Faced with the launch of the Reaching Communities buildings programme that was likely to be heavily over subscribed, the Big Lottery Fund wanted to identify priority areas for funding. Its emphasis was on the most deprived areas and rural areas and by identifying these, projects based outside these areas would not waste their time in making applications for funding.
Data about deprivation was combined with urban and rural classifications, and locations of recent similar lottery grants to identify priority areas. This was converted into a postcode checker on the Big Lottery Fund website, to allow potential applicants to find out if their area is covered before downloading an application form.
This was cross-referenced with the locations of recent lottery grants. The data was separated into urban, rural and town or village groups and each group was given a different deprivation cut-off, so that a larger number of rural areas were prioritised. The result was a list of about 6 000 lower super output area (LSOAs), from a total of 32 482 in England. These priority areas were mapped using MiniScale® and Boundary-Line™ so that regional outreach teams could review the proposed priority areas and comment on any anomalies. Using a boundary map of LSOAs (provided by ONS) and Code-Point® Open, the Big Lottery Fund’s IT team produced a list of priority postcodes. This was converted into a very simple postcode checker on the relevant page of their website. The postcodes checked by potential applicants are being captured and mapped on a weekly basis, providing valuable feedback about the levels and locations of demand for the grants programme.
Initial research indicated that the lower super output area (LSOA) was the most appropriate geographic area for this exercise. LSOAs are a set of consistent digital boundaries created by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) for the 2001 census, typically representing a population of 1 500. Deprivation data from the Department of Communities and Local Government was imported into the Big Lottery Fund’s geo-data warehouse, along with the urban and rural classifiers available from grant of £58 472 from the Big Lottery Fund to refurbish the 80 year old band room.
All applicants for the Reaching Communities buildings programme use the postcode checker, with the aim to reduce or eliminate applications from non-priority areas. This will reduce customer disappointment and save the time of potential applicants as they won’t waste 3–8 hours completing an application form. The tool also provides a benefit to the Big Lottery Fund, as fewer staff resources are needed to process applications that are not eligible for funding. This saves on administration costs, freeing more of the budget to be given as lottery grants to good causes.