The following are frequently asked questions on the National portfolio 2015-18 application process, along with specific FAQs on Bridge organisation applications.

FAQs: National portfolio 2015-18

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What is the timeline? Is the process the same for everyone who applies?

The timeline is a 10-week window for the submission of applications. This starts on 12 noon on 7 January when the guidance is live and the application portal is open. 

All applications must be submitted by 12 noon 17 March.

We will tell you by 1 July 2014 whether you have been successful and how much funding we are offering for 2015-2016, with an indicative amount for the 2016-2018 funding period pending confirmation of our settlement from government.

We appreciate that some applicants may find the 10-week application window challenging so we have tried very hard to ensure that the application form is concise and user-friendly.

Every organisation, no matter now big or small, will need to complete the same application form and be assessed according to the same criteria. 

What information and evidence should applications include?

The principle focus of your application should be to demonstrate that your planned activities will contribute to Arts Council England’s strategic framework, Great art and culture for everyone over the period 2015-2018. Please read the guidance for applicants as this includes the full details of how applicants can show that they will contribute to the Arts Council’s goals. 

How will the funding work from the Government settlement?

The climate for central government funding will remain tight. Our planning model is currently for a 6% cut in real terms (4% cash) to our 2015/16 Grant in aid budget, and then standstill funding for the following two years. We do not have a settlement ourselves for 2016/17 or 2017/18, and are making a provisional presumption of standstill funding for those years.

Organisations that currently receive National portfolio funding and that wish to apply to the National portfolio for 2015-2018 should be aware that they are most unlikely to receive more than their grant for 2014/15, after the reduction of 1.17 per cent announced in the Autumn Statement has been applied. We are communicating revised budgets for 2014/15 in January 2014. 

Should we apply for increased funding?

In this challenging economic context we don’t want to fund organisations to fail.  However it is likely that some organisations will receive less than at present, a few may receive more, while others may leave the portfolio or join for the first time.     

We will consider increases in funding only in exceptional circumstances; we would need to see evidence of increased ambition and also evidence that the extra funding will leverage partnership funding or additional investment from another source. This means showing what the predicted activity and outcomes will be against funding at current levels, and then showing what the predicted activity and outcomes will be against increased levels of funding (if that has been requested).

Applicants applying for more than they receive in their revised 2014/15 budget, must, make sure their plans are scalable so that we can see what the impact of different levels of funding will be. While there is little point applying for an increase if your application does not contain evidence of these two elements, we will not penalise or mark down any applications that request increased amounts – this won’t be an assessment criteria. 

Can my organisation apply as part of a consortium?

We will accept applications for funding from organisations working as a consortium. One organisation must act as the lead organisation and submit the application. All partners within the consortium must show a firm commitment to joint working. 

How will we be assessed as a consortium?

Your application must show the benefits and rationale of working as a consortium.

The lead organisation will be solely accountable for managing the application and any grant that is awarded. When making a decision on your application, we will take into account the governance, management and financial management and viability of partner organisations, as well as the lead organisation. If you are successful, we will need to approve your written agreement with your partners before you get it signed.

Does my organisation have to provide a leadership role within the National portfolio?

We want all organisations in the National portfolio to be role models, at a local, regional or national level, in their artistic and organisational practices. We will have greater leadership expectations of those organisations with the largest turnovers, or those in receipt of the largest amounts of public funding. You can read more about our current expectations of National portfolio organisations here.

How are you addressing regional and national funding?

Arts Council England’s remit is to support great art and culture for everyone. There are challenges in achieving our ambition – in reaching all parts of the country, rural and urban, cities and the suburbs and in reaching people from many different communities. To do this well, we need a strong and nationally connected arts infrastructure in our capital city as much as we need an equally strong and vibrant arts infrastructure in the regions. National Council have decided that the whole pot of money allocated to London-based organisations will not be any larger, in relative terms, than it is at present.

We know that, particularly in terms of fundraising and local government support, it is very tough outside London and we have for some time been targeting our strategic Lottery funds to address this – for example through Catalyst, through Creative People and Places and through Strategic Touring. Our analysis indicates that for the last three years our total strategic funds have been split about 70/30 in favour of the regions.  

What should we apply for if we are delivering service, umbrella and networking (SUN) activity?

Organisations that deliver SUN activity will apply for funding along with other prospective National portfolio organisations. We expect all organisations that deliver SUN activity to demonstrate how they will contribute to goals 1 and 2, and goal 5 if appropriate. This SUN activity may include providing specialist advice or information; advocacy and professional representation; professional development; training; funding; communications networks; providing focal points for link between other organisations or individuals. 

How important is the international element for National portfolio organisations, how many actual schemes are there going to be and what will they cover?

International working is very important to the resilience of the portfolio. As part of the application process against Goal 1 we are interested in how both National portfolio organisations and Major partner museums seek to export work internationally and appeal to visitors from around the world, if appropriate to your organisation or consortia. Further programmes of international activity are likely to be announced in 2014.

Do all NPOs have to contribute to Goal 5? (Children and young people)

Goals 1 and 2 express the core of our mission; we want excellent culture to thrive, and we want as many people as possible to engage with it. All National portfolio organisations should show us how they will contribute to goals 1 and 2. We also expect a significant proportion of National portfolio organisations to contribute to goal 5. We don’t say that all National portfolio organisations must contribute to Goal 5.

Will organisations that contribute to Goal 5 have a better chance of success?

We will look across the National portfolio of organisations and consider how the overall portfolio is contributing to goals 1, 2 and 5, as set out in section four, alongside our other investment in the arts. The applicant guidance doesn’t say that organisations that contribute to Goal 5 will be higher priority, applicants should not worry about that. 

Do all organisations have to deliver against everything as set out against goal 2 in the guidance (points ‘a’ to ‘f’ on page 23)?

We are asking all applicants to consider all  the prompts in the guidance as you write your application. It is possible that you will be able to provide a reasonable rationale as to why you are prioritising some outcomes over others during the 3 year funding period. For instance:

  1. - a museum that currently has high visitor numbers may choose to focus on increasing depth and quality of experience or on increasing digital over physical reach
  2. - you may be an arts centre that already reaches an audience which is representative of the local community and for you getting more high income customers may be a key priority
  3. - some organisations are particularly effective at reaching people who may not traditionally engage in arts and culture. We are looking to support a balanced portfolio of organisations to help us achieve the outcomes described in our 10 year strategy.

Where we reference an approach to audience development for arts and culture as a whole (under f) what do we mean by this for smaller organisations or organisations with a focus on a single art form?

We are asking all funded organisations to play a role in supporting the public to be aware of and engage in the widest range of arts and cultural experiences. Arts and cultural organisations are rarely in competition with each other, whilst they are likely to be competing with the wider leisure industry for people’s time and money. Collaborative approaches to promoting and demystifying arts and culture are likely to result in larger audiences for the sector.

We are interested in your planed involvement with any local or national or local collaborations that seek to develop larger, more diverse or more informed audiences for arts and culture as a whole.

Do we have a defined way we would like organisations to develop 'shared approaches to capture, sharing and reporting of data', and can we give an example of what we mean by this?

We are asking all funded organisations to commit to industry best practice approach to collection and use of data. An example of this can be found at Audience Finder: audiencefinder.org

What if organisations wish to be considered for dual National portfolio organisation/Major partner museum status – will they submit one or two applications?

Yes, applicants must submit two separate applications. There are distinct eligibility criteria and application guidance for Major partner museums and National portfolio organisationsThe timescale for both applications is the same. 

How does the Arts Council define an area or place of low engagement?

At an area level, The Taking Part data provides insight into regions with relatively high and low engagement levels. More information about this can be found here. The Active People summary survey is helpful at providing data at a local authority level. More information about this can be found here. Although the arts survey summary data was compiled several years ago, we are confident that it is a helpful way of understanding which places are likely to be towards the top, middle or bottom of arts engagement levels when viewed nationally. The Arts Council’s Arts Audiences Insight segmentation can help to describe the likely profile of people living in a place.

The CASE Local culture and Heritage Profile Tool can be used to predict the likely profile of communities in a place. Applicants may make reference to other research or data sets where these are available. For instance, some local authorities may have conducted research into levels of attendance or participation by ward.  

What criteria have you used for organisations receiving Lottery money in the National portfolio?

National Lottery money has been used to fund touring and activity with children and young people within the National portfolio since 2012.

The Arts Council is continuing this principle and National portfolio organisations funded wholly through Lottery in 2015-18 will be those whose programmes include a significant element of touring or specific types of organisations working with children and young people.

Since 2010, we’ve had a reduction to Grant in aid of 36%, and at this level we’d only be able to support a National portfolio of around 250-300 organisations. Using National Lottery money will allow an additional number of organisations to join the portfolio.  

Will you have different expectations of a National portfolio organisation depending on whether they are being funded via Lottery or Grant in Aid?

All organisations in the portfolio have gone through the same process, and will have exactly the same relationship with the Arts Council regardless of whether they’re funded by National Lottery or by Grant in Aid. 

If we were faced with further in year cuts that we had to apply to National portfolio organisations, we’d apply that cut to all our National portfolio organisations (and Major partner museums) regardless of their source of funding. 

FAQs: Bridge organisations 2015-18

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What is a Bridge organisation?

To help us achieve goal 5 and ensure that every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts and culture, we will fund a small network of 'Bridge' organisations.

The Bridge role can be effectively undertaken by a museum, an arts organisation or an arts education focused organisation.

Bridge organisations are primarily facilitators and are not expected to directly deliver arts and cultural opportunities for children and young people, although an organisation may undertake wider education and learning work through its core business.

How should I apply for funding as a bridge?

You may wish to apply for funding to support both a delivery role as a National portfolio organisation or Major partner museum, and a partnership brokerage role as a Bridge. If so, you should use the National portfolio organisation application form to apply for National portfolio organisation funding, or the Major partner museum application form to apply for Major partner museum funding, plus a separate Bridge application form for Bridge funding. See the bridge annex in the National portfolio organisation guidance for full details.

Will Bridges be NPOs?

Yes, Bridges can be National portfolio organisations or Major partner museums.

I am thinking about applying to be a bridge, do I need a preliminary conversation with anyone at the Arts Council?

All applicants for the Bridge role are required to have a preliminary conversation with the Area Senior Relationship Manager lead for Children and Young People.

When do preliminary conversations take place?

This can take place from 7 January 2013 and up until 17 March 2013 when the application portal closes. Clearly it would be appropriate to have the conversation sooner rather than later so there is more time for it to inform your application. This is a single conversation and not a series of conversations.

Who do we contact to arrange our preliminary conversation?

You should contact the Senior Relationship Manager with an overview of Children, young people and learning in the area you are applying to cover. Their details can be found on our website and via our enquiries team on 0845 300 6200.

What is the purpose of a preliminary conversation?

The preliminary conversation is an opportunity for us to ensure applicants understand what is expected of Bridge organisations and clarify any queries.

What will a preliminary conversation cover?

The conversation will include the geographical area you want to cover, the type of activity you expect to undertake, any partnerships or delivery models you are exploring, along with a bit of background about your organisation. We would also expect to touch on the budget or amount of money you are hoping to apply for. It is also a chance to clarify the expectations of a Bridge organisation and be sure that this is the right application for you. Arts Council England will not be telling organisations what they should put in their application – that will be up to the applicant.

How much can we apply for?

The minimum you can apply for is £500K per year and we do not anticipate awarding any amounts that equate to more than we currently fund for Bridges in any geographic Area per year. Applicants who currently receive funding from us should read the guidance notes under ‘How much you can apply for’. Even if you are successful – you may not get as much as you ask for.

Can we apply to cover more than one region or area?

Applicants may apply to cover one region or a wider area as long as they can deliver against the requirements as set out in the Bridge guidance. We would of course need to be convinced of the capacity and connectivity of any organisation that applies to take on a larger area. 

Can we apply to cover a smaller area or only some aspects of the Bridge role?

You cannot apply for less than £500K so although it is possible to apply to cover a smaller area this may raise questions for us in terms of value for money. We would also need to be convinced of connectivity and strategic influence. In terms of making the most of our resources to ensure the best outcomes for children and young people we think it is unlikely we would fund a Bridge to cover an area smaller than a region. However, you may want to discuss with partners how you might add value to another Bridge application.

Can we apply as a consortium?

It is possible to apply as a consortium as long as you can demonstrate delivery against our goals and the aims of the Bridge programme. A single organisation would need to be the accountable lead for any grant.

Consortia should demonstrate:

  • 1. Likely effectiveness of your consortium structure                                                  
  • 2. Clarity of the role of the lead organisation
  • 3. Effective collective decision making and communication processes
  • 4. Appropriate levels of shared responsibility
  • 5. Speed of responsiveness (what measures are in place to ensure quick and effective decision making if necessary, with consensus from all bodies involved?)
  • 6. Planned split of activity
  • 7. Clear responsibility for the consolidation of reporting information and reporting arrangements
  • 8. Appropriateness of the skillset of the board/advisory committee
  • 9. History of consortia (including length of time as consortia and previous projects) and likely ability to produce successful outcomes

We want to apply as an Associate Bridge – is this possible?

The guidance around consortiums and geographical coverage would apply in this case. This may mean it is unlikely we would directly fund an Associate Bridge.

What age groups are included when you refer to children and young people?

The age range for children and young people is from 0-19.

The application process asks for budgets for each consortium organisation for the three years 2015-18. Should those budgets be based on a successful bridge application? Does the Arts Council want to see how Bridge funding fits into other trading activity?

Yes they should, we want to see what they will do with our money if they are successful and we will be making an assessment of the organisations overall financial viability. However, it must be made clear this presents no commitment on our part to fund an application. 

Will Bridges be able to apply for Grants for the arts or Strategic funds?

Bridges may be eligible to apply for funds from the various strategic programmes that we may develop over the 2015-18 period but Bridges will not be eligible to apply to Grants for the arts. Bridges can be part of an artist or partnership led Grants for the arts application (though not as a lead applicant) where activity is clearly demonstrated as additional to their Bridge funding agreement. Current Bridges that are either unsuccessful in applying for funding or decide not apply, can after the 1 July 2014 apply to Grants for the arts for activity that takes place no earlier than 1 April 2015.