Evaluation Findings - HLF Catalyst: Small grant projects

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 until 2018, we completed the Second Interim Report earlier this year and thought it would be useful to share some of the headline findings from that report (the most recent report, which includes full case studies for the examples set out below, is available here: https://www.hlf.org.uk/catalyst-capacity-building-programme-evaluation)

In particular, we reflect on some of the key findings about the HLF Catalyst: Small Grants, focusing on some case study examples of Small grant projects that were carried out as part of the evaluation.

We visited a range of organisations that had received HLF Catalyst Small grants.  These awards were used for a range of purposes and activities to support the development of various strands of fundraising and income generation across the projects.  Some key examples of the types of activities that Small grant awards have supported, as well as the achievements made through HLF Catalyst: Small grant support are summarised below.

Canal and River Trust focused on high value fundraising work with the Trust’s senior management team and trustees and were able to secure their first £1million+ donation for a project involving nearly 2,000 young people from some of England's most deprived communities to create the country's first ever coast to coast canoe trail. 

Mills Archive Trust enhanced its Making Friends, Engaging People scheme which attracted a number of organisations to provide financial support, and encouraged existing supporters to become more committed.  As a result of its Catalyst Small Grant, the Mills Archive doubled its income from organisations in 12 months.

A concentration of efforts on three specific areas of activity for Ulster Wildlife Trust – grants and trusts; corporate fundraising; and membership development took place.  Increased capacity enabled the Trust to bid for a far greater range of grants, achieving more than seventeen successes in terms of grants awarded in the following year, a substantial improvement in the level of success, compared to previously.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust enhanced and improved its offer to potential corporate members.  As a result, the Trust has increased corporate membership from 20 at the start of the project to over 30 at the end.  The Trust’s income from businesses has doubled and includes support from business foundations.

For Norwich Historic Churches Trust, one result of the Trust's re-focussing was a successful application for funding to host a high profile two-day event to tell the story of Norwich's 31 extant medieval churches through exhibitions, trails, tours and a range of cultural activities.

Key examples of the types of activities that underpin the achievement of these outcomes include:

  • Developing an understanding of the importance of in accessing donations.
  • Developing in asking for donations, cultivating donors, and managing relationships.
  • Identifying potential philanthropic donors who have a connection with the organisation through their trustees and senior management.
  • Developing a fundraising strategy, which often involved refining aims, objectives and sometime governance arrangements.
  • Ensuring that there is sufficient staff-time and capacity dedicated to fundraising activities and developing new sources of income.
  • Engaging in/delivering on fundraising skills, events, communication/marketing, social media and the future funding landscape.
  • Working on attracting and retaining members and friends.
  • Targeting and communicating with local organisations embodying similar aims and objectives.

Heritage organisations considering applying for grants from HLF’s Resilient Heritage programme can learn from the experiences of organisations that have developed their capacity and capability, and improved their resilience, through both the HLF Catalyst Small grant programme and also those that have benefited from support from the on-going HLF Catalyst Umbrella programmes.

Submitted by gemma.thorpe@h… (not verified) on Tue, 11/28/2017 - 13:48


Hi Stephen,

Thank you for this, it's great to hear such positive stories about the work which was done through Catalyst Small grants!

It might be useful for people to know that whilst Catalyst Small grants is no longer open, these kinds of activities can form part of a Resilient Heritage project.