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Europa Nostra UK submits evidence on alternative funding for Cultural Heritage

Updated: Jul 5, 2020

In the frame of the Council's Work Plan for Culture 2019-2022, the European Commission intends to organise workshops in order to identify new sources of funding for cultural heritage and transferable best practices in order to promote its economic sustainability. Europa Nostra was invited to provide comments on a draft concept paper on alternative funding for cultural heritage.

Europa Nostra sought advice from its members on the following questions:

1) In addition to the 12 alternative funding schemes for cultural heritage listed in the attached concept paper, do you see any specific scheme/type of funding that is missing? You can refer to an international, national or regional scheme. 2) For each or for some of the funding schemes listed in the attached concept paper, could you highlight examples of successful and less successful alternative funding schemes for cultural heritage?  Please provide examples and share stories that can enrich discussions during the workshop.

Europa Nostra UK made the following response:

General comments

The paper needs to be framed more strongly in the broad context of Building Back Better, rather than focussing on the immediate financial rescue. There should be recommendations for short term and longer term measures, with the latter not simply kicked into the long grass to be dealt with once the crisis is deemed over.

Diversity of cultural practice. Each country has a unique culture of giving which has given rise to a tailored infrastructure to support its characteristic cultural institutions and activities. The UK government, for example, has long held up the American model of philanthropy as a highly desirable way of reducing state dependency - but with limited success because it is not transferable. The UK has a strong tradition of charitable funding support and an especially strong culture of volunteering at all levels, which is the envy of many other countries. Neither models are instant solutions, but best practice can certainly be shared, respecting national diversities.

Making best use of existing sources. The Work Plan cites ‘new’ sources of funding and the concept paper headlines ‘alternative’ sources of funding but the key words lie in the Conclusions where it states ‘improve access’ to funding. This seems to suggest that new or alternative financial instruments are only one part of the solution. Facilitating better access to information and improving our sector’s fundraising skills should be an essential part of the strategy in order to make full use of existing financial resources as well as taking advantage of new instruments.

UK examples:

Heritage Funding Directory

The Heritage Alliance (EN member) took a significant step to build capacity in the non-government heritage sector by creating the Heritage Funding Directory in 2009. It is acknowledged as a key source of funding data and is currently undergoing a major overhaul in which an international dimension (Kate Pugh’s International Heritage Funding Directory 2019) is being incorporated. Most importantly, it is free.

Giving to Heritage

The Giving to Heritage programme (2014-17) was an exceptionally productive partnership drawing upon the Heritage Alliance’s access to the heritage community and the fundraising training expertise of the Institute of Fundraising and funded largely by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It delivered a circa £750,000 training programme of subsidised workshops (£20 compared with a commercial rate of £250), executive coaching, one-to-one support and webinars to 1,700 individuals representing over 800 heritage organisations.

The workshops covered old and new techniques:

  • Structuring your organisation for fundraising

  • Creating a case for support

  • How to set up a community shares project

  • The roles and responsibilities of trustees in heritage organisations

  • Developing a heritage fundraising plan

  • Crowdfunding

  • Major donor fundraising

  • Legacy marketing for heritage organisations

  • Trusts and foundations

  • Corporate partnerships

  • Using digital and social media

  • Measuring success and reporting impact 

  • Setting up Community Shares

These workshops were supplemented later with in-house masterclasses and the thirty webinars on a number of innovative themes relating to heritage and fundraising remain available online. An independent evaluation (2017) reported that heritage projects had raised £3.15m directly attributable to participation in this affordable fundraising training.

Schemes like this ensure that the finance available benefits an ever-widening pool of applicants rather than narrowing the range of recipients to the well-resourced, professional fundraising teams of serial applicants.

Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth

Heritage activity is not immune to the growing inequalities in our societies. The UK’s National Lottery Heritage Fund has been pioneering in its insistence on inclusion, diversity and community outcomes with a values based approach.

The British Council published a report exploring the notion of Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth (2018), in which inclusive growth means working with and for all levels of society in order to reconcile the divide between economic growth, and rising poverty and inequality. The Council is currently engaged in two research projects, one with the Royal Society of Arts on Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth in the UK, and the second more internationally with pilot projects running in Kenya, Vietnam and Colombia. Kate Pugh sits on the advisory panels for both. They are both due to report over the summer. With this in mind, it might be appropriate for the Concept Paper to refer to the social justice element in all heritage activities and, of course, to Article 27 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Preliminary typology

Extraordinarily, the paper does not include memberships or ‘friends group’ schemes. This should be added to the 12 alternative funding types, noted in the first paragraph and expanded either on its own or as a subsection under philanthropy. There is also a case for including enabling development too. Enabling development is development that would normally be unacceptable in planning terms but for the fact that it would bring public benefits – the future conservation of a historic place for example.


The workshops will have to acknowledge the increasing number of ethical dilemmas raised by sponsorship. The Royal Shakespeare Company announced in October that it will end its sponsorship deal with BP amid growing opposition to fossil fuel companies’ sponsorship of many of the UK’s leading cultural institutions. Event sponsorship should also be included here. A ‘typical’ UK example might be a parish church committee raising funds by arranging for the vicar to be sponsored to abseil from the church tower!

Lottery Funding

The National Lottery has transformed the UK’s heritage. Since 1994, it has raised more than £39 billion for good causes, of which £8bn has been distributed to more than 44,000 heritage projects across the UK through the National Lottery Heritage Fund. However, the real power of lottery funding lies in driving new agendas, like promoting wellbeing and inclusion. “Money talks” and lottery money talks especially loudly so the values and principles on which these major instruments are founded can transform our concept of heritage and how to care for it. In the UK the NLHF also has an important role in advocacy and evaluation; its longitudinal data and sector research is much valued.

Loans for heritage funding

Banks are not the only source of loans for heritage works. The Architectural Heritage Fund is a good UK example. It provides loan funds to eligible charities and other not-for-profit organisations across the UK, either for the acquisition of a building, to provide working capital throughout a restoration project, to bridge further funding becoming available, or to kick start enterprising activities to secure the future sustainability of the organisation and the building.

Similarly the National Lottery Heritage Fund, because of pressure on its resources, is moving in the same direction – to make its funds go further. In the aftermath of the emergency funding in response to the COVID 19 crisis, this trend towards loans rather than grants is likely to escalate, yet trustees are traditionally reluctant to enter into these contracts. Some work needs to be done to bring both sides together.


Sara Crofts offers a brief overview in her Heritage Times article. One “typical” example is

DigVentures a platform that enables civic participation in archaeology and heritage projects. It has pioneered the use of crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and digital methods to increase access and opportunities for real people to participate in real research. It has run over 40 projects since 2012. Historic England and English Heritage have also had some success with crowdfunding heritage projects such as the Sunbathers and Project Iron Bridge.


Like sponsorship, accepting donations has become an ethical nightmare, gathering pace after London's National Portrait Gallery turned down a $1.3 million donation from the Sackler family, the family that owns and controls Purdue Pharma and has been accused of helping to fuel the US opioid epidemic. With reference to the recent toppling of statues of people associated with the slave trade prompted by Black Lives Matter, institutions will need to be even more careful about accepting donations through philanthropy from families whose fortunes have been built on historic racial injustices. It has become clear that the governance models of many philanthropic institutions are outdated and tend to reinforce the oppressive structures that allowed such profits to be made. For this reason, communities are taking things into their own hands and avoiding traditional philanthropy. Crowdfunding and direct giving are on the rise, partly because they allow for greater flexibility and encourage a shift in accountability away from the funder to the community.

Membership Organisations and Friends Groups

Membership of a heritage body by individuals and organisations is an early form of crowdfunding. The National Trust’s 5.6 million members, for example, generated over £243 million (2018-9) and annual / life memberships provides significant ‘unrestricted’ core funding for many smaller voluntary bodies. Sometimes these bodies channel funds abroad, for example the highly respected Venice in Peril, set up by a British diplomat after the floods of 1966, which has since raised millions of pounds for the restoration of Venetian monuments, buildings and works of art.

Many members want to belong to the ‘cause’ rather than expecting any significant return. However, social media allows more fleeting and usually free support. As digital adherence for campaigns (clicktivism) becomes more popular with useful, headline-grabbing statistics, the more sustained, income generating support may dwindle. Membership retention and the new task of converting digital enthusiasts to subscribers is already a demanding area of fundraising expertise. Considering this new digital context, the concept paper should treat ‘membership in the age of social media’ as an innovative type of fundraising – and not ignore the importance of revitalising existing membership schemes.

Heritage for Commercial Use

The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s research report New Ideas Need Old Buildings published in 2013 demonstrated that the commercial businesses based in the historic buildings of major cities are more productive and generate more wealth than is the average for all commercial businesses across the whole economy. The 2018 edition of Heritage Counts also focussed on heritage in commercial use and provides an insight into the economic power of existing buildings. There is little doubt that heritage can add value, which in skilled hands can be leveraged to provide an economic return.

A related approach is the ‘revolving fund’ - a mechanism used to great success by building preservation trusts in the UK. Hearth Historic Buildings Trust in Northern Ireland is an example. The Heritage Trust Network is the umbrella organisation for BPTs in the UK.

Prepared by Kate Pugh on behalf of Europa Nostra UK

23 June 2020

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