Category: AIM

AIM Sustainability Grant Scheme

Closing date: Monday 15th January

The AIM Sustainability Grant Scheme, supported through the generosity of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, is intended to help medium and smaller sized AIM members to improve their medium and long term sustainability. To be eligible, museums must have an annual turnover of less than £300,000 or fewer than 50,000 visitors a year.

The scheme will come to an end in early 2018 – so this is the last chance that AIM members can apply. Funding is aimed at projects that explore increased and/or diversified income streams and/or develop organisational resilience. Examples of the type of project that AIM would be keen to fund can be found on the main grants page here.

Find out more and take a look at a case study from AIM members, The Grantown Museum, to see how an AIM Sustainability Grant supported them at:


AIM Launches New Success Guide On The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Museums and other cultural organisations that want to understand how they should be responding to current and forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can now benefit from a free Success Guide from AIM called Successfully Managing Privacy And Data Regulations In Small Museums.

The new AIM publication has not been created as a guide to everything in the Data Protection Act (DPA) – or the impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – but focuses instead on the most important areas for action now. The GDPR applies to the whole UK, so this guide is suitable for all AIM members and other heritage sector organisations across the UK. You can directly download it from here: Success Guide On The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

AIM Grant Schemes

Deadline: Various – see below

AIM administers grants for museums to help AIM members with a variety of needs including training, conservation, development and exhibitions. There are different eligibility criteria and closing dates for each grant scheme, so please check each grant programme for further information about how to apply and the priorities for funding for each scheme.

Discuss your ideas with us

We recommend that you contact us to discuss your project before applying, so we can help you ensure your application fits the scheme you intend to apply to.

Please contact Helen Wilkinson, Assistant Director for Hallmarks Awards –

For all other Grant Schemes contact Justeen Stone, Grants & Finance Officer –

Current AIM Grant Deadlines 2017

  • Conservation Scheme –  30 September
  • Collection Care Audit Scheme For Smaller Museums – 30 September
  • Preventive Conservation Scheme –30 September
  • AIM Training Grants – accepted on a rolling basis.
  • AIM Biffa Award History Makers – October 31
  • For more information click here.

Helping Museum Trustees To Get Ahead: Free AIM Hallmarks Governance Sessions

The Association for Independent Museums (AIM) has announced a new series of free AIM Hallmarks Governance Sessions for heritage trustees that will run from September 2017 to the end of January 2018.

These free sessions will inspire and revitalise the way you work by offering fresh thinking and the opportunity to reflect and share experiences with a mutually supportive peer network – no matter what your background, these sessions will help you to gain confidence in your role as trustee.

Organised in partnership with Museum Development colleagues and supported by Arts Council England and Development Partners, they are aimed at strengthening and developing the skills and knowledge heritage trustees need to enable their organisations to prosper.

These free sessions will inspire and revitalise the way you work by offering fresh thinking and the opportunity to reflect and share experiences with a mutually supportive peer network – no matter what your background, these sessions will help you to gain confidence in your role as a trustee.

For the full programme of sessions around the country, see

In the North West:

Review And Recruitment For Your Board – led by Alex Lindley
18th January 2018, 11am-3.30pm
Lancashire Conservation Studios, Preston

Getting the right people on your board can be a challenge for many small- and medium-sized museums and charities. This seminar will help you face that challenge, to ensure you have the right people on your board now and in the future.

You’ll come away with strategic tools for reviewing how your board works and the skills your board needs, as well as practical advice for how to manage succession planning and recruit trustees successfully.

You’ll also have the opportunity to work with trustees from other organisations to discuss common problems and share good practice.

Led by Alex Lindley: Alex Lindley runs Alchemy, an independent Human Resources (HR) and Organisational Development consultancy, specialising in providing services to organisations in the cultural and not-for-profit sectors.

Book a place here –

AIM high – useful facts from the AIM conference

Last month the MDNW team were at the Association of Independent Museums and Museum Development Network conferences which were both packed full of information. Here’s our pick of practical tips, facts and news we think you’ll find useful – note some important dates coming up.

Business rates
The recent court ruling in which York Museum Trust (YMT) appealed against its business rates valuation could have implications for more than 700 other museums in the UK which are currently valued in the same way, but any appeals have to be made before 1st October 2017.

The ruling was about two issues – how museum buildings are valued, and whether the trading activities of museums should be valued separately.

In setting business rates, there usually isn’t a comparable rent for museum buildings so the Valuation Office chooses which of two methods to apply. The contractors’ method tends to result in higher rates than the receipts and expenditure method; it was the fairness of the method chosen that YMT successfully challenged.

Some museums and galleries may currently get 100% rate relief (comprised of 80% mandatory relief for registered charities and 20% discretionary relief) but the national trend seems to be for the 20% discretionary relief to be withdrawn by local authorities – so museums currently with 100% relief should consider their rateable value now for when or if they have to pay in the future. For further explanation of why, please see here –

For the trading activities judgement, the Valuation Office had to prove that the shop spaces within YMT premises were distinct spaces i.e. able to be separated and closed off from the museum spaces, to be able to regard them as liable for business rates.

This is a very basic explanation of a complex issue, and if museums are to challenge their ruling they must also be aware that a review could result in higher rates as well as lower.

For up to date advice on business rates, AIM members can contact Colin Hunter, a Director of Lambert Smith Hampton, who has been working with AIM and some of its members for the last 10 years. Colin has offered to give any AIM member who contacts him 15 minutes consultation, at no fee with no strings attached, so please call 0113 245 8454 or email for advice. Alternatively, contact Michael Turnpenny, Museum Development Yorkshire,

AIM have also produced a Success Guide on Business Rates –

General data protection regulations
The new general data protection regulations will come into force on 25th May 2018. These govern how organisations collect and use data and will affect all museums, regardless of their size, type of governance or staffed/volunteer-led. Museums should start planning now if they are to get the necessary processes in place for the changes that will take place next May.

The regulations apply to historical data so if you hold, for example, a database of contacts that you use to send marketing material, and you don’t have a record that people on it have actively given their consent to be included on the database, then before May 2018 you will have to retrospectively seek this permission.

AIM are currently producing guidance around data protection to take into account the legislative changes, but to summarise:

  • consent needs to be pro-active, so museums will need opt-in systems of collecting personal data rather than opt-out systems
  • needs to be specific, informed and unambiguous – you must be clear for what purpose you are collecting data
  • your record keeping must be detailed enough to record not just that consent has been given, but also what level of consent, how and when
  • there are different levels of consent required for different levels of activity e.g. if you take an email or postal address to confirm a booking for an event this is considered a necessary function for service delivery, but to add those details to a marketing database requires specific consent for that purpose
  • there is “legitimate interest”, a balancing act between the rights of the individual and the legitimate interest of the organisation, which applies in some circumstances to allow personal data to be used for e.g. marketing purposes

What do museums need in place for May 2018?
Think of it as the data equivalent of a documentation backlog. You don’t need to have completed the work by 2018 but you need a policy and timetable in place and to have started on it:

  • identify a compliance lead within the organisation and raise awareness
  • ensure you are aware of the guidelines which will be issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office
  • carry out a mini audit of personal data you hold and use, and why
  • get policy and privacy statement in place by May 2018
  • have knowledge of what, where, why you collect – get future processes right
  • have started retrospective consent permission

See and for further information. MDNW will also be running a workshop on data protection on 18th October, further details will be announced on our blog shortly.

Big Thank you campaign
The National Lottery will be launching a national “Big Thank You” campaign in December 2017. It will run for four weeks and will cover, week by week, arts, communities, sport and heritage.

As part of the HLF’s work on their new strategic framework they have spoken directly to lottery players, who approve the breadth and depth of projects the HLF fund, and have also shown that there is a desire to use heritage to address societal problems such as isolation, mental health and housing issues. But there can also be a disconnect between lottery players and the projects the HLF has funded; lottery players don’t always see where the funding from the lottery goes to or the value it brings. The National Lottery’s research has shown that a higher awareness of good causes leads to more positive feelings about the lottery by players – and the more they play. A case study at the AIM conference by Gainsborough’s House, in which they gave free entry to lottery players on certain days, which led to an increase in visitor numbers (and especially first time visitors), demonstrated that this link between lottery players and heritage can be strengthened.

The National Lottery are encouraging museums to take part in the campaign in December; museums could, for example, give free entry for lottery players, or a discount in the shop.

To register interest or if you have any questions, email


AIM Biffa Award Announce New Round Of ‘History Makers’ Funding

AIM Biffa Award have just launched the second round of funding to be released through the ‘History Makers – People who shaped our world’ programme.

Funded by Biffa Award with support from the Landfill Communities Fund, the programme will provide AIM member museums and heritage sites with grants of up to £75,000.

This round of funding will support the creation of new exhibitions which will enable the public to learn about and be inspired by the lives and achievements of extraordinary, historical figures who have made a significant impact on the industrial, scientific, commercial or social history of the UK, shaping the world we live in today. Successful applicants will contribute to a ‘virtual trail’ linking the projects and making them accessible to people across the UK.

The programme is open to AIM members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose sites are in geographic proximity to Biffa operations and licensed landfill sites, as required by the Landfill Communities Fund. An expression of interest form of no more than 200 words must be submitted as soon as possible and no later than 2 October 2017 for panel review. The final deadline for full applications is 31 October. 2017.

Successful applicants will be required to complete their projects by April 2019 and to create a strong marketing plan to promote their projects and funding locally and nationally. Full information on how to apply is available at: AIM Biffa Award History Makers Programme

Kat Tudor, Community Learning & Volunteer Officer at the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust, who were successful in Round 1 said:

“We applied for the AIM Biffa Award History Makers Grant because we had two prominent engineers that were under represented in our Visitor Centre here at the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Through the AIM Biffa Award History Makers grant, we will now be able to give our visitors a better understanding of the history of the bridge, the engineers behind it and present new objects from our collection. The additional information will not only be displayed on interpretation boards, but will support a new interactive which will be a great tool for education workshops. We would encourage anybody who has a history maker that they feel is under represented to apply for the grant, as it is a great opportunity to tell their story!”

 Key Dates For Applicants
2 Oct 2017 Expression of Interest (EOI) deadline – but the sooner the better
31 Oct 2017 Application Deadline
Jan 2018 Application results and conditional offers made
Mar 2018 Terms of conditional offer met
April 2018 Formal offer and project start
April 2019 Project completion

The assessment panel is chaired by Bill Ferris OBE DL, Chief Executive of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust and includes members of AIM Council and independent experts from the museum community, including Diane Lees CBE, Director General of Imperial War Museums.

For further information please see the AIM website at AIM Biffa Award History Makers Programme

Conference Report: AIM 2017

The AIM conference was at Chatham Historic Dockyard this year, and it was remarkable for the sheer diversity of the participating organisations. 

The venue itself is likely to be one of the bigger independents, and a comparison with my own organisation (Catalyst in Widnes) by dint of simply looking at our respective reports reveals some significant and interesting differences.

In terms of visitor figures Chatham has about 180k pa vs our own 40k, but apart from the huge difference in size of the site, and the interesting combination of types of attraction at Chatham, then the most significant statistic was the significant amount of income that they are able to realise from their property portfolio, which is the biggest single income stream by some margin.  In overall terms Chatham has 4 and a half times our visfigs but more than 14 times our income, and quite frankly it is a source of some wonder that we do so much with so little.

Coming back to diversity, this was highlighted in one of the most interesting workshops which considered the issue of whether or not to charge.  This question was widely interpreted, for example at the smaller end of the scale Elgin museum, which is run to a great extent by volunteers, made a decision to test a move after 170 years, from paid to free admission (the Moray Society which controls the museum has separate membership arrangements).  Amongst the reasons for this were static visfigs along with poor involvement for volunteers from time to time (they got bored!)

The Elgin raised £6k from local business supporters to trial the scheme, as this sum was equal to the approximate annual visitor income, and the scheme went ahead.  This resulted in an increase in visfigs by 25%, and donations (now heavily promoted) exceed the previous admission income.

At the Moray Society’s AGM on April 24 this year the agenda notes recorded the positive outcome.

“the Office Bearers reiterated the benefits of not charging an admission fee, reflected in the increased number of visits/revisits and the happy atmosphere in the Museum without loss of revenue”

At the other end of the scale came the behemoth that is Birmingham Museums Trust, an interesting collection of former municipal sites and a major gallery that had merged with Thinktank in 2012.  The need for increased income had led them to introduce some significant changes in their charging regime.  Things that were formally free became chargeable, and as an example in 2015 Thinktank began to charge for its planetarium which, apart from and extra £200k annual income, had the possibly unanticipated benefit of increasing customer ratings for the planetarium itself.  Parents now found the removal of the uncertainty inherent in the previous queueing system to be a significant improvement.  This is something (advance purchase of timed workshop tickets) that we will consider very seriously, and we may now add a premium for so doing.

In other aspects of the trust’s business some other changes were also made.  In 2016, at the heritage sites, under 16s were no longer free.  This seems to be a fairly reasonable act, and it surprises me that this was not the case previously.  This year a potentially more controversial change was enacted, when the concession price for 60+ was removed from all sites.  I don’t know about you, but we would find this a very difficult thing to do, and I wonder if the jury of public opinion has come to a decision about this just yet.

Bristol Culture is an as yet unreconstructed council run service who talked about their “pay what you think” ideas which started as mandatory charging for special exhibitions but after initial success this came a cropper on the back of unwise choice of a second exhibition where the conversion rate from general (free) visitors was less than 1%.   The change to PWYT (and better chosen subsequent exhibitions) led to average donation per exhibition visitor of 65 pence.  This method should not be construed as “pay nothing if you don’t want to”, although I did wonder how compulsion could be applied in this case. 

This reminds me of general admission to the New York Met “If you buy tickets at a Museum ticket counter, the amount you pay is up to you” where I once had a “discussion” with gate staff who were trying to enforce an entirely notional admission charge.  I do hope that Bristol’s idea succeeds.

Whilst this is in no way a comprehensive review of the AIM Conference, I hope that the topic that I chose was of interest to readers, and I would also like to thank MDNW for their travel and board bursary, which was the only reason that I could contemplate the trip.

Paul Meara, Catalyst Science Discovery Centre


AIM Funding News

Now Open: AIM Sustainability Grant Scheme 2017

The AIM Sustainability Grant Scheme, supported through the generosity of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, is now open for applications. The scheme is intended to help medium and smaller sized AIM members to improve their medium and long term sustainability. To be eligible, museums must have an annual turnover of less than £300,000 or fewer than 50,000 visitors a year.

This scheme, which began in 2006, has so far supported 216 projects with over £831,700 of grants. The wide range of applicants demonstrates the importance of sustainability issues to AIM members. There will be only two more rounds before this scheme ends, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to improve your sustainability with a grant from us.

The round for 2017 is now open with a closing date of 3 July at 5pm. Find out more: AIM Sustainability Grant Scheme 2017

New AIM Biffa Award Funded Exhibitions Will Tell The Stories Of Historic Figures From Engineering And Science

AIM Biffa Award have just announced the first round of projects to be supported by the ‘History Makers – People who shaped our world’ programme. Sharing a fund of £170,000, each project will tell the story of their chosen historical figure and how their work and achievements have shaped the world we live in today.

Funded by Biffa Award with support from the Landfill Communities Fund, the programme is funding AIM member museums to create new exhibitions that will inspire the public through the lives and achievements of extraordinary historical figures. The successful projects in Round 1, with exhibitions opening in 2018, will focus on the work of historic figures from engineering and science. They are:

‘Digging Deeper’ at the London Transport Museum; ‘The Father of Modern Forensics’ at The National Justice Museum in Nottingham and ‘Hawkshaw and Barlow Untold’ at The Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre in Bristol. Find out more: AIM Biffa Award History Makers Programme

AIM Hallmarks Awards – deadline for applications 15th May 2017

Now open for applications, the latest round of the AIM Hallmarks Awards will make grants totalling around £70,000 in England.

Funded by Arts Council England, the AIM Hallmarks Awards offer grants of between £5,000 and £15,000 to help AIM member museums and heritage sites to begin to use the principles of the AIM Hallmarks to improve the way they work.

The AIM Hallmarks Awards can be used by successful applicants in two distinct ways:

  • To fund an organisational review. This can involve either review and planning, or taking forward new ways of working. Some museums might want to use the AIM Hallmarks as a framework to review their organisational health and can apply for this funding for support in planning future development
  • To contribute to a project that supports applicant organisations to behave or develop differently. Museums which have already identified development needs reflecting the principles of the AIM Hallmarks can apply for funding to put their ideas into practice and progress programmes of work which will enable them to become more resilient and to prosper in the future. Projects can be linked to any of the Hallmarks but must seek to support change at a strategic level and/or to have an impact on organisational culture and behaviour

Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their ideas with AIM’s Assistant Director, Helen Wilkinson, before applying. You can contact Helen by email, or by phone, 07719 667102.

All information about the AIM Hallmarks Awards can be found at Below is a case study from Brantwood Trust in Cumbria, which received funding in the last round of awards.

Brantwood Trust, awarded £7,842

The AIM Hallmarks grant has given Brantwood the opportunity to actively maximise access to the museum’s collection, under the Collections Hallmark. Brantwood was successful in receiving a grant to research and present Ruskin’s powerful messages through our unique collection.

The purpose of our Radical Ruskin project is to link Ruskin’s radical ideas with items in the collection, and present our research through short videos uploaded to our website. The funding covers extra staff time, research materials, the purchasing of Modes Complete and video equipment; all of which will enable us to give the collection an online presence which without extra resources would not have been possible.

The project will enable Brantwood to establish an improved approach to recording information about our collection and communicating this to the visitor; and support future developments in the museum’s approach to interpretation, exhibitions and attracting new audiences. Helen Wilkinson, the AIM Assistant Director, was very helpful when we spoke regarding our project. I would encourage anyone considering a project to contact Helen and submit an application.

Jenny Slater, Brantwood Trust

_I6A9984© Simon Critchley 2017

AIM Conference 2017 Bursaries

Museum Development North West are pleased to announce that there are a two bursaries for this year’s AIM Conference at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham on 22nd– 24th June.
2017 is AIM’s 40th year, so this year’s National Conference will provide a great opportunity to focus on how independents prosper under effective leadership, through inspirational stories from some of our members.Museum Development North West recognises that it is important for museum professionals to connect with colleagues through conferences and networking events, but also how stretched budgets can be when it comes to professional development.

If you would like a free place then you need to tell us that you will:

  • Commit to attending the whole conference
  • Feedback to colleagues and the region via our blog
  • Send us any relevant information and feedback to put on the MDNW website

How to apply

These two opportunities are open to museum professionals in the North West, except members of staff of Major Partner Museums and National Museums and the bursaries will cover travel and accommodation. Please send an expression of interest stating how you and your organisation will benefit from what is to Alex Bird by 5PM Monday 15th May.

Please note that the bursaries only cover the conference on Thursday and Friday only and not the paid-for social events.

For more information contact Alex Bird, Sector Development Officer – 07748 932680