Helen Martinez

Get fit for fundraising

Helen Martinez , 24.08.2015
A small museum with big ideas
As a small museum with big ideas, the Erewash Museum in Derbyshire has spent the past few years applying for grant funding for various projects to enable us to improve the museum and our visitor experience.  

We have worked on small projects with Museum Development East Midlands to enhance our engagement work, and more recently have obtained significant funding from Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). These projects have led to a step change in the way the museum operates and have enabled us to improve our collections storage, provide temporary exhibitions around the borough of Erewash and increase our volunteer numbers.  

The HLF project will redevelop an area of the museum into a learning and visitor centre, enabling our visitors to learn about the history of the building, a late Georgian house, and the people who lived here in the past. The funding has also allowed us to employ additional staff to provide a programme of events, exhibitions, volunteer programmes and activities.  

One of the key success factors in our securing the funding was our strong relationship with the Friends of Erewash Museum, who help provide additional fundraising streams and are always very receptive to our ideas for change.

The Friends also played a key role in helping us match fund the HLF grant. We involved the group from the early stages of our application and always took their views on board.  

One of the most useful things for us when we were putting the grant application together was to call on our peer museums for help. Obtaining large amounts of grant funding is challenging and the process can be daunting.

Mansfield Museum was particularly helpful when we were writing our HLF application; as a similar-sized local authority museum service, it was able to relate to a lot of the challenges we faced.

Our experiences have shown us that it’s important to understand exactly what you want your project to do and achieve before you approach funders. They will expect you to be able to make the case to them in terms of what the outcomes will be.

It’s worth talking it through with as many people as you can to ensure you are in a position to be able to do that.

Working together as a team is vital, particularly in a small organisation. We have a very dedicated, enthusiastic team who are all committed to making our funded projects a success, and I feel that has been the main contributing factor in getting us to the position we are in now.

Helen Martinez is the museum service manager of the Erewash Museum in Derbyshire. She will co-present an MP workshop on fundraising at the Museums Association Conference & Exhibition in Birmingham on the 5-6 November.