Early impacts of the HLF Catalyst: capacity building programmes…

Increasing fundraising and philanthropy for heritage – early impacts of the HLF Catalyst: capacity building programmes…

The team at DC Research have been working with HLF since mid-2014 on the Evaluation of the HLF Catalyst: capacity building programmes.  Whilst the evaluation continues to March 2017, we recently completed the Baseline Report and thought it would be useful to share some of the headline findings from that report.

In particular we reflect on some of the key findings about the HLF Catalyst: Small Grants (You can read about the other aspect of our evaluation- the Umbrella programmes – in this online community post).

As part of our evaluation, we carried out a survey in January 2015 of all of the small grantee organisations, and alongside this we also surveyed a carefully selected cross-section of other heritage organisations who served as a ‘control group’ to compare the achievements of the small grantee organisations against.

Assessing the pre- and post-Catalyst scores of Small grantees for a range of fundraising and private income criteria shows there is already clear progress for completed projects, especially around organisational capacity, staff capabilities and diversification of fundraising sources.

97% of completed Small grant projects now have a fundraising plan or strategy compared to the pre-Catalyst position of 48%.  Notably, 92% of the organisations that did not have a fundraising plan before receiving a Small grant have now developed one.

An overwhelming 83% of Small grantees say that staff in the organisation have developed skills with a further 11% expecting this to happen in the future.

60% of respondents feel their organisation is now more resilient following the Small grant, with an additional 38% expecting this to happen in the future.

Improving resilience – in the Small grantees own words…

“All trustees and staff now 'own' the fundraising targets rather than it being assumed to be someone else's problem. We had a very supportive group of trustees, the workshops and the process have brought them all up to speed”.

A key outcome for HLF Catalyst is about bringing in additional private money to the heritage sector and the survey results show some early signs of achievement with 44% of Small grantees reporting that their organisation already brings in additional private money, with an additional 52% expecting this to happen in the future.

Increasing private giving – in the Small grantees own words…

“We have now established a formal Friends organisation who support our organisation through subscription. Income for this source is as yet small, but it is a base from which we can build. We also aim to convert more members of our database into active subscribing Friends”.

“Developing a good offer to businesses and having business partners as advocates means that we have increased our overall number of corporate supporters and income levels.  Both have approximately doubled and are very likely to increase further”.

Comparing Small grantee results with the heritage ‘control group’ survey highlights that:

  • Small grantee organisations now place a greater level of importance on fundraising and income diversification generally, and on raising income from private sources, compared to the control group.
  • Small grantee organisations anticipate notably higher proportions of income will be from private sources by the end of the financial year compared to the control group.

The evaluation findings provide evidence that there has already been a culture shift in the approach of heritage organisations to fundraising generally, and private sources in particular.  This is exemplified through the development of fundraising/income generation strategies, the enhanced skills and capability of staff around fundraising and private giving, and the changing attitudes of both staff and governing body/trustees.


A key aspect we will be looking at during the rest of the evaluation is how well embedded the increased capacity and capability around fundraising and philanthropy are within heritage organisations?  Is the responsibility for fundraising and philanthropy falling onto the shoulders of just one or two key staff members or is it embedded throughout the organisation? What role do trustees/governing body representatives have on fundraising and philanthropy? What is the role for volunteers? What more can be done to support greater success around fundraising and philanthropy for the heritage sector?

Any thoughts and contributions on this would be most welcome…


Submitted by amelia.robinso… (not verified) on Thu, 09/03/2015 - 15:12


Really interesting and positive piece of research! It’s encouraging to read these early findings and that organisations are already reporting improved staff skills and organisational resilience. I’m looking forward to reading the next report in 2016 particularly as it will include more qualitative research with case studies being carried out this year.  

Submitted by chris.sutton@cgi.com (not verified) on Sun, 12/13/2015 - 17:23


As a Catalyst award winner, I think that the report resonates well with our own charity's experience.

Yet I think that for small charities such as ours, it is difficult to compartmentalise. I think our fund raising went well, the catalyst fund was incredibly important to that, but now our.focus has inevitably shifted to project delivery, the challenges of recruiting and sustaining volunteers, and the challenges of getting the community to turn up in numbers to our outreach events. We are getting there, but it's tougher than we imagined.

Fund raising, looking back, was actually the (relatively) easy bit!

I would love to know what sort out of forums are there within HLF where award winners can share ideas and lessons learned in delivery challenges.


Submitted by gemma.thorpe@h… (not verified) on Fri, 12/18/2015 - 14:25


Hi Chris

Thanks for your comments, I read about your project with interest.

In terms of sharing opportunties of course the online community is one way and we're thinking through other opportunities. There will also be another round of evaluation so there will be the opportunity to feedback via the survey which will be sent out again by DC Research.

I'll let you know of any other plans for conversation about lessons learned.

Gemma (Catalyst Programme Manager)