Top 4 highlights from reviewing our funding

We recently reviewed all of our National Lottery funding in Scotland since 2015.

Here’s Allison Mathews, our Head of Knowledge and Learning, on our most interesting and surprising highlights from this piece of work

At The National Lottery Community Fund we want to be the best grant makers we can, and so we are continuously curious about how we can improve how we work. We recently completed a review of our National Lottery funding in Scotland since 2015, to identify trends in the grants we’ve made, learn about what our customers think, and highlight areas we could improve on.   

Post it notes mapping out our customers' journey applying for our funding
Our customers helping us map out their ‘journey’ applying for our funding

As part of this review, we looked at lots of data, we asked our customers to tell us about their experiences of applying for grants, and we asked our colleagues to reflect on what works well—and not so well—in their own grant-making practice.  Here are some of our highlights!

1. People mostly like the ‘three approaches’ 

In 2015 we laid out a set of approaches that we believe are vital to achieving our mission as a funder. Specifically, we set out to fund work that is people led, strengths based and connected.

Our review found that funding activities which embrace these three approaches largely works for our customers.  Some people said that the three approaches are a good fit their own organisational values and practice, and that they are flexible enough and applicable to most areas of work. Others said that they were a useful framework to apply to their own project or organisational development.  However, we also learned that we need to improve and clarify the language we use to explain the three approaches so that they are easier to understand and easier to apply to a broader set of circumstances.  

2. We like where you live 

Over the past year we have re-organised how we work to understand local places better.  Our customers seem to like this approach, as it means they can usually have one named person to take them from their first discussions with us through their application journey.  Having a single point of contact with us is really important to customers, and so we will try and make this work as often as possible. 

This approach has also helped us to build local connections and relationships, and to have more meaningful conversations with folk about their work.  

3. Smaller is beautiful  

The introduction of medium grants (from £10,000 to £150,000) in 2015 has enabled more organisations who previously only held smaller grants to access larger, multi-year grants. This level of funding has also opened the door to more new organisations with lower income levels (of less than £150,000 per annum) than before.  We think this is good, as the majority of third sector organisations in Scotland are within this income bracket, so this means our National Lottery funding is relevant to more of the communities we serve, and expands our reach as a funder.

4. The customer ‘journey‘ 

We have gained a better appreciation of the level of planning and preparation that goes into a proposal, way before an application to us is made!  And we understand better the ‘emotional roller coaster’ of waiting for a decision. This knowledge will help us to improve our conversations with you about our funding, and will be something we consider much more when designing new processes in the future.

So what? 

In the short term, we will use our learning to improve how we work with our customers, and to improve the experience of applying to us.  As these highlights show, there are some things that are working well, but there is always room for improvement in our funding processes, and how we communicate with you.

In the longer term, we will also consider these issues as we start to look forward to our next set of funding, a process we’ll begin next year.

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