Developing a successful HLF funding bid for your archive project: Essential tips

Claire Adler - Putting together a successful HLF bid: essential tipsThe Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funds a vast array of projects. I’m exceedingly lucky as an HLF appointed Expert Advisor for Community and Learning, as I get to work on projects that are as diverse as the redevelopment of the National Maritime Museum and the development and delivery of the UKCCA Carnival Archives community engagement project.

As well as working for HLF mentoring and monitoring projects I also work with heritage organisations, such as Huguenot Museum and Headway, to help them develop successful HLF bids.

Though project goals may vary between archives, museums, cemeteries, and communities (or even whole town redevelopments), there are some key elements common to successful projects which make them fundable in the eyes of HLF.

Below I’ve shared my top tips to help you develop a strong funding bid and give your project the best chance of success.

10 Essential tips for developing a successful HLF funding bid

1. Approach HLF early on

Talk to HLF from the beginning of your project, they will have priority areas that they will want to fund and these change from region to region. Aligning your project goals with these where possible will give your bid a greater chance of being successful.

2. Identify your current audiences

Who are your current audiences and/or volunteers? HLF funds projects that draw new people into heritage and deliver new opportunities. Therefore one of the starting points for your project should be understanding who your current audiences are, what are their motivations for working with your organisation and what do they find frustrating about your organisation? Can this project address some of these issues or build on the successes?

3. Diversifying audiences

How could you get new people to work on your project as either volunteers, project participants or audiences? To diversify your audiences/volunteers you will have to work in new ways that you are not necessarily familiar or comfortable with. Therefore think about the HLF project as an opportunity to develop new ideas and opportunities for your organisation. You will (hopefully!) change as a result of your project.

4. Consult with your audiences

What do these audiences want? HLF want to see that there is a ‘need’ for your project, which is not the same as you ‘wanting’ to do your project; they therefore need to see that you have consulted with existing and new audiences. However it is always easier to go to them with some ideas, rather than a blank piece of paper! As they will happily shred ideas to pieces and come up with new alternative ideas, but it is harder if you have nothing to start with!

5. Focus on project outcomes

Whatever you do, remember HLF is an outcomes-based funder. All projects are marked against whether they have Outcomes for Heritage, Outcomes for People and Outcomes for Communities and what the risks against these outcomes are. Print out the outcomes guidelines and turn them into your office wallpaper, memorise them and make sure that the project you develop is meeting these outcomes.

6. Consider heritage partners

HLF likes to fund projects that engage local communities and bring groups together, particularly those that are not traditionally engaged with heritage. Think about who will you work with to deliver your project? For example, who might be able to work excluded young people, such as youth groups or the local Looked After Children Care team, or is there a local unemployment programme you could work with? Are there other archives, museums, or universities that you could link with to create a project that has more breadth?

When thinking about developing partners, talk to your staff, from the director to the cleaner, people have lives outside of work (sometimes!) that may result in useful partners and ideas.

7. Digital technology and digitised heritage

HLF recognises that digital technologies can open up access to heritage assets and encourage diverse audiences to engage with them, particularly those who might not have done otherwise. Therefore HLF looks favourably upon funding bids that involve digitising heritage resources and opening up access via the web and/or other digital technologies. HLF has guidelines on best practice when using digital technology within your project.

8. Interpretation

How will you interpret your archive? HLF will only fund a project if it includes planning for using the heritage material with people and communities. Therefore your project needs to include different types of interpretation. George Padmore Institute archived and developed a digital archive of the John La Rose material for the HLF funded project Dream to Change the World. Part of the project was to interpret the collection including activities, exhibitions and producing web based resources.

9. Consider crowd sourcing

Who will interpret your collection or where will you get the collection from? If you are developing a digital archive there are a number of ways that this can be developed with local communities. For example, the American Air Museum’s archive was entirely sourced, digitised, and interpreted by ‘super users’ who were members of the US 8th Airforce memorial community both in the UK and the US. The Carnival Archive used project staff to digitise memories and photographs of carnivals in the east of England. What is the best solution for your organisation and also your audiences and stakeholders?

10. Plan for Sustainability

What will happen to any digital archives in the long term, particularly if there is not a heritage organisation to manage the archive website after the project? The British Library has an archive of websites which organisations can approach if they feel their website should be included.

Need more HLF funding guidance?

If you’re planning a funding bid and would like specific guidance for your particular project, you can consult with Claire directly.

Or if you are looking for funding for a cultural heritage digitisation project, you might find our list of funding sources useful.

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