Gordon Cummings is the Honorary Secretary of the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, which has recently been awarded a £199 000 “Collecting Cultures” grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund. He is also the Honorary Treasurer for the Association of Independent Museums. Here are his top tips for securing funding for acquisitions:
“There are three main sources for funding for acquisitions:
There are also smaller local charities such as The Essex Heritage Trust
These organisations can seem quite daunting to first-time applicants, but remember that their job is to distribute funds. It’s our job to make it possible to give it to us.
It’s good to take the long view, and to try to achieve a relationship with the organisation. Establishing a track record is a great help, and one way to do this is by trying to obtain grants gradually increasing in size. With the HLF, such grants don’t all have to be for acquisitions, but you do need to deliver what you promised in terms of budget and timetable.
Start by making an “expression of interest” on line, read all the on-line guidance, and then start a dialogue with the regional office. You will find that they are very helpful and supportive, and I recommend making time to visit them in person. It’s a good idea to put them on to your mailing list to keep them informed about your activities.
The major providers work closely together, and are happy to collaborate on major acquisitions to spread funds around, so talk to them all before making an application. The greater contribution you can make from your own resources the better. It’s very difficult to get 100% funding, and I recommend offering at least 10%, which shows commitment.
Where possible, ask influential third parties for letters of support. This shows that your opinion as to the value of an object to your Collection is validated by independent authorities. For example, the Fry Gallery has been supported by living Academicians, leading art critics, and the directors of larger museums.
Above all, be inventive about the uses of the objects you wish to buy. Our recent acquisition of Edward Bawden’s scrapbooks for the Fry Gallery has resulted in a series of events which will culminate in an exhibition of local scrapbooks in Saffron Walden Town Library, and a public lecture on the importance of keeping ephemera.