Arts funding

Ten tips to get Arts Council funding, according to an expert

What cultural institutions in England need to know before applying for the government's £1.57bn rescue package

The majority of the government’s £1.57bn rescue package is being allocated in round one, which closes at midday on 21 August ©  Green Chameleon

The majority of the government’s £1.57bn rescue package is being allocated in round one, which closes at midday on 21 August © Green Chameleon

As Covid-19 continues to obliterate businesses, cultural organisations based in England can now apply for the government’s £1.57bn rescue package. Round one closes at midday on 21 August. Round two opens the same day and closes on 4 September. The majority (75%) of funds are being allocated in round one. Before the government turns off the tap, here is what you should know if you are preparing to apply.

While there has been some confusion over exactly who is eligible, the government has confirmed that both commercial and not-for-profit organisations can apply. Peter Heslip, Art Council England's director of visual art, says: “Covid-19 has impacted the entirety of the arts and culture sector, with charitable and commercial organisations alike facing many challenges over the months ahead. A wide range of commercial cultural organisations are eligible for this fund, from small independent galleries to globally renowned art fairs, creative workspace providers and art fabricators.”

To make things easier, we have spoken to expert Philippine Nguyen, the co-founder and director of Art Night London, and—in collaboration with the Mayor of London Culture at Risk Office; and the London Growth Hub—have compiled our top ten tips for applying for the ACE’s culture recovery fund.

Register a user account and applicant profile on Grantium, the ACE’s grant management system. ACE is currently taking one day to process new profiles. Unfortunately applicant profiles for round one need to have been submitted by noon on 18 August, but applicants for round two have until midday on 1 September.

How much to apply for? It is worth considering the following thresholds: applications for less than £250,000 will be decided in a meeting in your area. Applications for between £250,000 and £1m will be assessed against the guidance criteria and considered in a decision meeting. Applications for more than £1m will be shared with the DCMS-appointed culture recovery board.

Write the application yourself; trust your knowledge and experience. Include key figures and achievements, use existing reports you have about your organisation.

Work on a draft separately to avoid losing work. Save your application continuously!

Don’t leave your supporting documents to the last minute. You will need to attach a completed cash flow template covering 1 October 2020-31 March 2021, your most recent management accounts for the year, a balance sheet at 31 July 2020 and at least one year’s audited financial statements.

Have all your financial information to hand: earned income, other public funding, turnover, reserves, expenditure, number of staff employed, redundancy payouts, debts, etc.

Prepare a statement about how Covid-19 has affected your financial viability (be specific and honest), how you have taken advantage of other government schemes and measures (ie exhausted all other options) and how the grant will enable your organisation to be sustainable by March 2021 when you will be expected to reopen, in full or partially.

Demonstrate how you are an organisation of national and international significance and/or how you provide cultural opportunity in England. Support your case, include statistics, name drop important organisations or people you have worked with. Know your worth!

• One of the conditions of the fund is that organisations commit to increase diversity both in terms of staff and audiences. Consider ethnicity, gender, disability, age and sexual orientation. Be prepared to outline your case. What steps will you take?

Read Let’s Create (ACE Strategy 2020-2030) to familiarise yourself with ACE’s investment priorities for the next ten years. It can come in handy when thinking about diversifying audiences.

Detailed guidelines are also available on individual funding bodies’ websites: Arts Council England, the British Film Institute, Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both non-profit and commercial organisations can either apply for a grant of between £50,000 and £3m or a loan in excess of £3m (repayable at 2% per annum over 20 years). Good luck!