Fundraising for the future

Gareth Harris, 10.10.2014
Sector professionals focus on what makes museums financially resilient
The session Future-proof your museum, held today at the Museums Association conference, focused on diverse funding streams and how museums can be “more resilient in challenging times”, said the panel chair, Virginia Tandy, a trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

She began the session by asking the packed room how resilient their respective museums and galleries are on a scale of one to ten. Significantly, around 10% of the audience judged their respective institutions to be on the 1-3 scale, while the remainder opted for an average score of 4-7 out of ten.

Another speaker, Fiona Talbott, head of museums, libraries and archives at the HLF, outlined what resilience means for the HLF, saying that “flexibility, diversity [from income streams to management], and sound financial planning” are among the criteria for its start-up grants and transition funding. The latter, which can go towards mentor support schemes, is only awarded to past grantees.

Maggie Appleton, the chief executive of Luton Culture, told conference about coping with a £2m cut over three years (2013-16). 

“We began work to diversify our income but there were no silver bullets,” she said. Overhauling the culture and museum service meant taking “a forensic look at our presentation of accounts to improve our understanding of real costs”.

HLF-backed Catalyst funding of £9,400 supported training for Luton Culture’s fundraising manager, added Appleton.

Lindsay Hodgson of the charity New Philanthropy Capital stressed that there are several sources of “non-grant financing” available. Assets are, for instance, one way to access non-grant finance through secured lending, crowdfunding is another increasingly popular alternative finance model, but institutions still rely on traditional funding bodies such as banks and charitable foundations.

“We’ve never borrowed,” said Appleton, “but I do feel we have taken measured risks.” 

Talbott warned though that institutions should exercise caution when borrowing, saying that emergency HLF transition funding was awarded to two institutions that found themselves at risk when trustees called in loans.