Common flaws in applications
MA staff fielded 115 serious enquiries to the fund and saw some distinct themes in those who were discouraged to apply and those who applied but were unsuccessful. These were:
- Applicants who didn’t meet the fund’s essential criteria. Enquiries of this nature were discouraged, but several still did apply, feeling that it was worth “having a go” with a new fund or that the application process would be useful in developing their idea. Of these, several had included costs that were ineligible such as hardware costs of over 10% of the overall budget or a largely outsourced project to, for example, develop a new museum website.
- Applicants who didn’t define their underrepresented audience well enough. This was the most common reason for projects to lose out on funding and included those who defined their audience too broadly (for example “digital audiences”). In comparison to those that have been shortlisted, projects that lacked a defined audience felt less focused, especially for a grant of this size and relatively short duration. Where applicants named an audience but failed to make a case for need or demand, the link between audience, collections and activity was weaker than for projects that scored well.
While the funding call received applications from all four nations of the UK and the shortlist includes three nations of the UK, we received proportionately few applications from Scotland and Wales (relative to the spread of museums across the UK).
As a Covid-response fund, the application window was quite short, so capacity issues will have been a significant factor. Most of the museum sector in the UK is made up of smaller, often volunteer-run museums and many of these will have seen a complete loss of capacity from redeployment, furlough and shielding.
In light of this, for future funding calls we will review our marketing and application support with our funding partners to ensure all our members across the UK are given the time and opportunity to apply.