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Heritage Lottery Funding – an opportunity for your charity?

Heritage Lottery Funding – an opportunity for your charity?

There is no doubt that 2019 has been an interesting year for the funder previously known as the Heritage Lottery Fund. With a change of name (to the National Lottery Heritage Fund) and a simplified funding portfolio, this major funder is worth exploring if you have plans to connect and engage people with an aspect of the past.

What do a Wildlife Trust in Cumbria and an Amusement Park in Kettering have in common?

They have both received grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF). But more than that, they are both organisations which we might not immediately associate with heritage. So why did they apply to this heritage-focussed source of funding, and how did they secure their grants?

The answers lie in the fact that the NLHF is a project funder. This means it is less concerned with the type of your organisation or the sector to which it belongs, and more about the actual work and activities you wish to deliver. As a result, this makes it open to a wide range of applicants.

In the case of Cumbria Wildlife Trust's grant, the activity is to restore 155 hectares of flower-rich habitats, working in partnership with Highways England; while Wicksteed Park in Kettering has a restoration project which aims to reinstate the original vision of its founder, Charles Wicksteed, creator of many of our favourite childhood playground structures.

These projects are just two that demonstrate the NLHF's broad view that...

heritage quote

And while such a definition certainly encompasses museums, libraries, archives, historic buildings and monuments, and historical objects - all the things we would expect a heritage funder to support - the range for support is potentially far wider than one might expect.

works NHLF will consider

It is worth noting that under the current strategy, from now until 2024 there will be a focus on nature, communities and inclusivity, so if you have a project that aligns with one or all of these priorities, NLHF could be a possible source of funds for you. A further factor to consider is your geographical area. NLHF is particularly keen to address under-representation and is looking to support projects in areas that have received least funding in the past, as well as in those that experience deprivation. It has therefore identified 13 local authority areas that fulfil both criteria. These areas are:

local authority areas

Returning to the two examples, a closer look at each project reveals other common threads. Both projects promise to make differences to people's lives: in the case of Cumbria Wildlife Trust by providing volunteering opportunities and involving the community in a range of activities from gardening workshops to pollinator training courses, thereby equipping people with new skills and personal development. The Wicksteed Park project, on the other hand, aims to boost diversity, inclusion, and wellbeing in the area.

This highlights the NLHF's continued emphasis on outcomes. Every project funded must meet the mandatory outcome of involving a wider range of people in heritage. A further eight outcomes are desirable, with the expectation that projects receiving larger amounts of funding will achieve more outcomes. These range from the newly-introduced "improving people's wellbeing" to "helping people to learn skills", and from "making your organisation more resilient" to "boosting the local economy". In other words, any project supported must do more than simply conserve, preserve or restore.

NHLF budget predictions

Grants of £3,000 to £5 million are now available, with a simplified, single-round process for all grants up to £250,000 and a new expression of interest stage, which has been introduced for projects above £250,000.

The new Heritage Horizon Awards - for innovative, collaborative and transformative projects of £5 million and over, particularly those that involve landscape and nature and/or heritage at risk - will invest £100m in successful projects over the next three years. Two rounds will take place, in 2020 - 2021 and 2022 -2023. The deadline for Expressions of Interest for the first round is 11 October 2019.

All decisions on grants up to £5 million are now made by committees in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and three newly-created geographical areas in England - North, Midlands and East, and London and South, with the aim of addressing different policy priorities in the four countries. The UK Board will continue to decide on UK-wide strategic interventions and on the major awards over £5 million.

Finally, it is worth keeping an eye on the NLHF website as a number of campaigns focussed on particular themes or areas of heritage which will draw together opportunities for research, advocacy and partnership working, as well as grant funding for specific activities, are due to be announced between now and 2024.

If you would like to discuss your ideas for a potential NLHF funded project, do call us on 01903 723519 or email us on

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