Sourcing funding opportunities and matching them to appropriate third sector organisations is one of the most important aspects of delivering a successful digital inclusion programme. It can be difficult to know where to start, so we have written this handy guide, based on the experiences of 100% Digital Leeds and what works for them.
Find your partner organisations and get to know them
Before you can start helping organisations in your local area, you need to find them and then find out more about them.
Take a strengths based approach
Try to find out what each organisation does well, using what is known as a strengths based approach. For example, the organisation may:
- have an established volunteer training programme
- already have a bank of computers and mobile devices
- have deep connections with marginalised communities
By focusing on the existing strengths of the organisation, you’ll be in a stronger position down the line to best match appropriate funding to the relevant organisation.
Once you know more about the organisation, you can next try to find out what barriers their clients face. This will help you further understand where funding could help from a digital point of view.
Just because you think an organisation might benefit from funding, they might not be as keen to get involved. One way to address this is to start by showing them how digital could benefit the projects they are already working on.
If they can see the positive impact of building on their existing work, rather than starting new projects, they are more likely to be motivated to get involved.
It’s important to find out how digital can be introduced into existing projects that work for their clients. By explaining how digital can enable them to deliver their own priorities, it will give them a stronger reason to work with you.
Stress that there is no expectation for them to work with you or for you. The benefits are solely for them.
Digital knowledge, delivery and equipment
It’s important to speak to your partners about the different roles of staff within the organisation. Discuss the roles existing staff could play in increasing digital inclusion for their service users. Any digital programme will only succeed with the relevant support.
It’s also useful to find out what digital knowledge and equipment they have. This should help inform what opportunities might exist to promote digital. For example, if they are doing some work directly with clients, could they also talk about the benefits of using a tablet and getting online at the same time?
Search for appropriate funding opportunities
In our experience, most funding usually comes from local sources, not national or international. Try to find out what local organisations offer funding. A tip is to subscribe to local newsletters and bulletins, as these often have announcements of new funds.
Most opportunities aren’t digital only
Funding is usually not specifically digital or digital inclusion funding. Funding opportunities will usually be based around achieving an outcome such as:
- reducing health inequalities
- increasing social connections
- improving employment prospects
- Improving financial resilience
Look deeper into the criteria for opportunities to see where a digital opportunity may lie.
Even though local funding is the main source, there are national funds available. A great place to search is the external funding database on the Online Centres Network website.
Be ready to go
Find out up front which organisations are likely to be interested when new funding sources are open. By having a good understanding of your local organisations and what they do, when funds become available it will be easier and quicker to match funds to the most appropriate organisation.
How to succeed in matching funding to partners
As mentioned earlier, if you have already considered the strengths of your partners and what they want to achieve, you’ll be in a stronger position to best match funding to the most relevant partner organisation.
Avoid jumping into inappropriate or unsustainable funding. Funding is most successful when you aim for a sustainable solution. For example, funding short term courses might not be the most sustainable way of achieving your aims.
Funding staffing might also be difficult, unless they are tasked with finding ways to further fund their post. If you include that person in your network of support, and work with them to demonstrate the impact they have, they should be in a stronger position to apply for more funding.
Fund development rather than delivery. Find out where the gaps are in their delivery and see if funding can be used to increase the capacity of the organisation.
Think beyond buying equipment. Consider how they could make effective use of devices and who will lead the work? They could use funding to run a pilot for potential future funding, but changes implemented should be sustainable, even if a temporary staff member leaves.
Consider the timelines of the funding and what the funder expects in terms of evaluation. Can the organisation achieve that with their capacity?
How to support an organisation when they write a funding bid
Your partner organisations may have considerable differences in experience when it comes to writing funding bids. A key part of the bid needs to specify how including digital will affect their outcomes. They should note in the bid that they have an understanding around how digital can be used.
Funds are usually very specific about how money can be used. For example, buying equipment. It’s also important to be clear what the key performance indicators (KPIs) and outcomes are. If you are more targeted in matching organisations to relevant funds, they are more likely to have a winning bid.
Statistics and data
A crucial element in a successful bid is to include supporting statistics and data to back up their aims. A good starting point is the Lloyds UK Consumer Digital Index.
Find out more about mapping inclusion with local data.
Find out if different partners have shared priorities. If so, you could link them up to submit a shared bid. For example, third sector bids around health inequalities could link up with health services or apply to health and care services for funding. Mapping all activity that an organisation does can help make links.
Finally, watch out for funds which don’t allow top slicing for running costs. If running costs are not able to be funded, the organisation may struggle to succeed.
Hopefully our shared experiences of what works and doesn’t work will help you find your partners relevant funding to help improve digital inclusion in your local communities.