Comic Relief Tech for Good
applications analysis

David Kane & CAST
July 2018

This is an analysis of applications received by Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation to the Tech for Good funding stream in 2018/19. The programme seeks to fund projects which use digital technology to address social challenges.

It was designed to include a simple one stage application process, which consisted of a publicly available video proposal, and a budget outline. This attracted 119 applications which were reviewed by staff at Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation to create a longlist of the 50 strongest applications, and a shortlist of 22 to be assessed.

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)
  • 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 ten applications came from Community Interest Companies.
  • The majority of applicants had income between £100k and £10m.
  • One third of applicants are based in London.
  • Most applications aim to provide services, information or advice directly to beneficiaries.
  • The largest focus of applications was health and wellbeing.
  • Most applications were at the concept or build stage of development.
  • 85 of applicants have not received funding from either funder before.


Data on the applications received to the programme was available in a spreadsheet format, with some answers to the research questions. The data was then supplemented with additional data:

  • 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 findthatcharity.
  • 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 based on the registered postcode of organisations.
  • Organisations were checked against public lists of those previously funded by Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation, released under the 360 Giving initiative.

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.

As organisations could select multiple categories for a particular question (such as type of technology used), totals in these charts and tables may be greater than the total number of applications.

Where possible, the data has been compared to similar data from 2017. When comparing the two it is important to take into account the different data collection methods. In 2017 the data was mainly gathered by researchers tagging the video and related textual material, whereas this year the applicants themselves have answered questions relating to what the work will look at.

Analysis of applicants

Applications by status

Of the 119 organisations, 69 were unsuccessful, 50 were included on the publicly available longlist, and of these 22 were shortlisted and assessed of which 13 were funded.

Final status of applications

Applications by status and organisation type

95 of the applications (80%) were by registered charities, with a further 14 by Community Interest Companies. The organisation type of applicants could not be determined. Charities were slightly more likely than other types to be longlisted, and make up 11 of the 13 funded applications.

Applicants by organisation type and status

Comparison with previous year

The pattern of organisations is roughly the same between 2017 and 2018, with a small increase in the proportion of charities applying and a decrease in Community Interest Companies and other organisation types.

Organisation type of applicants

Size of organisation

Size of applicants is based on their income provided to Comic Relief on application. Of the 119 applications with income data, 19 had an income of more than £10 million.

Applicants by size and status
Funded Unsuccessful - shortlisted Unsuccessful - longlisted Unsuccessful All
Unknown 1 0 1 6 8
Under 10k 0 0 1 2 3
10k - 100k 2 0 4 10 16
100k - 1m 2 4 10 23 39
1m - 10m 4 4 8 18 34
Over 10m 4 1 4 10 19
All 13 9 28 69 119

Comparison with previous year

Compared to previous years, the proportion of organisations with under £1m income has risen, although it is difficult to directly compare data as the 2017 figures relate to only registered charities.

Organisation size of applicants

Applicant region

Around one-third of applicants (43) 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 (14), followed by South East (13). The largest organisations were more likely to be from London (40% of those with more than £1m income are registered 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

Comparison with previous year

Compared to previous years, the proportion of organisations with under £1m income has risen, although there were more applications in all income bands.

Region of applicants

Previously applied for funding

Using data on funding by Comic Relief and Paul Hamlyn Foundation published by them as part of the 360 Giving programme, it is possible to see how many applicants have previously received funding from either funder through other programmes.

In total, 11 of the 119 applicants have previously received funding from Comic Relief and six have previously received funding from Paul Hamlyn Foundation (including one applicant who has received funding from both). This shows that the large majority of applicants are new to funding from either funder.

Of the 13 funded organisations, two have received funding from Comic Relief previously, while none have received funding from Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Technology used

Each application selected the technology they were expecting to use in their project. This can be 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.

Applications using particular technologies

Tags were applied to all 119 applications, with 18 applications having one tag applied and 101 having more than one. The most used tag was "Mobile (eg App)", which was applied to 88 applications, followed by "Software" (66), "Sharing" (57) and "Producing content" (52). 32 applications used social media.

Unsuccessful Unsuccessful - longlisted Unsuccessful - shortlisted Funded All
Mobile (eg App) 48 23 8 9 88
Software 40 12 6 8 66
Sharing 36 15 4 2 57
Producing content 32 13 4 3 52
Chat 20 9 1 4 34
Social media 23 7 2 0 32
Directory 17 6 4 1 28
Open source 18 3 4 3 28
Other 7 5 1 6 19
Machine learning/ artificial intelligence 10 4 1 3 18
Desktop publishing 7 3 1 0 11

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

94 applicants said that their project would involve providing a service, with 92 applications involving providing information/advice and 69 peer support/connecting users.

Funded Unsuccessful - shortlisted Unsuccessful - longlisted Unsuccessful All
Providing a service 11 8 21 54 94
Providing information/ advice 8 8 23 53 92
Peer support/ connecting users 4 5 20 40 69
Training/ education 6 3 12 47 68
Directory/ search 2 4 12 24 42
Reporting 2 3 10 19 34
Other 2 2 7 8 19

Focus of application

Applications were tagged with the problem or theme they are focusing on, based on the four key themes from Comic Relief's grants strategy up to August 2018:

  • Improving health and wellbeing
  • Building stronger communities
  • Investing in children and young people
  • Empowering women and girls
Focus of applications

Almost one-third of applications related to health and wellbeing, with 7 of the 13 funded applications working in this area.

Funded Unsuccessful - shortlisted Unsuccessful - longlisted Unsuccessful All
Improving health and wellbeing 7 4 8 20 39
Building stronger communities 3 3 6 26 38
Investing in children and young people 2 1 11 19 33
Empowering women and girls 1 1 3 4 9

Target audience

Applicants were asked to choose the type of audiences they were targeting, across five audience groups. Applicants could specify more than one target audience. Most applications related to providing a service to the organisations' beneficiaries directly, with 99 applications choosing this audience. 78 applications were aimed at professionals who work with those beneficiaries - e.g. teachers, care workers, health workers. 54 applications are aimed at the general public, 75 at organisations and 57 at volunteers or campaigners. All of the successful applications work directly with beneficiaries.

Audience of applications

Stage of development

To examine the stage of development that each project was in, a scale based on research from the Social Tech Trust (formerly known as Nominet Trust). The concept stage was added to the five developed by Social Tech 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. 42 applications were at the concept stage, with a further 38 at the build and demonstrate stages and 22 at the develop stage. 11 of the 13 funded projects were at the concept or build stage.

Funded Unsuccessful - shortlisted Unsuccessful - longlisted Unsuccessful All
Concept 6 4 7 25 42
Build 5 2 7 16 30
Demonstrate 0 0 3 5 8
Develop 1 1 7 13 22
Readiness 1 1 2 3 7
Scaling 0 1 2 7 10
All 13 9 28 69 119

Comparison with previous year

Compared to 2017, there was a slightly higher proportion of projects at the build and scaling stages, and a lower proportion at the demonstrate stage. Some care should be taken in looking at these findings however, as in 2018 the stage of development was assessed by the project themselves, while in 2017 it was assessed by the researchers.

Application stage of development