Collaborative online grants portal for people in financial hardship

Social welfare
Grants to individuals
Existing collaboration

Aims and activities

Aims and questions

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 to the people who need it most, quickly and securely.

The portal's been co-designed by the Social Innovation Council, an initiative bringing together a key group of organisations, 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 early beta version of the portal launched in November 2021, for individuals to apply directly. This has already been used by over 1,000 people and facilitated over £30k in grants.

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 rolled out by summer 2022.  

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 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 development of the portal or share this with people who may benefit from it.

To discuss or find out more, please contact Ren Hooi.

You can also sign up here to receive the monthly newsletter from the Social Innovation Council to receive updates about the project’s progress, insights and upcoming events. 

Who's involved

The Founding Partners of the Social Innovation Council include the Smallwood Trust, Turn2us, Royal British Legion, Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO), 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.

Smallwood Trust, Electrical Industries Charity, Teaching Staff Trust, Licensed Trade Charity and Racing Welfare are taking part in the pilot of the early version of the portal.

We are also working closely with a number of organisations to signpost people to the portal for support and develop the functionality to apply on behalf of individuals, including Lambeth Council, Swan Community Bank, Southern Housing Group, The Children’s Society and National Energy Action. 

Learning and Resources

A one-page overview of the project can be found here  

Further information about the application portal can be found here  

Articles detailing valuable industry insights, our design process, and the technology used in the portal can be found here

Something not right?