Heritage Emergency Fund launches to help sector (updated)

Heritage Emergency Fund launches to help sector (updated)

The National Lottery Heritage Fund logo
The National Lottery Heritage Fund has put together a £50million fund to support the heritage sector as an immediate response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Last updated: 23 June 2020  

The UK-wide fund - money raised from The National Lottery - will address immediate pressures over the next few months for those organisations most in need. It is now open for applications until 31 July.

We will continue to support more than 2,500 projects that we have already committed to - an investment of more than £1billion. 

“We know that circumstances are incredibly challenging for our heritage community right now and we want to do everything we can to support them."

Eilish McGuinness, The National Lottery Heritage Fund Executive Director, Business Delivery

Eilish McGuinness, The National Lottery Heritage Fund Executive Director, Business Delivery, said:  “We know that circumstances are incredibly challenging for our heritage community right now and we want to do everything we can to support them. We hope this new fund will be a lifeline and a beacon of hope for organisations affected.

“Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, creating economic prosperity and supporting personal wellbeing. All of these are going to be vitally important as we emerge from this current crisis.”

Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “It is important that we do all we can to ensure our nation’s remarkable heritage landscapes, buildings and monuments - and the hardworking organisations that protect them - are supported at this difficult time.

“Heritage plays an important role in our communities by supporting jobs and economic growth as well as helping us to understand our shared past. This new £50 million package from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will help to protect our most at risk heritage throughout this unprecedented period.”

Heritage Emergency Fund

The £50m fund is available for grants of between £3,000 and £50,000.

It is available to organisations across the full breadth of heritage, including historic sites, industrial and maritime heritage, museums, libraries and archives, parks and gardens, landscapes and nature.

Organisations which have received funding in the past or are either a current grantee, or still under contract following a previous grant, can apply.

Priority will be given where:

  • there is limited or no access to other sources of support
  • where heritage is most at risk
  • where an organisation is at risk of severe financial crisis due to coronavirus (COVID-19)


Our guidance sets out the criteria for applying for the Heritage Emergency Fund.

Applicants must be:  

  • a not-for-profit organisation, and
  • a current or previous recipient of a grant directly from us, and 
  • an owner, manager or representative of heritage, or be able to show you have delivered participatory heritage activity 

Before applying, please take time to read the guidance and think about what support you need to get your organisation through the next few months. Applications will be accepted until 31 July 2020.

Application process:

Applying for a Heritage Emergency Fund grant is different from the usual way of applying for a grant.

The application form must be completed in one go, as it cannot be saved. It is important that you prepare your application material before you start. 
Before you apply: 

After you apply:

  • We will email you to let you know that your application has been submitted.
  • As part of this email, we will send you instructions on how to upload your supporting documents.
  • Submit any supporting documents by replying to the email. We recommend you do this as soon as you receive instructions, to help us process your application. 
  • We will check your application details are correct.
  • We will consider your application and give you a decision within two to four weeks.

A raft of extra support

We know that the majority of heritage organisations are facing temporary closure, severe impact on their revenue and staff shortages. Many face threats to their long-term futures. A small percentage fear they will not be able to last into the summer.

This is why we are taking a short, medium and long-term approach to our support for your immediate challenges and longer-term resilience and recovery.

As well as the Heritage Emergency Fund, we will also support the sector in the following ways:

  • Accelerating the provision of our £1.2m Digital Skills for Heritage initiative to help the sector through the crisis and beyond.
  • By continuing to support the 2,500 projects we have already committed to funding.
  • By being as flexible as possible for our existing grantees.
  • By providing bespoke advice and support.
  • £2m commitment to our network of ROSS consultants in the new financial year. We will direct that support to organisations in need. In doing so we are also helping several hundred freelancers and self-employed people.   
  • Working closely with the Government, other funders and heritage organisations to bring together support for the sector.
  • In the longer term, we have invested £4m in two enterprise development programmes across the UK for heritage leaders, and business support programmes in all four countries. More information on this soon.

Pausing new grants

In order to address the crisis, we have taken the decision to halt all new grant applications with immediate effect.

The Heritage Emergency Fund consists of money diverted from new grants. 

Heritage Horizon Awards

Decisions on funding for the Heritage Horizon Awards have been deferred from March 2020 into the 2021-2022 financial year. 

We will not be opening a further round of funding for Heritage Horizon Awards.  

Our response

Our response was based on consultation across the sector, including more than 1,250 respondents to our survey. We found:

  • 82% of respondents reported a high or moderate risk to their organisation’s long-term viability
  • 46% of organisations can survive for no more than six months
  • 75% respondents wanted greater flexibility for existing projects/grants
  • 53% asked for emergency funding

Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey and to all those who have been in touch. We will continue to listen to you, and keep you up to date with developments.

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If you query is regarding our application portal, please contact our support team.