Skip to main content

Tackling Heritage issues on Twitter: Historic Environment Forum holds its monthly one-hour #HeritageChat on funding and fundraising in the heritage sector

Funding and fundraising are two key issues for the heritage sector at present, with a number of institutions finding themselves in need of support following the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Causley Trust, for instance, is currently seeking support through an online Crowdfunder, with the hope to safeguard its annual Causley Festival of Arts and Literature. While the 2020 digital event was a hit, the event missed out on its all-important fundraising aspect, from bar sales and ticket income.

The Historic Environment Forum (HEF) brings together senior members of public and non-government heritage bodies to tackle key strategic matters for the Heritage sector. Its #HeritageChat thread on Twitter is run by people and organisations from the heritage sector, on a rolling monthly basis. The discussion’s theme is selected by that month’s host and seeks to strengthen partnerships and collaborative working in the historic environment sector. A call for questions takes place a couple of weeks prior to the scheduled chat, and around six to eight questions are used in the session. The chat uses a format that enables participants to respond to tweeted questions and thereby create a thread, with all answers collated under the hashtag #HeritageChat.

On Tuesday 16 February, the Twitter #HeritageChat, in collaboration with Tricolor Associates, provided the opportunity to discuss funding and fundraising in the sector. The first question posed was: What kind of funding opportunities do you think are currently missing from the sector? The discussion began by tackling the fact that many funding streams have been put on hold as a result of the pandemic, with no certain timeframe for when they will become available. This means that many organisations are left in limbo as to whether they can pursue planned investments. It became apparent in the conversation that funding has become a large barrier to many organisations. A trustee and volunteer fundraiser at Petersfield Museum stated that there needed to be a wider acknowledgement of the need for core-funding for smaller heritage organisations, which would help maintain their stability.

In discussing the application process for funding, the general consensus was that it is difficult to navigate, and organisations often perceive it as inaccessible. Rebuilding Heritage stated that perceptions of ineligibility are a huge problem in the sector, and that work needs to be done to shift thinking around applying for funding to bring people together. Philanthropy Company suggested that by creating more direct contact opportunities, such as online Q&As for applicants, the barriers to funding could be reduced.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on funding and fundraising in the heritage sector and, as Philanthropy Company pointed out, for many organisations recovery funds make the difference between demise or survival. The Victorian Society stated that they had lost income from weekend trips and physical events, which has subsequently meant that they have needed to develop new sources of online event income. Recovery funds were not an option to the society as a result of their ineligibility, but the organisation felt that the application guidance was too unclear. They suggested that to ensure that funding gets to all parts of the sector, guidance needs to be carefully worded and needs to include all parts of the sector, when faced with emergency funding. Philanthropy Company also suggested that by including people and communities that don’t normally engage with heritage projects, fundraising could be expanded to accommodate for these unprecedented times. Focus Consultants noted that while Crowdfunding can be brilliant, it requires a great deal of forward planning and engagement to get people on board.

The session concluded with a direct question to its participants: In light of Covid-19, are you aware of any funding for progression in the heritage sector in 2021, such as postgraduate scholarships? Historic Environment Forum responded that they are planning to provide opportunities to create job placements for 16- to 24-year olds on Universal Credit, many of which will be in the historic environment sector, encompassing institutions such as English Heritage.

The next #HeritageChat will take place on 16 March between 1 and 2pm and the topic is yet to be announced. To follow updates relating to the next discussion, follow @HeritageChat on Twitter or visit the Historic Environment Forum website.

To read more about The Causley Trust’s current Crowd Funder project, see: