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The opportunity to transform grantmaking for individuals

Charities are under significant pressure to support the more than 12 million people in the UK struggling with financial hardship. We’re working with them to co-develop a better solution for the sector.


Over 12 million people (1 in 5) within the UK are struggling with financial hardship, putting significant pressure on grantmaking charities to support those who need it most. However, the process for seeking and granting support is fragmented and hampered by administration - which means people aren’t getting the support they need, quickly enough (if at all).

Introducing the Social Innovation Council

We want to change this, so we started a Social Innovation Council to explore and co-design better solutions with a group of leading institutions within the grantmaking sector. Our Founding Partners include Turn2us, the Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO), Smallwood Trust, The Charity for Civil Servants and the End Furniture Poverty Campaign. Kicked off just last month, we’ve now rallied around an ambitious vision:

Workshop with the ACO

We were invited by the ACO to host a workshop to share information about the Social Innovation Council and gain insights to inform the initiative. The workshop was attended by a diverse group of 20 grantmaking charities with a range of sizes and focus areas.

Here’s what we learnt.

1. Fragmented systems

There are 24 different systems being used in the grant making process by the 20 organisations we polled - ranging from off-the-shelf CRM / grant management systems and online forms to bespoke, custom built systems.

This shows that there is no clear winning option which meets the needs of most grantmakers in the market today.

2. Charities face similar challenges

53% of charities polled stated that the biggest problem is the time taken to gather the correct documentation (e.g. bank statements, benefit letters) needed to verify an application. In most cases, they receive an incomplete set of documents which may also be outdated, fraudulent or in the wrong format, resulting in a lengthy back-and-forth process. Several organisations are already benefiting from Lighting’s existing financial verification product, which uses open banking to provide an accurate and real-time picture of a person’s financial situation. But many more could benefit from a platform that cuts out paperwork, reduces fraud and speeds up the verification process.

3. People seeking support find it difficult in multiple ways

Documentation isn’t just a problem for charities. Individuals applying for support not only spend hours or days gathering the correct documentation, but many have limited digital access and struggle to get information in the format required. For example, grantmakers have observed that an increasing number of people are only able to apply through mobile devices - making it difficult for them to upload PDF documents.

The application process can also be daunting, with 20% of charities stating that a lack of awareness and not knowing where to turn was a challenge for beneficiaries.

“The emotions around applying for grants can include chaos, distress, and a difficulty to think clearly. A single platform where people can access multiple sources of support could help alleviate some of the anxiety for people.”

There’s a strong appetite for change, with most workshop attendees feeling positive and excited about the vision and target outcomes of the Social Innovation Council - despite recognising the potential complexities involved.

“This is an ambitious but hugely worthwhile initiative. I’ve been in the sector for 25 years and many years ago I was involved with a project to create a common platform. Sadly it floundered as the organisations involved had disparate needs...maybe the timing wasn’t right.” Anne, Eaton Fund

4. There is huge potential for a common portal

For beneficiaries a common application platform means increased awareness of the support available to them and a simpler, less daunting application process. For organisations it has the potential to streamline processes such as document collection and verification, increase efficiency and facilitate deeper, more seamless collaboration across the sector.

Navigating the different criteria, needs and processes across organisations are key considerations for the project. Other considerations raised include the potential to integrate with existing systems, digital inclusion and ensuring personal data is protected and secure. Still, we’re certain that the opportunities of a common portal where people can access multiple sources of support outweigh these challenges - and the time is right to bring about change for the sector.

We’re committed to building the platform with the sector, for the sector - by working with as many organisations as we can. Become a member of the Social Innovation Council to stay updated and get involved in shaping the shared platform.



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