Changes to Festival of Museums grants announced

Connect October 2016

Family Fun Times at Festival of Museums!This week we opened our 2017 Festival of Museums fund for applications. For regular participants the big change to be aware of is the requirement to generate income to help fund 25% of your event costs. It is not as scary as it might sound but we are urging museums to start their application process early as it will need a bit of planning. Read on to find out more.

What is it all about?
To briefly sum up for the uninitiated, Festival of Museums takes place every May. It is a three day festival and the programme that features day and night events organised by museums and galleries across Scotland. The next Festival of Museums will take place from 19 to 21 May 2017.

All museums and galleries in Scotland can register events to be part of the Festival of Museums programme. Events must be registered between 1 November 2016 and 28 February 2017. We always welcome new event organisers so do consider taking part.

Why does MGS coordinate Festival of Museums
The purpose of Festival of Museums is twofold and aligns with MGS’s current priorities of enterprise, skills development and advocacy:

It allows museums to be part of a national events programme and enables museums to raise their profile amongst their existing and potential visitors and stakeholders.

It supports museums to develop skills and experience in event planning, budgeting for and delivering sustainable and enterprising events

Developing enterprising skills
So it is in this vein of supporting skills development that we felt we needed to really focus museums on considering how to make their events sustainable. In the current economic climate the sector needs to develop skills to help build financial resilience.

This year MGS will fund up to 50% of the cost of an event and applicants will need to generate at least 25% of the costs from external sources. This can be through a combination of cash sponsorship, in-kind support from external sources, from ticket sales or from charging for refreshments or other elements of your event. The remaining costs must be covered by the museum.

We have done the research to make sure that introducing charges would not alienate existing visitors. Feedback from visitors to Festival of Museums events in 2016 on the perception of value for money highlighted that 98% of visitors who attended a paid Festival of Museums event considered it to be good value for money. And 76% of visitors who attended a free Festival of Museums event would have been willing to pay a nominal admission fee (suggested £3 per person or £5 per family), whilst 15% were not sure.
So museums are delivering a quality programme and would be justified in levying a charge. That is why we are encouraging them to factor this into their event plans.

Also an examination of applications to the fund in 2016 and showed that many museums are already generating income from their events through tickets, donation boxes, sponsorship and in kind support. So a large number of museums are already, or close to, meeting the 25% requirement – the difference is that we are asking museums to take a risk and incorporate that income into their application form. This also means that we can use the pot of money available to fund more applications.

What else do you need to know about the fund
Accredited museums are eligible to apply to the fund. It opened for applications on 28 September 2016 and will close at the end of November. Applications are made through MGS’s online grants system.

The fund supports events that will help to achieve the Festival of Museums purposes so therefore, MGS will fund:

  • exciting events that will attract an audience
  • events that provide museums with opportunities to be enterprising
  • how the museum has defined and targeted their audience
  • how well planned the event is

Full details and link to the grants processing system are here (link to page on MGS website)

We are here to help – telephone surgeries and webinar
Another change this year is that we will are offering telephone surgeries to replace the workshops. While we know that the museums who were able to attend the workshops valued the information and opportunity to discuss their event plans we also know that quite a lot of museums were unable to attend as dates or locations did not suit.

Telephone surgeries will instead offer a more convenient and personalised discussion Surgery days have been planned for 20 October, 26 October and 3 November.

The surgeries are open to everyone – not just grant applicants. Surgery booking will open online in the next week but in the meantime email to register interest and state a preferred date.

In January you can look forward to a webinar that will cover marketing, encouraging ticket sales, evaluation, PR to help you in the run up to the Festival weekend.

And finally…
Don’t forget 2017 is the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology which offers great scope for museums to link their Festival of Museums events to this VisitScotland themed year. MGS is working VisitScotland to ensure that Festival of Museums features prominently in the themed year programme.

There is a great case study from one of our 2016 event organisers, the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses on our new website if you would like a bit of inspiration.

Just a final note as you embark on your event planning. Like any project, the more you put into the planning the greater the chances are that your event will be successful. Don’t forget to consider the marketing of your event throughout and consult with your colleagues if available. The success of your event will rely on your own efforts and MGS is here to support your ambitions. So get planning and give your visitors something to look forward to in May 2017!

Keep up to date by signing up to receive the Festival of Museums ebulletin and check our website pages.


  1. There are two different dates advertised for FoM 2017. here it says 12-14 May 2017, but on the communication with 2016 venues it says 19-21 May 2017 -which is it?

    • Whoops! Thanks for picking up on that, there was a last minute change and while we thought we’d corrected all the dates we must have missed this one. Just to confirm FoM2017 is 19-21 May 2017. We’ve amended the post above to the correct date.

      Thanks again for that spot.

      MGSBlog Team

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