A Simple Introduction to the Undeniably Complex World of National Lottery Funding

National Lottery funding makes your project grow
Courtesy nattanan23

National Lottery Funding

The National Lottery funds projects in the arts, sport, heritage, charity, voluntary, health, education and environmental sectors. To date they have funded over 636,000 projects. There are nearly 40 different grants, applying to different parts of the UK, giving out different amounts of money, or aiming to help or promote different people or aims.

The process of application is byzantine in its complexity, but is navigable if you persevere. The website helpfully points you at which fund is appropriate for your project type. I wanted a small grant for a community project in my village (near Oxford, England), so the National Lottery Awards for All England was the most appropriate for me, as they fund smaller projects between £300 and £10,000. The programmes have a set of priorities that must be met in order to gain funding. In this case it is trying to support communities following the Covid-19 pandemic, and will support projects and organisations that:

  • build strong relationships in and across communities
  • improve the places and spaces that matter to communities
  • help more people to reach their potential, by supporting them at the earliest possible stage.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

You are warned that the process of application is long (at least 12 weeks) and many good projects will not receive money just because of the volume of applications they deal with. You can apply online, and will need details of 2 people in the organisation, and details about your organisation, including its income and bank statements. Once you have got over that hurdle you get to the nitty-gritty of detailing what your project is about and how it will benefit your community.

National Lottery Projects

The lottery funding has funded many projects. Some of them are big name enterprises needing substantial backing. The community fund in particular has supported programmes such as:

Wembley Stadium

Courtesy The National Lottery

This has been transformed into a 21st century stadium. This was taken on by the FA, who embarked on an ambitious rebuilding of the stadium in 2002.

The existing building was demolished, with a spacious modern venue with an increased capacity and better facilities constructed in its place.
The new Wembley opened in 2007 and has since established itself as one of Britain’s most prestigious places to watch live sport and music.

This was supported by a substantial National Lottery grant.

The Mary Rose

Courtesy New Scientist

This Tudor flagship sank off the coast of Portsmouth in 1545, and laid hidden until she was located by a team of divers in 1971. She was finally raised in 1982, and is now on display in Portsmouth, in a museum specially built for her, supported by significant National Lottery funding. Thousands of Tudor artefacts were recovered with the ship, including several human skeletons and a dog! These are still the subject of research, yielding up fresh details of Tudor life.

The National Lottery also supports much lower profile projects, targeting groups in local community.

Woodwork for Wellbeing

This project provides a safe place in Tower Hamlets, London for men and women to participate in a range of woodworking activities that will contribute towards improved mental wellbeing. There are various relaxed and open social woodwork sessions within the community, aimed at helping people with mental health issues, reducing isolation and improving wellbeing through making and learning together.

Dream BiG Wellbeing Hub

This project provides a platform for children and young people to meet, play, grow, strive and be healthy. Activities such as football, leadership activities through play, music workshops, filming, photography are available. Employability skills courses, workshops for poetry, the spoken word and storytelling classes are delivered in a family-like environment. This helps participants to develop confidence, resilience, and problem-solving skills, and also enhances their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. This organisation is also London based, being located in Lambeth.

Courtesy Dream BiG

Climate Action! For the Children by the Children

This group uses the funding to deliver a range of workshops and education sessions about climate change to school children in the Cleethorpes area. Environmental specialists will be involved in the delivery of the education sessions with the project legacy being a blueprint put together by the children for climate action which will be shared with local stakeholders.

South Norwood Community Festival 2022 (SNCF 2022)

Courtesy South Norwood Community

The funding will be used to help set up and run the annual community festival. The project aims to bring people across the community together for a fun and inclusive event to increase social cohesion and celebrate community diversity.

Tips for applying for National Lottery funding

Image by Lukas from Pixabay

National Lottery funding has been in place for a long time now, and many grant applications have succeeded and failed, so there is wisdom out there about what helps your application get through the hoops.  

The National Lottery itself produces guidance to help you. Have a look at Good practice guidance as you prepare your proposal. Beware though, it is quite a complex offering and will take a bit of time to navigate.

One other source of information is Greedy Squirrel, who offer a full-blown lottery bid mentoring service, and the following advice:

  • Tell a good story

Make sure the proposal flows well, and that all the key points are covered. Write in everyday English, and make it as positive as possible. Keep it succinct; details can go in tables, and extra information in appendices. Present your project with a small number of clear aims and they will guide the content into a story.

  • Evaluate from the start

The project needs to stay on track, and all the variables in it need to be kept in mind and measured. How this happens needs to be thought about as the project is planned not as it is run.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
  • Don’t forget the importance of engagement

The effect of the project on people is very important – you need to be clear about who you are aiming to get involved, and how they are going to be supported

  • Keep it real

Be strategic in what you can achieve with the funding. The National Lottery want to see value for money and they encourage you to be ambitious, but you need to be realistic and make sure you can actually deliver what has been promised. You can be flexible if circumstances around the project change as long as you stick to the main goals. If you are more sparing in specifying details of how each goal will be achieved you have more potential to vary your approach in the face of wider context changes.

  • Overall
    • Know your project inside out. This includes what it involves, how it will be implemented and which programme of National Lottery funding you are considering.
    • Know which group of people will benefit from the project.
    • Start evaluating the project from the word go.
    • Find a balance between being ambitious and realistic. Work out what you can really achieve with the time and money available.
National Lottery funding makes your project grow
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

And if you want to take a break from lottery applications, you might be interested in some other articles in the magazine: