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How to get funding for collections projects

Posted by Giles Miller on Dec 11, 2014 9:42:11 AM

Last week was my first AGM as Chairman of the Geological Curators' Group. The pre-AGM talks meeting was at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and covered 'Writing Effective Grant Proposals for collections projects', featuring seven different speakers from across the UK who gave us the benefit of their wisdom as both grant assessors and successful applicants for a variety of different collections-related grants. In this post I summarise seven key themes mentioned by the speakers during the meeting as a guide for anyone wishing to apply for funding.




Members of the Geological Curators' Group under Fluffy the Mammoth at Dudley Museum on the second day of the 2014 AGM meeting on a trip led by Graham Worton, Keeper of Geology, Dudley Museum (photo courtesy of Cindy Howells, National Museum of Wales).


The speakers were:

Luanne Meehitiya, Birmingham Museums Trust - Welcome and Birmingham Museum's geology collections

Nick Poole, CEO Collections Trust. The answer's in the question - common pitfalls in writing grant proposals

Matthew Parkes, National Museum of Ireland - Grants for museums and geological projects in Ireland - success factors

Clare Brown, Leeds Museums and Galleries - From molluscs to meadows: recent grant-funded natural science projects at Leeds Museums and Galleries

Mike Howe, British Geological Survey - JISC and the GB3D types on-line project - a remarkably supportive funder

Jon Clatworthy, Lapworth Museum - Recent developments at the Lapworth Museum

Jonathan Larwood, Natural England and Geologists' Association Archivist - How to order a Curry Fund 


Here are seven common recommendations mentioned by the speakers throughout the day: 


1. Put time aside to apply

All the speakers mentioned that it is important to be ready, keep your eyes open for possible future funding opportunities and to leave enough time to write a great application when the funding is announced.


2. Speak to the funder about your application

Nick Poole has been an assessor for the Heritage Lottery Fund and said that most funders are happy for you to contact them before applying or during the process of application. This can allow you to tailor your application or let you know quickly whether you are wasting your time in applying if your proposed project is not alligned to the remit of the funder. Jonathan Larwood had a similar message from his position as an assessor for the Curry Fund, a Geologists' Association fund set up by Dennis Curry, former director of the Currys chain and amateur palaeontologist/micropalaeontologist/geologist.


3. Provide evidence of support from the sector

Both Clare Brown and Jon Clatworthy achieved this by asking for letters of support from relevant organisations. The Geological Curators' Group is often asked to provide such letters and recently helped towards successful funding bids for a Geoblitz project involving the hire of a temporary Assistant Geology Curator at Leeds and a mainly HLF funded redevelopment of the Lapworth Museum at the University of Birmingham. The GCG have also recently provided letters of support for the new Steve Etches Museum in Kimmeridge and following the AGM I have been asked to write a letter of support from the GCG for another collections grant application to the John Ellerman Foundation.


4. Evidence the need

Sometimes is it easy to show the need for funding. Matthew Parkes showed a mineral collection poorly stored in temporary shipping containers outside University College Dublin and highlighted the UCD Minerals Project where funding was obtained to rehouse the specimens at the National Museum of Ireland - Natural History. Nick Poole passed on the tip that funders love to have their own research quoted back at them while several other speakers referred to collections reviews or published research/articles that supported the need for their projects to be carried out. The GCG recently carried out a survey that aims partly at gathering information to support a funding application.


5. Have a realistic plan

Both Jon Clatworthy (Lapworth Museum) and Mike Howe (BGS) mentioned that further funding for their projects was pre-dated by feasibility studies that demonstrated that they had the capacity to deliver the aims of their projects. Mike pointed to two previously unsuccessful applications for funding before the GB3D types on-line project was successfully funded by JISC. The earlier applications had not demonstrated that the project was feasible and at the time, the technology was not proven or cost effective enough until the prices for scanning equipment had become more realistic. Clare Brown suggested that it is good practise to mention previously successful projects as templates for future funding. Several speakers mentioned that funders found their applications more attractive because they had seed funding for feasibility studies or matching funding had been already been obtained.


6. Assume nothing

It was really interesting to hear from Nick Poole and Jonathan Larwood who regularly assess applications. You can be sure that knowledgable experts in geology will assess applications to the Geologists' Association Curry Fund and will spot an inaccuracy that could put them off your application. Other applications may be read by experts in humanities rather than scientists so it is important to spell everything out very clearly so all readers of your application can be clear what you are planning, how you plan to carry it out and why. If in doubt, get several people to read your application before submission, but certainly find out how your application will be assessed.


7. Be consise and use images

It goes without saying that a clear and consise application will always be better than a verbose and unclear one. Clare Brown also showed an example of the use of images in her succesful Geoblitz application.


I picked out seven common threads from the presentations we heard. Nick Poole went one better in his presentation outlining eight golden rules for applying for funding. His presentation is available on the Collections Trust website and is well worth a read as it includes further tips for putting a great application together and a list of potential funders for collections projects.




Members of the Geological Curators' Group on a visit to the Dudley Limestone caves (photo courtesy of Cindy Howells, National Museum of Wales). Why not join us for our next meeting? Here are details of how to join the Geological Curators' Group.

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Giles Miller

Giles Miller

Member since: Apr 21, 2010

This is Giles Miller's Curator of Micropalaeontology blog. I make the Museum micropalaeontology collections available to visitors from all over the world, publish articles on the collections, give public talks and occasionally make collections myself.

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