Collaborative online grants portal for people in financial hardship

Social welfare
Grants to individuals
Aligning processes
Co-ordinating funding
Existing collaboration

Aims and activities

Aims and questions

Aims and activities

Lightning Reach is a one-stop online grants portal transforming how people in financial hardship access support. It enables charities and public sector institutions to get financial support from various sources to the people who need it most, quickly and securely. This includes grants and other support available from charities, local councils, social tariffs and more.

The portal launched at the end of 2021, and has so far been used by over 30,000 people and facilitated over £2m in grants to individuals. Some of our support partners administering grants through the portal include the Royal British Legion, RAF Benevolent Fund, Teaching Staff Trust, Racing Welfare and Lambeth Council.

The portal's been co-designed by the Social Innovation Council, an initiative bringing together a key group of organisations that provide support to individuals, and aims to: 

  • Enable individuals in financial hardship to find and apply for support across multiple providers, quickly, easily and securely
  • Utilise innovative technology (e.g. open banking and ID verification) to help organisations reduce paperwork and fraud
  • Streamline processes by facilitating coordination across organisations, to reduce duplication and transform the user experience
  • Use data and insights across the ecosystem to identify gaps and deliver personalised, data-driven support over the longer term.

The next phase of the portal is to allow support agencies to apply on behalf of individuals. This functionality is currently being co-developed, and will be piloted in 2023. 

Lightning Reach is also adding local support schemes to the portal on a region-by-region basis for people to match to for additional support, with 500+ already available on the portal.

Facing increased pressure on their resources, charities had highlighted to ACO the wish for a more effective system... so multiple charities could help meet the needs of individuals.

Donal Watkin
Chief Executive, Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO)

How to get involved

We would love to work with the following organisations to expand and shape our next phase:

  • Funders who provide grants to individuals (or are open to doing so, to link in with the portal and expand the range of support available to individuals - in the context of the cost-of-living crisis)
  • Funders who provide grants to organisations, who are open to supporting smaller organisations to adopt innovative new technology and trial the portal
  • Organisations involved in the ecosystem of providing advice, support or other practical assistance to individuals in need of financial support, who can provide input into the development of the portal or share this with people who may benefit from it.

The portal is free to use for individuals seeking support and referral agencies. For organisations providing grants or hardship schemes we operate on a subscription fee model, with a range of tiers to suit the needs of your organisation.

To discuss or find out more, please contact Hannah Canner, Marketing & Partnerships Manager at Lightning Reach.

You can also sign up here to receive Lightning Reach’s newsletter for updates about the project’s progress, insights and upcoming events.

Who's involved

Who was involved

Who was involved

The Founding Partners of the Social Innovation Council include the Smallwood Trust, Turn2us, Royal British Legion, Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO), the Charity for Civil Servants and End Furniture Poverty. We have also been collaborating with a wider membership base of over 50 organisations within the charity and public sectors. More information about the Social Innovation Council can be found here.

Some of the support partners using the portal to administer grants include the Royal British Legion, RAF Benevolent Fund, ABTA LifeLine, Teaching Staff Trust, Electrical Industries Charity, Racing Welfare, Royal Naval Benevolent Trust and Lambeth Council.

We are also working closely with a number of organisations to signpost people to the portal for support and to develop the functionality to apply on behalf of individuals. These partners include Southern Housing Group, Big Issue, London Funders, HACT, St. Martin-in-the-Fields Frontline Network and National Energy Action.

Learning and Resources

Something not right?

Add a collaboration opportunity

Tell us about an existing collaboration you're involved in or an emerging opportunity you want to explore with other funders.