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Matched crowdfunding for the arts and heritage sectors

As crowdfunding in the UK continues to grow, it is also becoming an increasingly important source of finance for arts and heritage projects. As a result local authorities, institutions, public bodies and foundations have begun to explore what this new form of finance means for the people and organisations they are supporting and how they can work with the crowd on identifying and funding worthy projects.

However, none of the matched funds to date have had a dedicated focus on arts or heritage projects. Linked to this, there has been little research done on the real impact of matched crowdfunding, such as whether or not it has the opportunity to generate more funding for the arts and heritage sector or increase awareness and public participation in supporting and initiating projects.

We’re therefore delighted to launch a matched crowdfunding pilot aimed squarely at the arts and heritage sectors. The pilot will provide two streams of £125,000 in matchfunding to arts and heritage projects that have received backing from the crowd. Nesta is developing the pilot in partnership with Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Crowdfunder will develop the matched crowdfunding platform for the pilot.

Programme design

The pilot includes two separate funding streams of £125,000.  

These are outlined as follows:

  1. Arts Council England Matchfund: This fund will provide £125,000 to match crowdfunding campaigns by individual artists and arts organisations with incomes less than £200,000 based in England that are both eligible for the fund and meet a set of guidelines for what is within scope - set by Arts Council England.

  1. Heritage Lottery Matchfund. This fund will provide £125,000 to match crowdfunding campaigns by heritage organisations in the UK that are both eligible and are approved by HLF’s regional teams.

Types of match funding available

This blog describes the different types of match funding and why they are of interest. We’re now keen to put some data behind the theory and test which models are best suited to fund arts and heritage projects, and will be testing two different types of match funding through the fund. These are:

  • A top up model where 25% of match funding is released once a project has managed to achieve 75% of its funding target.

  • A bridge model when projects crowdfund up to 25% and then ‘bridge’ funding is released which brings them to 50%. The funding is then conditional on the project going on to reach the final 50%.

Why are we running this pilot?

The recent surge in the number of match funding programmes, both in Britain and worldwide, have seen grant-makers and institutions engage in a number of different ways to co-fund projects with the crowd. However, there is little systematic evidence of ‘what works’ in this space - beyond information and research performed by the crowdfunding platforms themselves. Through this pilot we hope to:

  • Help the crowd to fund a range of impactful and high-quality projects within the arts and heritage sectors - and evaluate these projects in comparison to conventional grant funding streams (such as HLF’s ‘Sharing Heritage’ Fund and ACE’s Grants for the Arts funds.

  • Examine whether match funding can help stretch public funding to create a larger economic impact. For example, Crowdfunder worked with Plymouth City Council to distribute £60,000 in funding - in a campaign that ultimately led to £400,000 being raised in total for projects. Through the involvement of large national funders in the arts and heritage space can we encourage a similar dynamic?

  • Beyond finance, what are the impacts (both positive and negative) of taking part in crowdfunding campaigns - does it open access to networks, skills and volunteer work from the crowd itself?

  • What are the effects of the different match funding mechanisms (in this instance, bridge and top-up funding) and what happens to projects that are not approved for match funding through the programme?

Alongside this, the pilot will also look to develop process-based evidence and insight for funders on the most effective ways to partner with crowdfunding platforms, so that as more evidence emerges on their impact there is potential to upscale activity in this area.

If you are an individual artist or heritage organisation with an idea for a crowdfunding project, head over to the arts campaign or heritage campaign to find out more and apply.


Peter Baeck

Peter Baeck

Peter Baeck

Director of the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

Peter leads work that explores how combining human and machine intelligence can develop innovative solutions to social challenges.

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Sam Mitchell

Sam Mitchell

Sam Mitchell

Programme Manager, Digital Arts & Media

Sam Mitchell was a Programme Manager in the Digital Arts & Media team at Nesta

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