As part of our refreshed strategy, Great art and culture for everyone, we have five strategic goals are at the heart of the work we do at the Arts Council, and are therefore an important part of our decision-making process. A summary of these goals can be found here.

Stage one: checking criteria

Once an application has been deemed eligible (see Eligibility), we will make an assessment of the quality of the application itself, looking at the organisation/consortium and the programme proposed against the following criteria:

  • how you are currently meeting our five goals and how further investment will help you achieve excellence in at least two of them.
  • an assessment of your plans for area or national leadership.
  • we will also make an assessment of the risk associated with your application to see if there are any weaknesses and threats to your capacity to lead and manage effectively the programme of work that you propose; and for financial viability.
  • if your application is successful, we will use the risk assessment as a basis for tailoring a monitoring plan.
  • if your application is successful, we will expect you to have or develop a business plan that relates to good financial management, workforce skills, environmental sustainability and equality and diversity. Please see our page on Expectations of Major partner museums for more information.
  • we expect to work more closely with applicants with high-risk ratings to develop a robust business plan during the funding agreement negotiation stage.
  • we will make our assessments on the basis of the information you provide in your application, our knowledge of your organisation, if applicable, and any further information that we have specifically requested you provide.
  • assessors may also refer to existing documentation about museums held by Arts Council England, for example information on Accreditation and Designation.
  • our assessors will use ‘prompts’: that is, questions our assessors ask themselves about the applications to help identify key issues. These prompts are set out in section four of this guidance. It is important to note that not all the prompts are relevant to all applications, and they should not be read as a 'check list' for applicants.

Stage two: balancing the portfolio

In the second stage of our decision making process we will have to decide how well the museum or consortium would fit into a balanced Major partner museum portfolio and meet the priorities of the programme. In doing this, the areas we will consider are as follows:

  • leadership: to maximise the cultural, social and economic impact of regional museums there must be a strong and diverse leadership within the sector. We expect Major partner museums to show leadership beyond the individual museum. We will prioritise applications that show clear plans for wide reaching, empowering and inclusive leadership.
  • resilience: we will give added consideration to applications that show an imaginative, innovative and adaptable organisation – particularly where there is evidence of the potential for a step change in this area.
  • geographical spread: we will take into account the need to support work by a national portfolio of funded organisations across the whole of England. However, we will consider how some organisations work intensively within their home region and some have a reach and impact far beyond their home region. Some will tour widely. We will take into account the potential reach of the portfolio as a whole and we are particularly interested in how organisations plan to reach places of current low arts engagement.
  • risk: we will take into account the level of financial risk to our investment across the portfolio of museums.

These balancing criteria provide a framework against which we will make an informed but discretionary judgment about how each organisation might contribute to the overall programme. There may be applications that are strong in the first stage of assessment but are not funded because we do not think that they fit into this overall national picture.