In December, we hosted a webinar on the National Lottery Project Fund with Claire Robe, Libraries Relationship Manager with Arts Council England. Claire shared her insights into how the application process works and what kinds of library projects might be able to attract funding. Around 130 participants signed up to the event that is now available to view.
Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grants is one of the most popular cultural funding programmes. In early 2020, the fund closed due to the pandemic, and the funding was redistributed to support arts organisations through lockdown. Since it reopened in July, the Arts Council have changed the fund to make it more accessible during this time.
The good news is that the fund is always open so there is time to plan and think about what kind of project you might like to run. ‘Timing is important’ as well as making sure you really consider:
- Outcomes: What you want your project to achieve
- Public engagement/reach: Who your intended audience is and how you will engage with them
- Finance: What your budget is and how you will use it.
Claire shared that the biggest reason applications are unsuccessful is that they are under-developed, haven’t been researched properly and/or don’t show any short or long-term benefits.
Once you’ve decided on your project, think about the best time to submit it, when you can demonstrate it has been well-researched and thought through. All applications must demonstrate that the intended project can be run safely, aligned with Covid-19 guidance, with contingency plans.
A key change for current applications is that the 10% match funding requirement has been removed until March 2021 – so if you haven’t got match funding, this won’t restrict your ability to apply.
Libraries can apply for funding for projects that enable them to deliver activity under the Universal Library Offers (Reading, Culture and Creativity, Information and Digital, and Health and Well-Being). It should be noted that you can’t apply for retrospective costs, debts, projects that make a profit, or capital costs.
Claire suggests submitting one application, and if successful, taking the learnings from that project to inform the next application, rather than submitting multiple applications at the same time and ending up competing with yourself.
Projects for £1,000-£15,000 have a relatively light touch process and you’ll get an answer in six weeks; projects for £15,000-£100,000 have a 12-week turnaround and projects for over £100,000 have a longer process (usually six months).
It is also worth noting that demand is high for funding and the Arts Council receive a lot of applications. But with a total fund of £97.3million, they are a great opportunity for libraries. If you are unsuccessful, you can ask for feedback and reapply with an amended application.
Each region has its own Libraries Relationship Manager who can help support you with your application. You can contact their customer services team to find out who your relationship manager is and find more guidance on the Arts Council website.