Shhh…..Secret Pointers from Successful National Lottery Heritage Fund Applicants

About the National Lottery Heritage Fund

The National Lottery was established in 1994 and along with it came the opportunity for good causes within the arts, charity, sports and heritage sector to apply for lottery funding to support their various projects. The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) was given the responsibility for the distribution of the heritage share of the lottery funds in the UK and the lottery fund distribution arm of the NHMF subsequently became the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and more recently the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).

The heritage sector was allocated 20% of total funds raised from the sale of lottery tickets and the then HLF expected to award around £430 million to new projects nationwide. Since its establishment in 1994, the National Lottery players have raised £34 billion which has helped support 450,000 projects across the UK!

Applying for Funding

The Lottery Fund offers a range of different grant programmes – from £3,000 to upwards of £5 million – and when allocating funding they take into consideration the size of the project, the outcomes for heritage and who it will benefit.

A big part of acquiring funding is to have a clear activity plan showing exactly how your project is going to benefit people, your community, your organisation and the heritage sector as a whole. As part of our lottery bid mentoring service we can help you to develop a concise activity plan – which will showcase the best of your project idea. We have plenty of experience in helping with the creation of an action plan and our past clients also have some advice and tips to pass on.

So what advice would successful applicants give?

Penny Williams is the Technical Director of the Freshwater Habitats Trust and a client who benefitted from our mentoring service.

Penny’s main advice is that your activity plan needs to tell a good story. “The main thing is to tell a good story – you don’t need to stick to the exact order, headings and content of the HLF guidance docs. The main thing is that your proposal flows well, is really easy to read, and your key points are in there.”

The National Lottery Heritage Fund provides a number of guidance documents explaining exactly what they want to see, to enable you to tailor your application and activity plan to their standards, thus giving you a fighting chance at winning funding.

Penny adds that being certain about project outcomes is important and doing small pilot trials before submitting your application can be a good idea. “If you’re unsure about whether something in your project will work – do small trials (with a class/teachers in three contrasting schools for example) and add the results as an appendix”.

Another tip Penny would give to perspective grantees is regarding the formatting and details of the plan. “Keep the text really short and inspirational. Put all detail in tables and if necessary put extra info in the appendices/appendix tables.” Keeping text short and to the point will show that you know your project inside out and that you know exactly what you need to say.

Penny’s final piece of advice is this: “It’s all about people, people, people, people!”


Evaluation, and re-evaluation, are important steps in every project – ensuring that the project is kept on track and that everything that needs to be considered is being considered. Applying for lottery funding for a project is no different, as Robin Gray, Developments Manager of Pennine Prospects, discusses.

“Through the Watershed Landscape Project we learnt the value of evaluation.” Robin says, before going on to talk about the phases of evaluation necessary for the project.

“We carried out a mid-term review of the project with our partners which ensured the project was delivered on time and within budget. The final evaluation carried out by Heritage Insider made us think about how we could better engage with volunteers and residents – this has directly influenced future programmes such as our exciting new woodland heritage project”.

The evaluation and consultation process of the project helps you to produce the best possible funding bid and we, at Heritage Insider, can help you to see things from a different angle and make your bid the best it can be.

The Importance of Engagement

Karen Eynon, Project Officer at Don Catchment Rivers Trust, has also taken advantage of our mentoring service. Karen advises that it is important to look beyond the boundaries of your initial project idea and consider the effect it will have on your community. “More importantly we were expertly and sensitively guided through the process including community engagement”, Karen says of the mentoring service.

Seeing things differently and innovatively is instrumental in demonstrating that your project is one that will benefit from funding. Karen comments that brainstorming activities implemented by the mentoring service really helped her to complete the plan. “We were introduced to an innovative brainstorming session which we found valuable to help us to think outside the box”.


There are several points covered here which are extremely important in the application for funding. The first is that you need to know your project inside and out – know what it will involve, how you will implement it and which programme you plan on applying to with the NLHF.

Secondly, your project will need to benefit a community or a group of people and you need to know how it will contribute to the heritage sector as a whole.

 How can we help?

We have worked with many organisations who have benefitted from the project planning and mentoring service, and acquired the funding they needed to make their project come alive. You know the potential your project has, we can help you show the National Lottery Heritage Fund too – we have a 98% success rate for funding applications we assist with! We are passionate about people and improving the heritage sector, so you can rest assured that your project will be in the best hands.

We will build upon the skills you have in-house, offering support in the areas you need it most. There is plenty of further information about the project planning service, which focuses on the grant bid as a whole, including the activity plan, on our website.

Maybe you don’t want to buy a whole workshop but just want a place on one?  Sign up to INSPIRE to be the first to hear about latest workshops. If you would like to learn more about these services, or any other services we offer, then please contact us for a chat.