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What is your investment strategy?

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[Editor’s note: this post was written by Brian Ashley, Director of Libraries, Arts Council England]

The recent Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Fund showed that library services have an appetite for developing new ways to address the disadvantage experienced in their communities. So, are there other ways to make this possible?

In the past. applying for money from somewhere else tended to be the icing on the cake and was seen as a chance to experiment. We know from other countries that dynamic, responsive programmes of activity are one way to increase visitors and book borrowing. In this, as with everything else, it pays to take a strategic approach.

Finding the time to apply can be a challenge, but making it part of ‘business as usual’ will help to build your capacity, experience and success in applying for further investment. Getting it right requires a clear sense of what you want to achieve. Don’t see it as a distraction but as a means to achieving your wider goals.

Build a positive relationship with potential investors. They will have more than one option for where to invest their resources - you have to convince them that you're the best option. Your first application may not come off but don’t give up; treat an unsuccessful application as a learning experience to help you get the next one right.

All of which applies to the Arts Council too.

We have three strands to our Investment Strategy. Our 2018-22 National Portfolio will be announced by the beginning of July, and we hope libraries will benefit for the first time from investment in a four year programme of activity that meets our goals.

Grants for the Arts is our rolling project funding programme and there is one more year of £2 million ring-fenced support for applications from library services. From April 2018, it will be integrated in our new Grants for the Arts and Culture programme.

Our Strategic Funds are tailored in response to particular challenges and opportunities. They tend to be highly competitive and only proposals which strongly meet the criteria for the programme are successful. Some library services are showing how they make it work for them. Here are two recent examples:

  • Libraries Unlimited has secured one of our Research Grants to work with partners to investigate the social value libraries create, how they do this, and how they connect social value to financial value.
  • Musical Rumpus was an innovative early year’s opera project by Spitalfields Music, funded by Strategic Touring, and reaching nearly 3,000 toddlers and their parents in their own communities. By marrying high quality artistic aims with support for more young families to engage with their local libraries, the libraries stimulated more awareness of the range of other services on offer.
A Musical Rumpus. Photo © Spitalfields Music
A Musical Rumpus. Photo © Spitalfields Music

Coming up soon is the next round of Catalyst investment which supports organisations in diversifying their sources of income. For the first time, libraries will be able to apply for Catalyst funding, but making it work for you requires careful thought.

To find out more sign up for our e-newsletter which gives details about forthcoming programmes or go to our Funding Finder. Take time to read the programme guidance and consider how it matches your ambitions. Contact your Relationship Manager to discuss whether it is the right programme for you. Is now the time to re-think your investment strategy?

Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce.

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