Money, money, money: a new grant model from Good Things amid a challenging financial landscape
Gabi Woodhams (Head of Network Delivery and Customer Support) and Jo Reynolds (Research & Evaluation Manager) describe what we’ve heard from hubs about the financial difficulties they’re facing, and introduce a new model of grant funding from Good Things, to help fix the digital divide.
Challenging financial times
The cost of running a charity or community organisation, and delivering services to people in need, has increased with the rising cost of living. At the beginning of 2023, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) predicted a difficult year for voluntary organisations, with the costs of energy, fuel, consumables and staff wages set to increase. Compounding this are the challenges organisations continue to face in accessing income: as household budgets are squeezed, people are finding it harder to donate money, and public sector funding is also decreasing.
What does this challenging landscape mean for hubs in our Network and their capacity to provide digital inclusion support? In recent months, we’ve asked hubs about funding: the challenges they’re facing in accessing funding for delivering digital inclusion support, and the difference that funding can make.
The reality our hubs are facing
From the 314 hubs that responded to our recent Network Survey in May, more than two thirds (69%) told us that a lack of funding was a considerable barrier to them supporting more people to become digitally included:
“We urgently need to secure new funding ASAP. We have the data and devices but no funding to cover overheads and project costs like staffing.”
Hub, North West, Network Survey
We also asked hubs about the sustainability of their funding situation in relation to digital inclusion support. Many were not optimistic about the future:
- 48% of hubs have 6 months or less of secured funding to continue current delivery of digital inclusion support.
- 25% of hubs said they have less than 3 months’ secured funding to continue this.
Hubs also told us what they most need funding for, to be able to continue delivery. Over half (59%) need funding to maintain current staff levels, and 50% need funding to cover overheads or facility costs.
We know that staff having time to support beneficiaries to build their confidence, skills and ability to access the internet is crucial to the positive difference that hubs make for increasing digital inclusion. So, having access to more sustainable funding is vital.
The existing Good Things grant funding model
With the launch of our new strategy last year, we developed a funding model to help grow capacity for providing digital inclusion support across the Network. We know that hubs in our Network know their community and their needs best. So we wanted to offer funding that hubs could use flexibly to build their own digital inclusion capability in ways that suited them. Unlike in the past, the grants were not focused on delivery targets, but on supporting effective ways to grow capability to foster digital inclusion.
Since 2022 we have run four rounds of Digital Inclusion Capability Grant funding (round 4 is currently underway). This grant was designed to help hubs to build their capacity to sustain delivery of digital inclusion support. Grants awarded were between £2,000 and £5,000, and have been used by hubs for a range of activities, such as:
- Delivering digital inclusion training to staff and / or volunteers
- Purchasing IT equipment and / or digital devices to enable delivery of digital inclusion support
- Time and resources to develop a digital inclusion strategy, or build partnerships with other organisations to facilitate local digital inclusion support
- Marketing and outreach activities to widen the reach of digital inclusion support.
“It has enabled us to create a network of Digital Champions within our staff and volunteer teams, and a training package that can be rolled out to other staff and volunteers in the future.” – Hub, North West. Digital Inclusion Capability Grant survey, June ‘23
These grants have been successful in helping hubs have greater impact with the digital inclusion support they can deliver. Of the hubs feeding back in June 2023 on grants awarded in February:
- 90% agreed that the grant had helped them support more people to build their digital confidence and skills
- 89% agreed the grant had helped them achieve better outcomes for people struggling to access or use the internet, and
- 88% agreed it had helped them to increase staff and / or volunteers’ understanding of digital inclusion.
However, we are aware of the limitations of these grants. Just over a third of hubs (38%) indicated that the amount of funding was a barrier to them achieving the goals they’d set for the Capability Grant. Similarly, 38% of hubs said that a lack of staff and / volunteer capacity had also been a barrier to delivery.
Making changes to our grant model
With these limitations in mind, and along with feedback from the Network Survey, we have recently developed a new fund – Fix The Digital Divide Fund. It’s a £1 million fund and there will be 4 different grant types available to hubs in the Network:
This will be a small, one off grant of £1,000 for newly joined members of the Network to enable them to become active in supporting digital inclusion.
Digital Inclusion Capability Grants
Similar to the previous Capability Grant, this grant will help hubs in the Network to build their capacity to provide digital inclusion support. We have increased the amount available from the previous rounds of this grant, to £6,000. It’s a successful model and there’s a clear need for it within the Network.
Digital Inclusion Impact Grants
This grant is designed to enable hubs to provide digital inclusion support to more members of their local communities, predominantly skills via Learn My Way and access to data through the National Databank. The contract amount will be £6,000 to support a number of people to improve their digital skills and or access to the internet.
We currently provide funding to 10 Ambassadors across the UK and they play a key role in supporting and representing the National Digital Inclusion Network. They bring experience and expertise in delivering digital inclusion support in different regions and to different audiences and a passion for fixing the digital divide. We may look to grow the number of ambassadors in the medium term.
Applying for the grants
We hope that this new fund provides a clear and consistent offer to support members of the Network. We feel the model will enable hubs to pick the funding opportunity that best meets their needs, while helping us to grow and strengthen our delivery of digital inclusion support.
We’re pleased to say that we’ll be launching the Capability Grants and Impact Grants towards the end of September and then again in May 2024 and October 2024. Activation Grants will be launched in January 2024 and will be open bi-monthly.
Information about how to apply for the Capability and Impact Grants will be available on Monday 25th September in the Funding section of our website. The deadline for completed applications will be Friday 20th October and there are 3 Q&A sessions to find out more about the fund and to ask any questions about the grant model. To book a place at one of the sessions, below are the links:
- Session 1: Wednesday 27 September, 2-3pm
- Session 2: Thursday 5 October, 10-11am
- Session 3: Thursday 12 October, 10-11am
Additional support is available
As well as our new grant model, we continue to provide other training and support to the National Digital Inclusion Network focused on accessing funding. This includes webinars on an introduction to online funding, writing better bids, diversifying your funding, and links to other sources of funding.
The favourite part of our Head of Network Delivery’s role is making grants available to hubs and seeing the impact made. In developing this grant model, we’ve brought together what we know about the impact of our grants, and what hubs have told us about what they need. We feel that it’s the right model to support us to Fix The Digital Divide, and we look forward to receiving applications for these grants. If you have any questions or feedback please, get in touch with us – firstname.lastname@example.org.