Make sure you understand what funders are looking for. If you are able to contact the funder before placing an application you definitely should. They will be able to give you key advice on your application and help you through the process. Some funders will not accept new applications if your funding bid has been declined within a set period of time – so make use of all facilities that they offer for advice. Often the application advice will highlight the aims of the funding body, tailor your application to show how your project outcomes will meet these aims.
If you are applying for funds for a project, providers will want to know that you are going to be able to carry out the work prior to making funding available. You will need to have planning consent and if applicable Listed Buildings Consent, or Scheduled Monuments consent. Churches will need to have Faculty permissions in place. If you are doing work to a building and you don’t own it, or have a lease of at least 10 years, you will need written permission from the owner.
Many funders will require you to go through a competitive tendering process, but it is a good idea to get quotes before you apply for funding. This demonstrates that you have a clear idea of what the project will cost. Include plenty of contingency – it is not unusual to go over budget, especially where historic buildings are involved. Give a breakdown of costs for all the elements of your project, including any events you plan to hold. If some of the project is being delivered for free, tell the funders. If your organisation has money in the bank which isn’t being used for the project, be prepared to explain why.
Funders are looking for well managed projects –errors in your budget will make them doubt you really know what you are doing.
While your priority may be to fix a leaking roof, or restore a wall painting, many funding providers will favour applications which include provision for public engagement and interpretation. Remember that the costs of events can (and should) be included as part of the funding bid. Funders will also favour applicants who can demonstrate that the work they wish to carry out, or the events they are planning, are sustainable.
It may be better to plan several small projects, rather than one large one. Heritage projects can be significant commitments, so don’t overextend yourself, or over commit your volunteers.
Major funders such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund consider gaining skills to be a key outcome of the projects they fund. Remember that these skills don’t all have to be heritage related, you could demonstrate that participants will gain skills in project management for example, or volunteers will receive training.
Even if you have had conversations with funders, don’t assume that the people assessing your application will know anything about your project.
Tell them about your project, the skills in your team, your wider community and anything else that you think is relevant as to why your project is important.
Funders will have many more applications than they can fund. Tell them why your project is a priority. Is a building at serious risk? Is it dangerous? Is your project tied in to a significant anniversary?
Do they understand what you are trying to achieve, and how you plan to do it? Does the application make sense? They may well be able to see obvious problems or things you have missed – or have a really great idea.
Heritage has a significant impact on the community which surrounds it, often it is much loved and highly valued by local people. Many funders will require some level of match funding, and while it is possible to create a mosaic of funding from multiple bodies, don’t undervalue your local community. Fund raising events are a great way to develop community engagement, share the value of your project and raise funds towards your project. Remember that many funders will accept volunteer hours as a contribution to match funding.
Most funders will put a limit on how long you have to spend any funding, so make sure you have your plans sorted first.
Most funders cannot give money retrospectively, so don’t start without their permission.
Applications will take longer to prepare than you think, so give yourself plenty of time. Be aware of assessment deadlines, but you should also be aware that funders will be swamped with applications just as funds are closing.
Whether you win your funding bid, or have just held a great fundraising event, remember to take time to celebrate your milestones and thank all those involved.