Materials and content to support better Digital Grantmaking

Cassie Robinson.
The Digital Fund
Published in
4 min readDec 12, 2019


Earlier this week Melissa introduced the work we’ve been doing to develop materials and content that we can use across The National Lottery Community Fund to build the confidence and understanding across the organisation about digital, technology and data.

This initial piece of work started before Melissa joined the team, and so I brought in Emily and Sonia to work with me. We were lucky to have such experienced designers working with us, who both have worked in government on content design and organisational design. Emily did some initial desk research to look at what else was around that could feed into our work. She found surprisingly little and barely anything that was specifically for grantmakers. So over the last few months we’ve been creating materials and content to address this gap, and a few weeks ago we started testing it with some other Foundations (thank you Nesta, Wellcome, Social Tech Trust, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Paul Hamlyn and Comic Relief). Now we’re sharing it with you.

We’ve developed a range of content that is all linked out to from a guide book, with the following sections (see below). It’s worth noting that all of this content is still in draft stage (version 1.0) as we spend the next 6–9 months taking a user-centred design approach to continue testing and iterating the work.

Understanding digital — technology & society

This section includes content that tries to bring the wider context of technology and its impacts on society into view.

It’s here and happening now is a slide deck that explains to grantmakers and those working in Foundations — “Why you should care about digital: An introduction to how technology is changing society.”

It’s this, not that is a slide deck that shows examples of the kinds of things technology affords and how that changes what we might fund.

We’ve also made some posters — 5 questions to keep asking , Two greatest challenges , What is technology useful for?

Making funding decisions

This section contains really practical tools like questions for grantmakers to use when talking to applicants or assessing applications, prompts to use as a way of deciding on the tech policy positions you want to take through to materials that show what technology can afford and what good looks like.

How does the sector understand digital? is a slide deck sharing how civil society / social sector organisations currently interpret the word digital.

What technology can do is a slide deck that tries to categorise what opportunities technology gives us and why it can be useful.

Tech policy cards that act as conversation prompts to determine what your organisation’s technology policies are.

Policy and learning questions to use in grantmaking teams as well as in Senior Leadership teams, to encourage ongoing enquiry about technology and its impacts on society. These have been inspired by some work Alix Dunn did for the Human Rights team at the Oak Foundation.

Questions for grant makers is a booklet of questions for grantmakers to draw on to help them make good judgements about “digital applications”. There are a lot of questions, and people will find different combinations of them useful depending on whether they do responsive or strategic funding, specialist or generalist funding etc. Melissa is refining these for use internally at The National Lottery Community Fund, and experimenting with different ways of segmenting them, but we wanted to include the full set here so that others can draw on them. They are also not intended as a checklist — many will just be questions to bring into conversation with applicants. Thank you to Rachel Coldicutt and Richard Pope who contributed to these.

The other two sections of the guide include who to go to inside the organisation for digital, data and technology advice, and some content about embodying good digital and design practice. We’ve not included the links to these as they are particular to The National Lottery Community Fund. You will also notice we’ve unlinked from a few other context specific documents, like how the organisation’s strategy and values manifest in policy and grantmaking decisions about technology.

This is version one — there’s still notes and comments and unfinished parts in the documents. We’ve set permissions so people can comment directly on the documents. If you have any other feedback we’d love to hear about it here. And if you want to be part of the growing community of practice that Melissa is building then please get in touch with her on



Cassie Robinson.
The Digital Fund

Working with Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, P4NE, Arising Quo & Stewarding Loss -