Day 1

This is the first post in a series we will be doing, as we look both short, medium and long-term at how we can best respond to Covid-19 and support communities.

This work sits alongside the statement from our CEO, and other work that colleagues are developing. As I’m sure you can imagine, our response to this is evolving every day, and we will continue to share our response. What’s important about all of this is that an organisation the size of The National Lottery Community Fund can be both responsive in the immediate present and also show we’re here for the long-haul, looking ahead, linking things up and sharing what we know as we go.

Today we’ve done one-to-one interviews with 14 people —this has included existing grantees from across different programmes, other partners that we work with, and with some of the organisations we recognise have a vital role to play at this time.

Broadly we’ve been asking 4 questions.

  • How are you already responding to the Covid-19 crisis?
  • What would be most useful to communities over the next 4 months?
  • How do you think The National Lottery Community Fund can add value?
  • What will help communities weather this storm, as well as thrive beyond it?

Below is just some of how people responded. We’re doing more interviews every day this week and will keep doing short summaries as we reflect on what we heard.



  • Organisations are facing an increased need for volunteers either because their current volunteer base is at risk of declining due to self-isolation or because there is an increase in demand for services at this time.
  • This is resulting in an increased need for capacity to manage and train volunteers, either to train up new volunteers or retrain/get existing volunteers to work in a new way, e.g. moving from face-to-face to web chat or phone.
  • There was recognition that whilst a large proportion of organisation’s volunteer base was at risk of being lost due to self-isolation, there would at the same time be a large demographic of people newly without work, ie younger people that make up the gig economy, entertainment and hospitality sectors. We heard people talk about how there was potential to redirect this part of the workforce to fill these gaps, but this would need to be resourced as they would need financing.


  • Big questions around reshaping the workforce and new ways of working, e.g. young people in hospitality industry will lose work; older volunteers will be at home; how to shift workforce pattern?
  • More specific concerns around loss of skilled workers, such as doctors and nurses who work for service providers if/when redirected to the NHS.

Grassroots, frontline change-makers

  • We heard that people working on the frontline with vulnerable communities are finding themselves in ‘perilous’ positions, restricted in the work that they can deliver due to loss of income (a result of minimal funding for core costs and loss of individual contracts for freelancers). We were reminded that in order to deliver on our fundamental principle to put people in the lead, we need to engage with and enable those working on the frontline who are deeply embedded in communities.


  • There was recognition that the current moment would see organisations needing to undergo a ‘digital transformation’ that would typically take a few years in the space of a few weeks. Everything required to equip people and other organisations needs to be rolled out at speed as soon as possible, including training, access to devices, behaviour change and in some cases technical capacities. New contractors and teams will be required to work on new content, policies, practices and approaches. Many organisations will be in a similar position, so there is a need for a centralising body to link up a few organisations to be able to offer something collectively at scale.
  • We noticed a distinct sense of readiness and confidence to weather this storm and thrive beyond it by grantholders funded through the Digital Fund. They spoke of already having done the work to prepare themselves for digital ways of working, a willingness to be continually adaptive and responsive, and very keen to support other charities to rapidly adapt.


  • Organisations of a range of sizes will suffer a significant loss of income due to cancelled/postponed fundraising events.

Trying new things

  • Organisations are trying out new delivery channels and distributions channels, making use of E Cargo Bikes for home deliveries and setting up virtual spaces to mimic social hubs.
  • Organisations are reaching out to each other and forming new alliances and partnerships. This is happening incredibly quickly.


  • Organisations are under immense pressure and need to be able to quickly review what is required and then rapidly adapt. However, there is recognition that whilst immediate response is important this is also about the long game, sustaining a network, and an ongoing relationship of support and kindness.

Opportunities for action

  • Linking charities/civil society organisations with local community organising: so many amazing examples of people-led initiatives across the country — but how do we ensure they are connected to charities, particularly those whose services/support can’t transfer online — feels like this is the charity equivalent of the ‘last mile’ challenge.
  • It’s critical for there to be lots of coordination of activity and resources. How can we quickly equip organisations to play that coordinating and connecting role? How can more info be surfaced more quickly from more sources? Support for orgs to reassess and quickly adapt., in relation to the needs and in relation to each other
  • In terms of digital and technology there’s currently no alignment between where ‘needs’ are being captured and who’s responding to them. This feels like a priority at the moment to reduce duplication. How (and who) can sense/capture/prioritise needs and then identify how to respond to them across a geography or an issue area?
  • The need in communities is critical but the context has changed dramatically. This means different actors need to coordinate what they are doing alongside understanding who needs to play what role, which may be different to the one they previously played. There needs to be support for organisations to reassess and quickly adapt, in relation to the needs of communities and in relation to each other.
  • There is a need for an immediate infrastructure boost but this period of time will also require us to ask what new role is for shared capabilities infrastructure?

Lastly, some of the questions I have been left with after all the conversations today —

  • What is it that we are going to want to know at the end of this crisis?
  • What are we going to want to last and be sustained from it, and what can be demonstrated that can be continued?
  • How can we document and know the difference it is making to people to feel more connected, to receive such acts of kindness etc?

Thank you to Citizens Advice, Age UK, Trussell Trust, Little Village, Cares Family, Ruth Ibegbuna, Derek Bardowell, Shift, Open Food Network, With You, Facebook, Nesta, CAST, Dot Project and colleagues from our Ageing Better programme for conversations today.

This post was written with help from my colleagues Melissa Ray and Mitali Sen.



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