The Holburne Museum, Bath, was one of the museums to benefit from the Catalyst: Endowment grant programme (c) Paul Riddle,

HLF publishes research into endowment fundraising

Simon Stephens, 08.06.2016
Report recommends more support for fundraising programmes
More training, support and sharing of information are among the recommendations of a report published by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) into its Catalyst: Endowment grant programme.

The initiative, launched in 2012 by the HLF and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, offered match-funding to help heritage organisations build a new endowment fund or develop an existing one.

“We felt the match-funding worked really well and people told us they were able to get strong engagement because of that,” said Ros Kerslake , the chief executive of the HLF.

“Every organisation would love an endowment but it is quite a hard thing to fundraise for, so to be able to say we have got this match-funding available and there is a real opportunity for your money to immediately be increased is a great way of getting people engaged.“

Grants between £500,000 and £5m were awarded in a scheme that was developed as a response to cuts in public spending on culture and the resulting need to generate income from other sources.

“It is very hard to start and endowment from scratch and this is what this has enabled some organisations to do,” Kerslake said. “What has been interesting for us is understanding the longer-term impacts of the programme, not just in terms of the money they have raised, but in raising the ambition of the organisations in what they can achieve.”

Two-thirds of the 31 heritage organisations who were awarded match-funding endowment grants completed their fundraising, raising a total of £53.3m of private investment.

“Having support across the board and not thinking that it is the job of the fundraiser, for example, is absolutely crucial,” Kerslake said. “Everyone has to buy into the idea that it is a shared objective across the organisation.”

Ten organisations failed to reach their fundraising target, citing a range of internal and external reasons that held them back. The economic downturn had a greater impact than was anticipated. Three of the 31 organisations have no plans to continue fundraising for the endowment.

The report made a number of recommendations, including:

  • Future funding being matched by a budget for fundraising training and skills development.
  • The HLF could help share learning between the organisations who received grants.
  • HLF could offer more support to grantee organisations, especially when they are aware that an organisation is struggling to reach its fundraising target. 
  • Those receiving grants should be encouraged to write long-term strategies and business plans beyond the grant period. 
  • More advice should be given to applicants before awarding grants on what an organisation needs to be aware of and have in place before starting fundraising.

The museums involved included the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford; Bowes Museum, County Durham; Holburne Museum, Bath; National Horseracing Museum, Newmarket; and the Tank Museum, Bovington. All these institutions reached their funding targets.

The Dulwich Picture Gallery; Lakeland Arts Trust; and the Strawberry Hill Trust were among the 10 organisations that did not reach their target.

Legacy donations and grants from trusts and foundations were the income sources that brought in the most money during the grant period. The key donor groups and income streams that the grantee organisations reported having success with were legacies, fundraising events, trusts and foundations, donation boxes and donations from the organisation’s own trustees.

The evaluation of the Catalyst: Endowment grant programme was carried out for the HLF by the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent.