Applications for National Lottery Project Grants are set to undergo a shakeup after applicants expressed frustration with the current process.
Arts Council England (ACE) has announced changes to the process of applying for National Lottery Project Grants (NLPG) following criticism from applicants.
The changes come after applicants expressed concerns that the system was ‘confusing’, onerous and involved ‘too much reading’. They also said they were unable to provide detailed descriptions of their projects.
Creatives on Twitter welcomed news of the changes, describing the current process as ‘painful’, ‘demoralising’ and not ‘fit for purpose’.
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“We asked for feedback from a wide range of applicants and you told us that the application form could be clearer and easier to complete,” ACE wrote, announcing the changes. “We’ve been working on some improvements and testing them with the people who gave us feedback.”
NLPG offers funding to individuals and organisations, including arts, museums and libraries projects. The programme was last refreshed in November 2021 to align with ACE’s 2020-2030 strategy Let’s Create.
Changes made to the programme in 2021 were intended “to make sure we’re investing in communities that have been underrepresented in terms of public funding from us”, ACE said.
But applicants expressed frustration that the process was not widely accessible, citing problems including “too many questions with options that were confusing and took too long to complete for small amounts of funding”.
They also lamented a lack of space in which to describe projects and said there was too much reading required in order to submit applications for sums of less than £30,000.
From November, when the revised programme launches, applicants will be asked to fill out different forms based on the amount of funding they are applying for, with bands set at £30,000 and under, £30,001 to £100,000, and £100,001 and over.
Other significant changes to the application process include more space for applicants to describe their projects, less reading for applications of less than £30,000 and increased ‘bite-sized’ online resources and guidance to help clarify the process.
“If you’re applying for £30,000 or less, you’ll no longer be required to read our strategy, Let’s Create, to make an application and you won’t be asked to write about how your project contributes to the outcomes of our strategy,” ACE wrote.
“We’re replacing questions that asked how your project responds to Let’s Create with more practical questions that use clearer language. We’ll use your answers to understand how your project will make a difference.”
ACE also announced changes to two NLPG strands – Nationally Significant Projects, which will become Major Projects, and Touring Projects (Regional, National and International), which “will be refocused on the Outcome, Cultural Communities and international aspects of A Creative and Cultural Country”.
Full guidance for both strands, along with the updated guidance for applications, is due to be published in September. Between September and November, applicants will be expected to use the current version of NLPG’s application process.
‘Fingers crossed for better’
Artists and creatives on Twitter welcomed news of the changes.
"This looks a very good step in the right direction - do we now no longer need a degree to fill one of these out?” one person tweeted, adding that the application process is currently “demoralising for many, many creatives”.
"Filling out my first-ever application at the moment and it’s somehow far more painful than writing my dissertation was”, another user wrote.
Several Twitter users working in the arts sector highlighted the additional space to describe projects as a welcome change.
“The project grant form isn’t fit for purpose at the moment,” wrote Jess Partridge, who works on export and talent development in the music industry. “The total lack of space to explain your project and how wildly unfriendly it feels for smaller orgs and individuals has been such a barrier. Fingers crossed for better.”
Freelance cultural fundraiser, marketer and writer Hilary Machell tweeted that the changes were “great news”. “Applying for a complex festival without anywhere to describe the programme was tough,” she wrote.
Another Twitter user said that she had been forced to use ACE money to pay for an accessibility consultant to help fill out the forms for further funding. “She is lovely but we’d both rather pay for more art,” she wrote.