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How to get funding for your digitisation project

The British Library sets out five ways to advance funding for archive digitisation projects.

Are you looking for funding to digitise your archives? This can seem like one of the biggest hurdles to navigate on your digitisation journey, but can be made easier by following these top tips from the British Library.

The British Library Digitisation team have helped many clients understand where to start in their quest for funding. Together with colleagues from the Library’s development team, they have put together their top five tips to help you secure external funding for your digitisation project.

1. Write a compelling case

Summarise. Clarity and brevity are key. Top and tail ‘the details’ with a top-line summary that can be understood immediately. Test it out with colleagues, ask them: does this provide a clear snapshot?

“It’s important that your proposal can be summed up clearly and concisely in a few sentences. The longer narrative is of course crucial too, but if a busy grant-maker, reading vast numbers of applications, can’t get a sense of your project in the first few minutes then they’re unlikely to make it to your detailed explanation. Having a clear headline will also help to focus your application as you write.” Isobel Shipp, Trusts and Foundations Manager, British Library

Shape your application according to the funder’s guidelines or known interests – what are they looking for? There is no one-size fits-all bid, make sure you draw out the elements that your funder is looking for, such as the need (demand) you’re addressing, why you are best placed to address it, how you will do so and how you will measure your success.

“Funders have their own strategic priorities, so it’s important to see how your project overlaps with or meets these. Tailoring your application will show your funder that you want your relationship to be mutually beneficial, not just transactional; a real partnership. Giving your funder a greater sense of investment in your project can also help to foster long-term giving.” Isobel Shipp, Trusts and Foundations Manager, British Library

Include clear project aims. As well has hard (measurable) outcomes, eg. this project will reach xx people in xx regions, funders will also be looking for less tangible soft outcomes and impact.

2. Give examples: who will benefit and how it will make a difference

Demonstrate how you will engage audiences with your project with a clear marketing plan and how they will benefit from participating.

Can you embed your digitisation project into a wider organisational project eg. with learning or engagement objectives?

Consider the wider reach and opportunities provided by opening up access to your archive to international audiences.

3. Calculate a cost that is as accurate as possible

Funders will expect a clear budget and an indication of how you will meet the costs. In a competitive market, funders will also expect to see value for money – this is where you can emphasise the impact of your project and demonstrate how it will fulfil your strategic objectives. You will need to identify which areas of the project cost require funding. Be mindful of match-funding and the funder’s exclusivity requirements. Contact the British Library Digitisation Services team for advice on how to estimate the cost of your digitisation project.

4. Research what funding is available

Does your organisation have access to the FundsOnline directory or existing donor relationships to draw on? The Charity Commission is also a useful resource for a general overview of trusts and foundations. Know your niche in the market – find out what other similar projects have been funded by talking to peers or reviewing competitors’ websites.

5. Involve your development and marketing teams

If you have development and marketing teams in your organisation, involve them in your funding bids. Fundraising staff have essential knowledge on the funding landscape. They will have crucial tips for writing bid applications and can advise on what’s missing and how a funder is likely to respond. Experienced marketers can help you identify your target audiences and shape a marketing strategy to ensure you reach them, which most funders will expect to see in your bid.

British Library Digitisation Services can provide you with information to support your funding bid. Get in touch by email at [email protected].