The State of Heritage Funding Now: Research Report 2018

BEFS Policy Officer Ailsa Macfarlane considers the findings of the recent The State of Heritage Funding Now research report.

This newly released research exists as part of the legacy of the partnership programme Resourcing Scotland’s Heritage (RSH) – along with the new toolkit to encourage and enable fundraising skills across the sector. Programme partners: Archaeology Scotland, Arts & Business Scotland, Built Environment Forum Scotland, greenspace scotland, and Museums Galleries Scotland formed the RSH project to help the heritage sector learn to fundraise from private sources – gaining awareness, skills and confidence, as well as providing networking opportunities. The four year RSH programme was funded by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund Catalyst Umbrella Grant programme.

There may be much discussion around reduced funding levels – but what can be evidenced, and how can we mitigate against those reductions? The aim of this research was for a robust report providing analysis and recommendations. This was based not only on intensive desk-based literature reviews into available funding across the heritage sector in Scotland, but also stakeholder consultations, and a widely disseminated sector survey. This is my perspective on the findings – but I encourage you to draw your own conclusions.

Findings & Analysis:

There’s some stark information to absorb.

  • National Lottery funding has decreased, and is likely to decrease again – the imminent Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Strategic Funding Framework will require new/enhanced ways of working too. Historic Environment Scotland (HES) continue as a major funder, with no growing pot, and increases in applications – here the competition to achieve funding increases. The dependence on these funders remains a risk for the sector.
  • Local Authority collective spend on Cultural, Heritage, Museum & Gallery and Library services has reduced by 7% between 2007/8 and 2014/15. There are also known reductions across Planning & Economic Development budgets, departments where many heritage-skills professionals are based. These reductions in funds are not due to reverse any time soon.
  • Direct donations to the arts and sports/recreation make up only 3% respectively – whilst potentially small, these can be a key part of fundraising from private sources.
  • There is a continued dependence on Trusts and Foundations across the sector – there are now concerns arising that the levels of grant support supplied by some are outstripping the performance of the endowments that funded them. This raises questions as to whether future levels of support can be relied upon.
  • Business investment in heritage, via sponsorship/partnerships is an area well developed by some, but ignored by many smaller organisations. Improving this through commercially based approaches and advocacy, which not only increases awareness of heritage generally, but highlights the wider benefits heritage can and does provide, could entice further business investment in the sector.
  • Tourism has been a boon financially over the past few years for many organisations; both market circumstances and global media have provided positive drivers for those wishing to visit Scotland and its heritage. However, both factors bring with them opportunities and challenges, factors which in themselves need resourcing appropriately. They are also subject to fluctuation – so planning for both triumph and disaster may be wise.
  • Non-grant finance is an area where many funders already operate (Architectural Heritage Fund), or are considering developing their offer (HLF). Research highlighted within the report shows that this is an area which many find controversial, perceive to be high-risk, or actively avoid. Here a knowledge base needs to be developed and expanded to find solutions which fit the organisation in question. Information on particular aspects is available from specialist organisations, such as Community Shares Scotland. The squeeze on other funding types may make these forms of funding more appealing for organisations in the future – increased awareness and knowledge of this area will be of great benefit to the sector.


These fall into the categories of Research & Evidence and Ongoing Sector Support. And, here the news can be seen more positively:

  • More research, survey gathering, data-collection in various forms are suggested. Not only do we need the information, but I suspect we need to be open to data transparency, and sharing what we know. The steps are sometimes small and tentative, but a more collegiate approach to demonstrate the good work happening across the sector seems to be possible.
  • A drive to diversifying income streams is called for. I see a sector working towards better: training, partnerships, collaboration and awareness. Building a greater understanding of where the money is coming from – be it heritage, creative, social, regeneration, or commercial funding.
  • The changing funding landscape has been a driver for organisations to demonstrate an understanding of a wider range of outcomes to their ongoing work. Social, community, regenerative and many other factors are beginning to be better evidenced, and better expressed, by heritage organisations. Clearly substantiating not only what we do, but what the associated benefits are – and how this relates to the funder requirements, and even the National Performance Framework will be key to future funding success.
  • Many of the recommendations point towards a sector which needs to embrace a portfolio approach to financing the heritage sector – what’s referred to as the ‘golden-tripod’ – with a third of funding coming from each: private, public and enterprise sources.

This report points the way to developing how the sector may be able to improve organisational sustainability, shining a light on aspects of fundraising which could prove extremely beneficial. Further training is needed to enable the sector to gain finance from across a wider range of areas, be that fundraising or earned income – but more than training, a strategic approach which enables the capacity for that work to be done is essential.

Within these findings there is a role to be played by intermediary and development organisations. The value of knowing the wider sector-makeup, enabling connections and collaboration, providing spaces to network, and growing capacity through strategic policy development and training opportunities can help enable organisations to find the time to develop their funding for the future. We

Our activity across the sector is currently framed by the potential effects of Brexit. Income from a wider range of sources can be more flexible, ensure more stability, and provide continued life-buoys of certainty in currently choppy seas.

Read the full report:  The State of Heritage Funding Now Report

Ailsa Macfarlane