Heritage at risk in the South East
Some of our heritage at risk features in films and TV series. This image from Portsmouth Docks was used as a location in Les Miserables © Historic England
Some of our heritage at risk features in films and TV series. This image from Portsmouth Docks was used as a location in Les Miserables © Historic England

Funding Advice for Heritage Champions

Follow our three simple steps below to give your funding bid the best chance of success. Whilst we refer in particular to Historic England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, there is a wide range of other funding sources to explore.

The process of establishing a sound estimate for a proposed project may reveal the need for external funding. There are various potential sources of funding for heritage projects; for example:

The Heritage Alliance Directory lists the sources of support, financial and otherwise, for anyone taking on a heritage project. There's also the Heritage Funding Directory UK managed by the Heritage Alliance and the Architectural Heritage Fund. A useful resource of general information on funding is Funding Central.

Step 1: Read the funder’s guidance thoroughly and begin your background research

Once you know approximately how much money you need, read the funder’s guidance thoroughly and get a sense of their priorities.

For example, Historic England would expect all projects funded through our grant schemes to align with our Corporate Plan. A good starting point for learning about the grants offered by Historic England is Our Grant Schemes web page.

For bids to the Heritage Fund, a good starting point is to visit their web page ‘What we fund’.

Don’t forget to research the wider landscape in which your project will be delivered. You need to understand how the project will fit with other local initiatives and, where relevant, national policies too. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) identifies three dimensions to sustainable development: an economic role, a social role and an environmental role. How will your project contribute toward the positive growth agenda that underlies the planning system? Linked with this, what's the sustainability of the outcomes you are seeking to achieve?

Top tip

For bids to the Heritage Fund, it's a good idea to explore projects that have already been funded. There are also case studies, news and stories offering tips and advice on all aspects of project development and delivery.

Step 2: Identify the impact you wish to achieve and how you'll evaluate the project

Understanding how the outcomes you wish to achieve align with those of your funder is important. When applying for funding from the Heritage Fund, consider the four investment principles:

  • saving heritage
  • protecting the environment
  • inclusion, access and participation
  • organisational sustainability

As stated on the Heritage Fund website: “You must take all four principles into account in your application. The strength of focus, and emphasis on each principle, is for you to decide and demonstrate. Consider: How does your project reflect what we want to do for heritage? How will it help us achieve our ambitions for heritage? ”

This line of thought will naturally lead to work on project evaluation. Quoting from Historic England’s document ‘Guidance for Grant Projects’: “It is important that all projects commissioned by Historic England make an impact. You should, where practical, attempt to assess this as part of your project. This evaluation should be comprehensive but proportionate. You should address impact evaluation at the planning stage of your project, and set out how you will do this.”

For guidance about the kinds of outcomes/impact which might be recognised, read in particular Appendix 1 in our Guidance for Grant Projects.

Top tip

Make use of pre-application processes or having initial conversations with potential funders. These will help you to shape your proposal, ensuring that you are able to clearly articulate your vision, make links to other related projects where appropriate and/or learn from others’ experiences.

Step 3: Commit to your vision

It may be tempting to pepper your application with buzzwords that you hope will resonate with the funder. Don’t do it! The most powerful applications are those that are written in plain English. Focus on the outcomes you want to achieve, connected with a well-developed vision. Consider how your vision will impact on local people, not just the heritage site or asset(s) identified, and make that clear in your bid.

Identify project risks and measures that could effectively mitigate those risks. All projects have a degree of risk and convincing a funder that you can stay on top of those risks is important.

Be prepared to answer ‘why now?’ either in the bid or related discussions. Timing can be due to a range of factors such as the state of a building, the availability of match funding or events tied into a particular anniversary. In a competitive funding market this can be a deciding factor and set your application apart.

Top tip

If you plan to invest in the project – in cash or in kind – it will convey confidence in the project and show the applicant has a stake in the project’s success.