The Client

London Funders is the only cross-sector membership network for funders and investors in London’s civil society. The network focuses on bringing funders together to build a better London, by taking action on what matters to our city and our communities.

The Brief

Following the acute crisis phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, funders in London made a commitment to facilitate collaborative action for recovery with a new long-term funding programme. After a competitive tendering process, Outlandish was asked to build London Funders an online grant-making portal to facilitate the new funding initiative.

The requirements were for a web-based application form for prospective grantees, a funder portal to assess grant applications, and tools to submit and access grant impact monitoring data.

London Funders ultimately wanted a simple, straightforward and sustainable system that would reduce barriers to applying for funding and minimise administrative burden on both funders and grantees.

There was a tight 3-month timeline, a large number of stakeholders to consider and a need to develop the digital aspects of the tool in parallel with the design of the funding programme itself.

The Propel portal homepage

A view of the logged in, application process

Our Solution

With a large number and variety of funders and a wide diversity of prospective grantees as stakeholders, understanding the key goals, user needs and priorities was absolutely essential to the success of this project. Outlandish found this challenge particularly exciting as we were able to apply our experience and expertise in collaborative and agile ways of working. 

After a theory of change session, we undertook comprehensive user journey mapping to identify priority features. We followed this with multiple short design and development sprints interspersed with regular feedback windows and user testing phases. This reduced the time needed to launch a viable digital tool, but importantly it built in regular touch points to effectively collaborate with multiple stakeholders and ensure the portal served the needs of a wide audience.

We deployed the London Propel platform on time and on budget with a suite of useful features:

Propel connects funders, grantees and the London Funders network through a collaborative, equitable and effective digital portal.

The Tech

Everything on the Propel site was delivered using WordPress, customised to deliver the requirements, such as the different user journeys needed for the grantee, funder and admin roles. 

The site makes heavy use of Outlandish’s Object-Oriented WordPress framework to manage entities, while leveraging core WordPress functionality for user management. The site uses the Gutenberg block editor for editing front-end pages.


The Propel platform launched in November 2022, enabling distribution of the first part of a £100m fund to support voluntary and community groups to drive change and tackle inequality.

Over the next ten years, Propel will support organisations led by and for groups experiencing structural inequality, including  women and girls, LGBTQ+ communities, deaf and disabled people, and communities experiencing racial inequality.

The Propel portal handled over 600 applications for the first round of grants. 73% of surveyed site users who applied through the portal said that the site was easy to use.

Outlandish is passionate about disrupting how funding happens. Our projects are delivered using an agile, iterative approach, yet the funding process for our not-for-profit clients often doesn’t align with this and that can introduce complexity and reduce efficiency. We aren’t afraid to challenge some of the systems in place and test how we can change them for the better. The Propel project was a fantastic opportunity for us to put some of our ideas into practice, and we hope that the Propel tool and process will help to shift power and create space for systemic and behavioural change in London’s grant-making.

What the client said

“Working with the Outlandish team has been an absolute joy! On the tech side, they are incredibly knowledgeable and have created a brilliant robust product, but we also loved working with them through their processes and we’ve learnt from them (so much so we’ve incorporated into our own work!). The icing on the cake was knowing they truly care about the aims and values of our project and it was visible across the whole team.”

Grace Perry, Head of Programme Delivery, London Funders

What the users said

“It was one of the easiest application processes I’ve ever come across. Well done for putting it together.”

Propel portal user and grant applicant, March 2023

“helpful… well-presented… doing [the grant-making] without the portal would have been a lot more work”

Propel portal user and funder, February 2023

What’s next

We are building a long-term relationship with London Funders to further develop the Propel portal and grant management system through learning from the people interacting with it directly. We will keep working to deliver a great experience for grantees, funders and London Funders in the years to come.

We have developed a demo of a funding application and assessment product based on Propel for other organisations (ask us if you want to see it!), so that they can benefit from the valuable thinking and development work on tools to improve funding for socially impactful work. We are also coordinating conversations about how to maximise the benefits of this tool in a fair and collaborative way between London Funders, Catalyst and other major funding bodies. 

Photo credit to Max van den Oetelaar