We want more people to experience and be inspired by the arts, museums and libraries, and to ensure that organisations funded by the Arts Council have an even stronger focus on attracting audiences. 

The programme is one of the commissioned grants in our strategic funding programme.

Aims and objectives

As part of our approach to delivering this, the Audience focus fund is designed to help funded organisations understand, retain and grow their audiences. The fund is intended to address major support needs in the sector; it will support a small number of large-scale national, sector-wide or major cross-regional collaborative activities.

We are looking to invest in high impact, exciting and ambitious proposals that:

  • have the potential to help funded organisations reach significantly more people and new audiences, or
  • develop shared approaches to marketing and audience development that make significant savings for participating organisations

The outcomes we are looking for are:

  • an increase in the numbers of people who regularly engage in the arts
  • a wider range of people engaging in the arts; focusing on those who may have some engagement or are not currently engaged
  • more resilient funded arts organisations, museums and libraries – through increased earned income from the public and also via efficiency savings from collaborative activity
  • sustainable projects and services which support the arts and cultural sector to continue to increase reach and improve engagement

Funds available

The indicative budget available is £7.5m from 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2015. It is anticipated that we will support in the region of 10 to 15 awards over the next three years, the minimum award will be £100,000.

Fund strands

We have identified three strands of activity, each with specific outcomes outlined below:

Strand 1: Understanding audiences - supporting the development of national approaches to collecting, sharing and applying audience data and intelligence, to enable funded organisations to gain practical insight into current and potential audiences.

Strand 2: Collaborative action - supporting collaborative marketing and audience development activity to increase family and cross-generation attendance and participation in the arts.

Strand 3: Best practice - supporting the implementation of national approaches, tools, resources and training to raise and maintain standards of best practice in marketing and audience development.

Applicants are welcome to apply for more than one strand.


  • Organisations or consortia, from the arts or non-arts sectors, that meet the aims and objectives of the work are eligible to apply. These are likely to include marketing, audience development, or research specialists.
  • The focus of this fund is the arts; this includes museums and libraries where they are providing arts activities and opportunities.
  • Arts Council funded organisations are only eligible if applying on behalf of a consortium; if the activity proposed is additional to any already funded; marketing and audience development specialists are appropriately involved.  National portfolio organisations will need to have registered their intention to apply with their lead Relationship Manager on or before 1 December 2011.
  • The proposed activity will need to take place in or benefit at least three Arts Council regions.
  • We cannot give grants to organisations that share out profits to members or shareholders; unless the activity applied for is a self-contained, financially ring-fenced arts project, with a clear benefit to the public. No grant funds can contribute to an organisation’s profits. Applicants should also ensure they comply with current regulations on state aid.