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Types of funding

Overview

You can reduce your funding uncertainty by diversifying your income streams. Museums have always been funded in different ways. Seeking to reduce their reliance on one source of income, museums are more likely to be funded by small sums from a range of sources. These range from admission charges to grants and investment income. 

A diverse mix of funding sources is likely to include several of the following:

Income generation

Generally covering core running costs 

  • Admission charges – potentially the highest proportion of your income 
  • Café – either your own, or one operated on your site by someone else 
  • Products – exhibition merchandise, special events (museum lates, behind the scenes tours)  or reproduction licences 
  • Retail sales – from your shop, the sale of reproductions or research fees 
  • Learning sessions – charges for school sessions or other activities 
  • Venue hire and hospitality – meeting rooms, weddings or events 
  • Delivery contracts – delivering services for another organisation

Income generation which aligns well with your organisation’s mission and strengths has a greater chance of success.

Grants

Usually one-off project and development costs and usually restricted though some do cover ongoing running costs. Learn more about finding and applying for grants.

Individual and corporate fundraising

  • Fundraising events – coffee mornings, sponsored activities 
  • Gifts and donations – traditional donation boxes, bequests, regular giving, online giving and crowd-funding 
  • Membership schemes – annual payment for benefits such as reduced admission 
  • Sponsorship – perhaps from local businesses

Investments

  • Interest from your reserves
  • Increased value of assets, such as your building

Things to remember

  • Your trading activity may be restricted by your governing model and in some cases you may need to establish a separate trading company.
  • You should identify all the costs associated with an income stream – it may cost you more than it can generate and you should focus on areas that offer the best return for your investment of resources.
  • A higher proportion of unrestricted income will help you to be more flexible, don’t focus too heavily on bringing in restricted income.
  • There are ways to maximise your income, for example through Gift Aid. Funding is about building and maintaining long-term effective relationships.
  • Involve everyone – donations and sales come from building relationships with visitors and supporters. All staff and volunteers can champion the museum and its benefits
  • Trustees – should have a role in fundraising.

Legal requirements and standards

Scottish Charity Law in Relation to Fundraising and Public Charitable Collections

Institute of Fundraising Code of Fundraising Practice

Learn more

Association of Independent Museums (AIM) success guides:

Resourcing Scotland's Heritage resources

UK Government's advice on claiming gift aid as a charity

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) fundraising guide

National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO): Sustainable funding

Arts and Business Scotland fundraising advice