Social impact startup Lightning Social Ventures has developed a new online grants portal that enables those in financial hardship to find and apply for grants from multiple providers quickly, easily and securely using a single application. An early beta version of the portal launched at the end of November with national charities the Smallwood Trust, Teaching Staff Trust and the Electrical Industries Charity joining the pilot.
With 15 million people facing poverty in the UK following the pandemic(1), and many more at risk of falling into financial hardship with the rising cost of living, it is critical to ensure that support is accessible to those who need it.
The portal will make the process of applying for support easier, as well as streamlining processes for charities – folding in financial technology solutions, such as open banking, to speed up processes and reduce fraud. It will also facilitate collaboration across organisations to get help to people faster.
The portal is the outcome of the Social Innovation Council – a collaborative initiative between ACO, national charities Smallwood Trust, Turn2us, The Charity for Civil Servants, End Furniture Poverty, and the Royal British Legion, and Lightning Social Ventures. From setting an initial vision in June, the Council has made swift progress, with a beta version developed and starting to be piloted in under six months.
The aim of the Council has been to streamline the application process for individuals seeking support. With existing processes being challenging to navigate and hampered by paperwork, individuals can often be left waiting weeks to find out the outcome of applications, and often do not receive the support they need quickly enough.
Martha Smith(2) had to leave her job and was left with no income after experiencing domestic abuse. Left in a precarious financial situation she was uncertain about where to turn for support, until an old colleague mentioned that she could apply for a grant from the Smallwood Trust. “The grant helped to tide me over while I was looking for a new job, and took away the stress of needing to pay my mortgage. [This new portal] just streamlines the application process and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. It makes everything so much easier and it saves time.”
In addition to reducing paperwork, the portal enables individuals like Martha to identify and apply for financial support from a range of providers through a single platform, reducing the duplication and stress that can currently be associated with applying for grants. The portal also facilitates collaboration between organisations, enabling multiple charities to come together to fulfil applications and better meet the needs of individuals.
A human-centric approach has meant that both grantmaking charities and people with lived experience have been at the centre of the development of the portal. Gathering insights throughout the process from potential end users, and the organisations that support them, has ensured that the portal is meeting the needs of both groups.
Cat Illingworth, Operations Manager at the Smallwood Trust commented, “For the Smallwood Trust, a key benefit of the portal is the potential to reach those women who are most eligible for our support, to understand more about their needs and to get grants to them quicker. The portal also has the potential to allow us to become a more responsive funder.”
ACO Chief Executive Donal Watkin said, “This has been an exciting example of what can be achieved when our sector takes a collaborative approach to solving a problem. With a clear vision set by a core team, and working with a human-centric approach to develop a product that meets the needs of users and organisations, we’ve developed a potentially game-changing solution for the sector, by the sector.”
The early beta version of the application portal is now live and accepting registrations from people in need of financial support.
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