our funding model.
In 2019 I was lucky enough to have received a Churchill Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to explore Participatory Grant Making (PGM) approaches in both South Africa and the USA. I wanted to bring this learning back to the UK. One of the things I learnt through this process is that there are some funders who were set up as participatory grantmakers and this practice is ingrained in their governance structure and business models. There are funders who are more ‘traditional’ (who do not have PGM approaches embedded into their structures and governance). For those’ funders trying to change and adapt their processes and systems to a new and very different way of working that incorporates PGM, there are obstacles and challenges that a lot of the more established funders who are used to this approach have not had to navigate.
I currently work for The National Lottery Community Fund and part of my role is to try and test PGM approaches as part of our funding model. The National Lottery Community Fund is one of the largest funders in the UK and we distribute around £600m every year, made possible by the money raised thanks to National Lottery players across the UK. We are a non-departmental public body, this is different to a lot of other funders who are distributing private money from an endowment, business or family/personal wealth. This means that some of our governing rules and regulations are laid out in law and are not as flexible as other funders.
In 2019/20 we awarded over £588 million, and 83% of our grants were under £10,000. We have three core funding products that make the bulk of our funding, they are always open and assessed on a rolling basis – Small grants (under £10k), Standard grants (over £10k) and Partnership grants (two or more organisations working together). On top of this we also have a range of other distinct funding programmes that aim to address a certain theme or issue such as our Digital Fund (which looks to improve digital capabilities of the charitable sector), our strategic programmes which look at issues such as ageing, multiple complex needs and young people's mental health, and third party funded projects such as #iWill which supports young people to engage in social action.
Over the past few months, I have been working with colleagues across The National Lottery Community Fund to understand how we could be utilising PGM as part of our People in the Lead strategy. People in the Lead drives all of our work at the fund and is based on the principle that people understand what’s needed in their communities better than anyone - we listen, collaborate and fund so that good things happen. I will be documenting how we go about this, what we learn and what we’ve achieved to help others in the sector to unpick some of the challenges that come from using PGM within a more traditional funding structure.
Over the next 6-12 months I will be working with staff across the Fund to:
- Develop a clear narrative and understanding of PGM across the Fund in order to share learning and act as a catalyst for and a beacon of best practice.
- Develop a feasibility study that allows us to pilot various PGM approaches across directorates in order to understand how PGM can best support our aims to deliver our People in the Lead ambitions.
- Share this learning across the fund and externally to understand and develop next steps and be explicit about where this will and will not be rolled out.
I will be blogging about this journey here and will be excited to hear your insights, challenges and thoughts. Please do get in touch: Hannah.firstname.lastname@example.org