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£4 million invested to boost volunteering

  • £4 million of grant funding to encourage people aged 50+, and those who want to give digitally or infrequently, to devote time and talents to social action 

  • Nesta and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport support innovative social action programmes and create new ways of volunteering 

15 September 2017 - Innovation foundation Nesta and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have today launched a new fund that provides up to £4 million in grants and a further £750,000 in non-financial support for social action innovations which mobilise the time and talents of volunteers.

The Connected Communities Innovation Fund is designed to encourage more people to volunteer alongside public services, and inspire new ways of giving for those who haven’t previously volunteered. The fund has a specific focus on helping those aged 50 and over, those who want to give time infrequently rather than routinely, and those who want to give their time and skills from the comfort of their own home to good causes.

The fund will support innovations that address one of four different social issues:

  • Bringing communities closer to create shared resources and support one another; 

  • Supporting community resilience in emergencies; 

  • Improving the environment; 

  • Creating new forms of digital social action 

Two sizes of funding awards are available(1)for innovations tackling social issues within these four priority areas. Early stage innovations are applicable to receive a grant of £50,000-£75,000 and non-financial support over 12-18 months to test their concept. Grants of £100,000-£250,000, along with two years of non-financial support, are available for innovations already in place and ready to scale. The fund has today opened for expressions of interest, with a deadline of 30 October 2017.

Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society said: “Volunteering has a hugely beneficial impact on people’s lives. This £4 million investment will create more opportunities for a greater number of over 50s to share their skills with others and bring communities together. Not only will it help support people in need but it will also help provide a rewarding experience for the volunteers themselves.”

Vicki Sellick, Executive Director of Programmes at Nesta, added: “We know that when volunteers work alongside public services they can achieve great things together. I’m delighted to join Tracey Crouch today in committing £750,000 of Nesta’s funds to the endeavour to surface and grow brilliant innovations which connect the talents of citizens and the skills of public servants to tackle big issues we all care about - like supporting communities to deal with floods and fire, or reducing food waste.

“We’re especially keen to hear from innovators who have ideas to make it easier to give time and skills in our hectic 21st century lifestyles whether that’s new ways to give remotely via apps or new ways to give infrequently, rather than schemes that require the volunteer to be available every Thursday at 8pm.”

Nesta and the Office for Civil Society (now within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport ) have run a number of funds that seek to harness the power of social action alongside public services and mobilising more volunteers, including the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, and more recently, the Second Half Fund, Early Years Social Action Fund, and Savers Support Fund.

In total they have together backed more than 100 innovations to grow - like Code Club, GoodSAM and Volunteer It Yourself, where local tradespeople mentor young people aged 14-24 in building and construction skills, while fixing up local youth clubs and community buildings together.


For more information contact Anna Zabow in Nesta’s press office on: 020 7438 2616/2543,  [email protected]

Notes to Editors

  1. Full application and eligibility details are available via Connected Communities Innovation Fund.

  2. More information about the fund can be found via the FAQ.

About Nesta: Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. To find out more visit

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.