Please note:
The current Exceptional Awards portal will close at 5pm on Friday 30 January 2015. After that date you will not be able to submit Exceptional Awards ideas to us but applicants that submit ideas up to that date may still be invited to apply. Please take into account that all activity funded through the current programme must start by 31 March 2015. 

Changes to the fund will be communicated in May 2015.  

About the fund

Arts Council England funds a range of programmes designed to deliver the ambitions set out in Great art and culture for everyone, our strategic framework for the arts and culture. However, we recognise that, on occasion, arts organisations may wish to respond to a one-off opportunity to create a project that is of such ambition that it sits outside the normal programme of the organisation and does not fit into existing Arts Council funding routes.

We have therefore decided to make very small number of Exceptional awards of more than £50,000, to fund projects making a significant additional contribution to helping the Arts Council deliver its strategic vision of Great art and culture for everyone, through at least one of our five goals. The projects we fund will most likely have national (and even international) impact in terms of outcomes.  

It is likely that we will make fewer than 25 Exceptional awards before 31 March 2015. This means that there will be many good ideas and opportunities that we cannot help to realise, given our limited resources at this time.

We will only award funding to organisations that demonstrate they have the capacity to deliver new outcomes without putting at risk existing delivery commitments. We do not expect to fund more than one proposal from a single organisation.

The vast majority of our funding will continue to be awarded through existing programmes. Details of these can be found on our Funding pages.  

Find out about the Exceptional Awards that have been made so far.

Telling us about your idea

If you believe you have an idea that fits the bill and meets all of the eligibility criteria, please tell us about it by completing the online form, which will give you the opportunity to describe your idea in no more than 300 words. Within your submission we also request that you tell us the anticipated overall project cost and amount you would like to request if you are invited to apply.

If we think that your idea could make a significant additional contribution helping the Arts Council deliver its strategic vision through at least one of our five goals, we will inform you of our decision within four weeks of your submission. If you are invited to make an application you will have six weeks in which to develop your submission and the mandatory supporting documents required.

If we decide not to invite you to apply we will also inform you within four weeks. We are unable to give feedback or engage in a discussion about why your idea is not being taken forward at this time. You are unable to resubmit the same idea to Exceptional Awards.

As well as the eligibility criteria below, if you are a National portfolio organisation, we will also take into account your current performance when deciding whether or not to invite an application.

Invitation to apply

If we invite you to make an application you will need to submit it within six weeks of being invited to do so. We advise that you develop your idea sufficiently before making the initial submission so you can make a full application within the six week deadline. All applications will be subject to rigorous assessment, and even if we are able to offer you an application form on the basis of your idea, there is no guarantee of funding. As the closure date for this fund approaches application timelines may vary and we may ask you to submit your application in less than six weeks.

If invited to apply, you can apply for funding above £50,000. Although we anticipate it is unlikely we will make awards of over £250,000, we may consider applications above this level for a project that is genuinely exceptional in its ambition and which will make a significant additional contribution to helping the Arts Council deliver its strategic vision, through at least one of the Arts Council’s five goals.

You cannot make an application for an Exceptional award without an invitation from us to do so, on the basis of an idea you have told us about via the online form.