#FundingWeek: Heritage Lottery Funding for Museums

Colchester Castle

Visitors enjoying the new displays at Colchester Castle

Stuart Hobley is Development Manager for Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in the East of England. In this blog he outlines some of the museum projects in Essex that have received funds along with steps you can take to apply for support.

“I love museums. Really, I do – they’re full of some of the most remarkable stories. From Wallace the Lion at Saffron Walden to Boudica attacks at Colchester… and HLF loves a museum too, from your big regionals to independent and volunteer-run; to accredited and non-accredited, we’ve funded many of them!

And the list of things we’ve funded is pretty long too… redisplay, volunteer skills and development, developing learning and outreach, improving storage and access, even buying objects and artefacts to help you offer more (just ask Gordon at the Fry Art Gallery…). We can even fund those less exciting (but also important) things like toilets when they are part of a wider project.

What makes a compelling project for HLF?

Essex Police Museum have also benefited from HLF funding

Essex Police Museum has also benefited from HLF funding

That’s down to you. Think about the stories you want to share and why it’s important that more people know about them. We want you to improve your museum for existing visitors and reach out to new audiences.

Who are you doing the project for? We want more people, and a wider range of people to #loveheritage as much as we do. Think about those people; have you thought about what they want from your museum?

What will your project actually do? Don’t use jargon – just be clear and tell us straight what the project benefits will be. We want to fund believable projects, including those schemes that can help you be more resilient.

How will you do it? It’s OK to start your thinking with that ‘wish list’ of stuff you want, but a wish list isn’t a project. A project is about connecting up all of these things and using them to tell us the difference you will make for heritage, for people and for your community. Think about it this way, that’s what HLF is buying off you – a project that makes a difference.

Delivering a project isn’t easy; you’ll need support from your volunteers and your Board; ask yourself, do you have the right governance to take on a project? Doing a project will help to develop skills but if you’re planning something big, do some groundwork first because by the time you’ve finished doing a project, you will look and feel like a very different Museum. And if you’re not ready to take on a big project? Why not start small: do something more modest and build your capacity and confidence.

HLF isn’t the answer to everything though. We can help you make changes and improvements but you have to convince us why funding is needed. You’ll have to fill in forms… and our funding is competitive… the truth is, you may not be successful. When that happens we will tell you why; listen to what we say and then think about a new application.

But don’t let competition put you off – we’ll give you the best advice we can before you apply and we have a whole range of grant programmes and guidance that can help you to develop a strong project.

If you want to get started do a project enquiry and get feedback direct from us before you apply. The project enquiry is free and informal – we just need initial thoughts to start that conversation. If it looks promising, we’ll let you know and if it doesn’t look promising, we’ll tell you that too.


From oral history work at Essex Fire Museum in Grays to the transformation of Epping Forest Museum (currently underway), the next Essex museum project we fund could be yours…

So, stop reading this and start telling us about your ideas!”

Heritage Lottery Fund

#FundingWeek: Alternative Funding Sources

Miranda Rowlands

Miranda Rowlands SHARED Enterprise Project Officer

Miranda Rowlands is the SHARED Enterprise Project Officer at Norfolk Museums Service.  SHARED Enterprise is a Catalyst Umbrella Project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is supporting museums in the East of England to explore and develop alternative ways of raising money.  As a voluntary fundraiser, Miranda has raised lots of money for charity by organising and hosting gala dinners with auctions of celebrity memorabilia, as well as through online giving.

“With ongoing funding cuts biting hard these are challenging times for museums.  Perhaps the biggest challenge is meeting the shortfall in core funding.  Most grant-making bodies will fund projects, but not salaries or overheads, yet many museums are struggling to cover those costs.  Project funding is good, but as one colleague said at a recent training day, “the icing on the cake is all very nice, but first we need to have the cake”.

So museums need to find sources of unrestricted funding; money that can be used for any purpose.  Most museums generate some income from entry fees, retail, catering or donation boxes.  But what about alternative funding streams?

How good are you at raising funds from the following sources?

Individual giving – this covers everything from major donors and legacies to online giving and donation boxes.

  • Do you research and cultivate relationships with potential major donors?
  • Has your museum ever been the beneficiary of somebody’s will?
  • Do you have an active online giving page?
  • Do you have a prominently placed donation box?
  • Is your front of house team trained to invite visitors to donate?

Events – anything from cake sales to open days to black-tie gala evenings.

  • Could you use any of your regular events to promote your fundraising campaign and generate more income?
  • Do you have a friends group or volunteers who could organise fundraising events on your behalf?
  • Have you considered writing to local businesses to ask for raffle prizes?
  • What about asking celebrities to support you by appearing at an event or donating an item to be auctioned?  From personal experience, it’s surprising what you can get if you ask politely!

Membership schemes

  • Do you have a season ticket or membership offer?
  • Could you offer a corporate membership scheme?

Business partnerships

It’s about much more than just asking for sponsorship.  Business partnerships work in many different ways.  For example, product development; marketing a combined offer with a local attraction; or in-kind support (e.g. supplying a Corporate Social Responsibility team to maintain the grounds).


Over a short campaign (typically around 3 months), the public donate money to support a project, for example to restore a particular object.  If the fundraising target is reached, the museum gets the money and the donors usually receive a small reward.  If the total is not reached, the donors get their money back.  It’s not unrestricted funding, since the money has to be used for the stated purpose, but more and more museums are finding creative ways to incorporate crowdfunding campaigns into their strategies.

Which funding streams you choose to develop will depend on how much you need to raise and what resources you have available to do so.  But regardless of the size of your museum, your fundraising is more likely to succeed when you have a strategic approach with a clear message that involves the whole organisation.

If you’d like support to develop your fundraising skills, visit the SHARED Enterprise website for training and resources

SHARED Enterprise Norfolk Museums Service Heritage Lottery Fund

#FundingWeek: Essex County Council’s Cultural Grants

Re-Imagining Egypt workshop

Re-Imagining Egypt workshop at Saffron Walden Museum, funded by the Culture in Essex Small Grant Scheme

Today’s guest post is by Andrew Ward, Cultural Development Officer at Essex County Council.

“Essex County Council manages two grants schemes, the Culture in Essex Small Grants and the Cultural Strategic Grants. The Culture in Essex Small Grants offers up to £2500 for heritage and arts projects delivered in Essex (excluding Southend and Thurrock) with deadlines of 31st March and 31st October. The scheme does not support applications for purely capital costs and is more geared towards enabling community focused programmes of work to take place in Essex. Local authorities cannot directly apply (although Friends groups and project partners can) and any projects with schools need to be extra-curricular.

Previous successful applicants include The Munnings Art Museum where funding was awarded to develop a nature trail on the grounds and the Saffron Walden Museum Society to support a community collection project. Saffron Walden Museum said:

“The museum is delighted to have been awarded a small grant. The additional funding will enable the Museum to dedicate the time and resources needed to work with the community of Uttlesford to create an exhibition that really brings to life the stories of numerous local people’s collections and to share these stories with the visiting public.”

Another strand of the small grants is the Personal Development Grant. This is aimed at individuals and contributes up to £250 towards personal development activities including field research, continuous professional development and project feasibility trials.

The Cultural Strategic Grants offer £2500 and above to cultural organisations who are able to deliver strategic programmes of cultural work across the county.

Only organisations can apply and need to be constituted, have appropriate health and safety and equality policies in place and have audited accounts.

The scheme is open for submissions from July 2015, with a deadline of 30th September 2015 to support programmes of work which would be delivered in the financial year of April 2016/17.

Full details of both schemes can be found here and for any queries please contact Andrew Ward, ECC Cultural Development Officer, 033301 32470, andrew.ward@essex.gov.uk

#FundingWeek: Facing Your Fundraising Fears

Today’s guest post is by Sassy Hicks. Sassy is the Membership, Marketing and Projects Manager for the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), an Assessor for the Investing in Volunteers Award and a member of the Institute of Fundraising (IoF). In her spare time, she volunteers as a Fundraising and Marketing Officer for local heritage groups in South Wales. She can be contacted via email on: sassy@aim-museums.co.uk

“A couple of years ago, I was at a very jolly board meeting for a local history group run entirely by volunteers. I had been invited along to see how they worked and to then write about the group and their activities in a local Third Sector based magazine, because the group was (and still is)hugely prolific in their output. Each year, the small team of fifteen people willingly give up their free time to produce local history books, visit numerous schools to run sessions on history and manage to produce several impressive history talks per month.

The meeting was going well with tea flowing, jovial conversation and we were ripping through the agenda at lightning speed and I fully expected to be home in plenty of time for EastEnders and an early night. But then, as we reached nearly the end of the meeting, the subject of funding came up and the atmosphere in the room plummeted rapidly. Gone was the sense of shared purpose and in its place was…fear. It seemed no one on the board wanted to take responsibility for securing much needed grants and the debate on whose role it actually was lasted another two hours.

It is totally understandable that funding and the subject of how you are going to finance your activities can be intimidating. None of us particularly relish sitting down with a funding application in front us and it’s true that there is nothing quite as scary as the blank page, so if we can possibly excuse ourselves from this task then we will. Even professional Fundraising Managers like me dread the uphill battle of finding grants that: a) Are relevant, b) Didn’t close only yesterday and won’t be open again for another year c) Don’t have guidelines that require a full week of reading.

Most of the time, funding is viewed as a necessary evil or as something that requires massive amounts of time, resources and skills to pull off properly, but even small volunteer led organisations can be successful if they face the fear and adjust their  mutual mind-sets.  Having worked in fundraising for over a decade, I hope some of the tips and tricks I outline below will help you gain a fresh perspective on how your funding is sourced and secured and that you will gain the confidence to give it a go!

1: Get everyone involved: Fundraising is a much easier and more pleasurable task if everyone in the organisation takes some responsibility for it. Create a fundraising group if you don’t already have one and divide the tasks behind fundraising such as sourcing, completing and checking grants and associated forms between you. If you really don’t have anyone currently volunteering that wants to take on fundraising, consider advertising a new volunteer role to do this task. Ask your local CVC or Museum Development Officer for advice on how to advertise it widely.

2: Learn the language: Fundraising comes with its own set of words and phrases which can feel off-putting at first. Don’t know your outcomes from your outputs? Scared of the difference between stakeholders and beneficiaries? Are capital and revenue confusing you? Spend a bit of time learning this language and you will instantly gain confidence. This glossary of fundraising terminology, courtesy of Andrew deMille Fundraising Consultants, is a good place to start: Fundraising Glossary

3: Marketing matters: Marketing and fundraising are inextricably linked. If people don’t know about your organisation and what you do – how can you expect them to support you? (And this includes funders!). Get into the habit of promoting your organisation so that people can learn to trust in your ‘brand’. Create newsletters and then put them online, develop social media channels so you have a strong presence and use any visitor feedback as the basis for case studies that you can include in your grant applications. If you secure funding, be courteous and tell the world about it! Place funding logos on all marketing materials too.

4: Tell your story: Don’t forget that grant assessors are human beings too and they see hundreds of applications every year. Make yours stand out from the crowd by ensuring your application is engaging, informative and that it highlights your organisations unique selling points. A good grant application needs all the basic information, statistics and budgets – but it also needs to be compelling.

5: Start small to win big: There is no better confidence boost than when you have put in hours of hard work completing your grant application and you discover it was successful! Start your fundraising journey by applying for a few smaller grants and build up to the big stuff gradually. AIM (Association of Independent Museums) offers its members different grants throughout the year and we are always happy to advise and guide you through the process. You can find information about our grants here: AIM Grants Programme

#FundingWeek: Starts Monday 26th January 2015


Money makes the world go round – and there never seems to be enough of it! Grants, endowments and other forms of income-generation can give us all headaches.

Next week will be a funding-themed week on the blog. Five guest bloggers will be sharing ideas, experiences and tips about funding for museums. It doesn’t matter if your organisation is large, small, volunteer-led or local authority run, there will be something relevant for you.
The bloggers will be:

They will be posted each morning from Monday to Friday next week and in the meantime have a look at these useful links:

~Amy Cotterill, Museum Development Officer