Our support for the heritage sector in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis

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We remain committed to supporting the people and organisations working across the heritage sector and are open for business.

Last updated: 1 April, 2020 at 4pm

The COVID-19 virus is a worrying time for all of us and having a significant impact on the people and organisations we work with. We want to reassure everyone we fund that we will be as flexible and supportive as we can be during this very challenging time.

If you are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on your heritage project or organisation, please don’t hesitate to contact your Investment Manager/Senior Investment Manager in the first instance. Or, if you have a general enquiry, contact our Customer Service team.

Please check our website regularly to get the latest news and updates.

Our Heritage Emergency Fund

We are making £50million available for a Heritage Emergency Fund to support the UK heritage sector as an immediate response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

We will be investing the £50m where it is needed most, by providing short-term funding for organisations delivering heritage projects or running previously funded projects, and safeguarding heritage sites we have previously invested in to ensure they are not lost to the public.

The Heritage Emergency Fund will be available as:

  • A fund that organisations can access over the next three-six months as short-term funding to stabilise operations and manage unforeseen risks. Grants of between £3,000-£50,000 will be available.
  • A select number of key strategic investments where heritage is identified as at greatest risk. This could include grant increases to funded projects that are currently underway.

In addition, we are also supporting the heritage sector by:

  • Enabling organisations that have received grant funding and are currently delivering projects to delay or change the way the projects are delivered. This can include changes to approved purposes, flexibility on costs within a project, early drawdown of grant payment, a relaxation of some conditions of the grant, and flexible use of contingency funding.
  • Providing bespoke advice and support via our local teams and in some cases, via our specialist network of mentors.
  • Accelerating the provision of our £1.2m Digital Skills for Heritage initiative to help the sector through the crisis and beyond. This will include support for organisations to run activities and events, reach audiences, engage volunteers, share content and fundraise online. 
  • For the longer term, to help with recovery from the current crisis, we have invested £4m in two Enterprise Development programmes for heritage leaders across the UK, and Business Support Programmes in all four countries. More information will be available in due course.

Decisions on awards under the Heritage Emergency Fund will be made as quickly as possible to support the sector. Awards will be made on the basis of a set of criteria to identify those with the greatest need. They will also need to meet the following three requirements: 

  • organisations that have received funding in the past or are either a current grantee, or still under contract following a previous grant
  • organisations with limited or no access to other emergency initiatives from other funding bodies and Lottery Distributors
  • organisations where there is limited scope to repurpose existing funding for a project

Grants will be open for applications and further details provided on the selection criteria and how to apply in the next few days.

Find out more in our Heritage Emergency Fund news story. Hear from our Executive Director of Business Delivery, Eilish McGuinness.

Halting new applications

In order to meet the immediate needs of the organisations we support, we’ve made some changes so we can focus our efforts on support for the heritage sector:

  • We have halted all new Committee-level grants (£250,000-£5m) and single-stage delegated grants (£3,000-£250,000) until at least October 2020.
  • Organisations that have been selected to apply for Heritage Horizon Awards (grants over £5m) will be given more time and deferred  until the 2021/22 financial year. We will not be opening a further round of funding for Heritage Horizon Awards.  

Please note: if we have already made a commitment of funding to you, we will continue to work with you and offer our support. This applies to more than 2,500 projects in development and delivery where our investment commitments total over £1billion. We recognise that you may need to change the scope and timetable of your project, and we will offer advice to help make those decisions.  For those in development, we still expect to make decisions on delivery grants (although these remain competitive, as previously).

If you are already delivering a project we’re funding, we will be as flexible as we can be, relaxing reporting requirements where possible, bringing forward payments if necessary, and discussing with you changes of scope or cost due to COVID-19 impact.  

Other support available

In addition, details are emerging of further support packages from Devolved Governments and from bodies, funders and organisations across the culture and heritage sectors. Please check those that might be relevant to you. We will update details here as we receive them.

Your response to our survey

Thank you to the 1,200 people – 79% of whom are current or previous grantees – who responded to our urgent call for evidence from the heritage sector. 

Your input has been invaluable in helping us shape the details of our Heritage Emergency Fund.

Some of the survey’s key findings included:

  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is universal: 98% of organisations have been impacted within the first three weeks and the remaining 2% expect some impact in the future. 
  • COVID-19 is expected to impact on organisational survival: 82% of organisations report high or moderate risk to the long-term viability of their organisation.
  • Financial reserves are limited: 46% of organisations can survive for no more than six months.
  • Flexible support required: In terms of support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and our partners, you asked for greater flexibility for existing projects/grants (75%) and emergency funding (53%). 

Read more in the blog by Tom Walters, our Head of Research, Data & Insight. 

Download full analysis of our survey, and the parallel survey we commissioned with Wildlife and Countryside Link.

We remain open for business 

We are fully operational and open for business, but we are conducting much of our day to day business remotely. We are doing everything we can to ensure to we maintain business as usual.

Our Area and Country teams are also contactable should you need any advice or further guidance.

Contact us

We are supportive of what you feel are necessary judgments and/or appropriate decisions to maintain the health and wellbeing of your employees and the people you engage through your work. We advise you to follow the NHS and Government advice.

NHS and Government advice

We are following the Chief Medical Officer’s advice. The NHS has published information about the symptoms, essential hygiene and what action people should be taking to reduce the virus spreading.

This is a changing environment, so it is important to keep abreast of these important updates. Information from the Government is being updated daily.

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