Comic Relief Tech for Good
applications analysis

David Kane, CAST
May 2017

This is an analysis of applications received by Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation to the Tech for Good funding stream in 2016/17. The programme seeks to fund projects which use digital technology to address social challenges.

It was designed to include a simple first stage application process, which consisted of a publically available video, 100 word summary and a visual presentation. This attracted 145 applications which were reviewed by staff at both Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation to create a long list of our top 50 in November 2016 and to select our top 10 in March 2017.

The analysis aims to answer five key questions, including comparisons between the applications that were successfully funded and those that were longlisted. The key questions are:

  • What types of technology are being developed?
  • What approaches are adopted?
  • What is the focus of the application? (Linking these to the key themes for Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation)
  • Who are the target audience for the projects?
  • What stage of development are the projects?

Additionally, the analysis presents data on the types of organisations applying for funding, the size of those applicants, and geographical analysis of the locations of the applicants.

Key findings

  • Applications generally came from registered charities, but one in six applications came from Community Interest Companies.
  • The majority of applicants had income greater than £1 million.
  • Two fifths of applicants are based in London.
  • Most applications aim to provide information or advice directly to beneficiaries.
  • The largest focus of applications was health and wellbeing.
  • Over half of applications were at the stage of having a minimum viable product or pilot product for their project.


Data on the applications received to the programme was available in a spreadsheet format. The data was first supplemented with additional data from four sources:

  • Where the applicant supplied a YouTube video a transcription of the video was extracted. This transcription was used for tagging the data (see below) with the technology types and beneficiaries supported by the application, to supplement the summary description found.
  • The applicants were matched to charity numbers to allow charity registration data, such as the organisations' income and location, to be used. Charity data was used from CharityBase.
  • Applicants were also matched to company numbers where a charity number was not available. Company data was then attached using the Companies House information service.
  • Location data was added by geocoding the location field supplied with the data. Geocoding was done using the Google Maps Geocoding API.

A small number of applicant organisations could not be reconciled either to companies or charities. These organisations were manually examined to determine their organisation type, with a small number where the type of organisation was not able to be discovered.

Additional data cleaning also included removing a duplicate application, and removing three ineligible applications from the data. After cleaning, 141 applications were available for analysis.

Tagging applications

To answer the five key questions, tags were added to the application data. The tags were based on manually examining each application as well as performing keyword searches. The tags would be based, for example, on identifying particular types of technology used, or beneficiary groups. The tags to be added were not decided in advance but were instead built up organically based on the content. Additionally an assessment was made of the stage of development for the application project.

As organisations could be tagged multiple times in a single categories, totals in these charts and tables may be greater than the total number of applications.

Analysis of applicants

Applications by status

Of the 141 organisations, 51 were longlisted for consideration and asked to apply to the fund, with 90 unsuccessful.

Final status of applications

Of the 51 applications carried forward to longlisting, 22 were invited to submit a full written application and were assessed. Of these, 10 were funded.

Applications by status and organisation type

83 of the applications (59%) were by registered charities, with a further 23 by Community Interest Companies. The organisation type of 12 applicants could not be determined. Charities were slightly more likely than other types to be longlisted, and make up of the successful applications.

Applicants by organisation type and status

Size of organisation

Size of applicants was only available for the 83 applicants that were registered charities, and is based on their income in the latest return to the Charity Commission. Data was not available for all charities, as some were registered in Northern Ireland or registered too recently for financial information to be available. Of the 83 charity applications, 14 had an income of more than £10 million.

Applicants by size and status
Funded Unsuccessful - longlisted Unsuccessful All
Under 10k 0 0 1 1
10k - 100k 1 1 6 8
100k - 1m 0 5 17 22
1m - 10m 3 12 19 34
Over 10m 3 6 5 14
All 7 24 48 79

Applicant region

Around two-fifths of applicants (55) were based in London, according to the location provided with their application data. The next largest region by number of applicants was the North West (16), followed by South West (12), and then North East, South East and Yorkshire and the Humber (each with 10). The largest organisations were more likely to be from London (of half of those with more than £10m income), but organisations based in London still dominated the smaller income bands: 45% of organisations with income between £100k and £1m were based in London.

Applications by region and status

The digital nature of the projects does mean that the location of the applicant does not necessarily tell us where the technology developed will actually be used.

Applicant locations

Technology used

Each application was tagged with the technology that was outlined in the application. This was a difficult judgement to make: the nature of many of the applications and the stage of their development meant that the specific technology to be used was often not clear or not yet decided. Many applications described their project in general terms as an "app" or "website", without going into specifics. In the case of those projects describing a website or app, no applicants mentioned specific technologies (eg languages, frameworks). In general, when using the word "app" applicants did not specifically mean a mobile phone app.

Applications using particular technologies

Tags were applied to all 141 applications, with 57 applications having one tag applied and 84 having more than one. The most used tag was "app", which was applied to 48 applications, followed by "website" (25), "sharing" (10) and "directory" (10). 8 applications involved using hardware, while 9 used social media.

Unsuccessful Unsuccessful - longlisted Funded All
app 24 20 4 48
website 20 4 1 25
directory 7 3 0 10
sharing 6 4 0 10
social media 6 3 0 9
hardware 6 1 1 8
chat 5 2 1 8
open source 3 3 1 7
content 4 3 0 7
data gathering 6 0 1 7
mobile app 3 2 0 5
video 4 1 0 5
webinars 3 1 0 4
online community 3 1 0 4
tablet 3 0 0 3
game 2 0 1 3
youtube 3 0 0 3
web app 2 1 0 3
media 3 0 0 3
smartphone 1 1 1 3

Types of approach

A better approach for understanding applicants' intentions is to look at the approach they are taking in the work. These are focused on what the technology will actually do: provide information to users, provide an actual service, or connect with other users.

Approaches used by applications

30 applicants said that their project would involve providing information, with 24 applications involving advice and 23 providing services. 11 of the organisations that are providing advice also said they were providing information, so there is overlap between the first two categories.

Funded Unsuccessful Unsuccessful - longlisted All
providing information 1 20 9 30
advice 3 14 7 24
providing services 3 13 7 23
peer support 1 8 4 13
training 1 11 1 13
education 1 8 1 10
finding opportunities 0 3 5 8
learning 0 5 2 7
finding services 1 1 5 7
providing support 0 4 1 5
skills 0 2 2 4
reporting 0 1 1 2
directory 0 2 0 2
organisation 0 1 1 2
showcase 0 1 1 2
self-assessment 0 2 0 2

While providing information was the most popular category, only one of the successful applications is using this approach. A smaller proportion of applications intending to provide information made it through to the longlisting stage that for advice or services.

Focus of application

Applications were tagged with the problem or theme they are focusing on, based on both Comic Relief's four key themes and Paul Hamlyn Foundation's priorities of migration and youth. The themes used were:

  • Health and wellbeing (Comic Relief)
  • Stronger communities (Comic Relief)
  • Children and young people (Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation)
  • Women and girls (Comic Relief)
  • Migration (Paul Hamlyn Foundation)
Focus of applications

Almost one-third of applications related to health and wellbeing, with five of the ten successful applications working in this area. In addition to these key themes were some other problems being addressed that occured in more than one application. These included loneliness (7 applications), mental health (6) and homelessness (4).

Funded Unsuccessful Unsuccessful - longlisted All
health and wellbeing 5 28 11 44
stronger communities 2 21 14 37
children and young people 1 22 10 33
women and girls 1 12 3 16
migration 0 5 2 7

Target audience

We identified five major target audiences across the applications. Most applications related to providing a service to the organisations' beneficiaries directly, with 115 applications choosing this audience. 22 applications were aimed at professionals who work with those beneficiaries - e.g. teachers, care workers, health workers. Ten applications are aimed at the general public, nine at organisations and two at volunteers or campaigners. All of the successful applications work directly with beneficiaries.

Audience of applications
Funded Unsuccessful Unsuccessful - longlisted All
beneficiaries 10 72 33 115
professionals 1 15 6 22
public 0 6 4 10
organisations 0 6 3 9
volunteers 0 1 1 2


Looking at the 115 applications that directly targeted beneficiaries, we can see that 26 applications targeted children and young people, with the same number targeting people with a particular physical health condition. An additional five applications targeted people with a mental health condition.

Funded Unsuccessful Unsuccessful - longlisted All
people with health condition 3 16 7 26
children and young people 1 18 7 26
women and girls 1 6 2 9
residents 0 5 2 7
migrants and refugees 0 5 2 7
older people 0 2 3 5
people in poverty 1 3 1 5
people with addiction 1 2 2 5
families 1 3 0 4
offenders 0 2 2 4
victims of abuse 0 2 1 3
parents 0 1 2 3
people with learning disability 0 2 0 2
lgbt people 0 2 0 2
carers 0 1 1 2
students 0 1 0 1
isolated people 0 0 1 1

Stage of development

To examine the stage of development that each project was in, a scale based on research from the Nominet Trust. The concept stage was added to the five developed by Nominet Trust to capture those applicants that had not undertaken any development work on their project. The categories used were:

  • Concept - An idea for the product but no development undertaken
  • Build - going from concept to minimum viable product (MVP)
  • Demonstrate - early pilot testing and proving the value of the product or service
  • Develop - building the operational team and partnerships to support growth, creating a sustainable business model
  • Readiness - preparing to scale up delivery
  • Scaling - increasing access to the product or service

Classifying the projects was not always straightforward, as some applications were unclear about the stage that their project had reached.

Application stage of development

As would be expected for a fund of this nature, most applications were at an early stage of development. 51 applications were at the concept stage, with a further 55 at the build and demonstrate stages and 25 at the develop stage. Reflecting the fund guidance, there was a clear preference for projects that had moved beyond the concept stage, only one of the 51 applications at that stage were successful.

Funded Unsuccessful - longlisted Unsuccessful All
Concept 1 11 39 51
Build 5 8 15 28
Demonstrate 1 14 12 27
Develop 2 6 17 25
Readiness 1 2 4 7
Scaling 0 0 3 3
All 10 41 90 141

Conclusions: demand for tech funding

The data gathered from applications to this fund offers a glimpse into demand for funding for non-profits to scale up their digital ideas. Although some caution should be taken in drawing conclusions for the whole sector based on applications to one funding stream, it could offer some insights into work organisations are planning or hoping to undertake. The findings suggest the following implications:

  • All sizes of organisations are interested in similar funding, but there appears to be particular demand from non-profit organisations with over £1m income - nearly two-thirds of applications came from this group.
  • Most potential applicants are likely to be registered charities, but there is a significant group of non-profit organisations with other legal forms that have an interest in this funding, particularly Community Interest Companies, who made up roughly one in six applicants.
  • Organisations based in London dominated applications to the fund, although this may be explained by the larger average size of applicants. There may be a need to generate demand in smaller organisations outside of London.
  • Applicants were agnostic about the technology used in their projects, or did not feel it was important to spell out. This is probably positive - it suggests a focus on solving problems rather than the technology itself.
  • A common aim of application projects was to provide information or advice to beneficiaries, although a significant number want to provide services too them. Perhaps unexpectedly, there doesn't appear to be a large demand for peer support or networking services.
  • Most application projects are aimed at directly supporting beneficiaries, with a minority instead aiming to support professionals or organisations to then work with beneficiaries.
  • Most applications had taken their project past the concept stage and had a prototype or existing product to develop. Although this again would have been influenced by the fund criteria, it does suggest that there are organisations already willing to experiment and take risks in this area, and then look to develop those ideas further.