• Museum of East Asian Art © SWMD / Amanda Harman Photography
    Museum of East Asian Art © SWMD / Amanda Harman Photography

Small Grant: Big Improvement

The Small Grant Big Improvement scheme is part of the South West Museum Development Programme funded by Arts Council England and contributing local authorities. The scheme is designed on the principle that a small amount of money can make a big difference to museums and the communities which they are a part of.

This scheme is available to museums in the South West that are Accredited, provisionally Accredited or formally working towards Accreditation within local authority areas which financially contribute to the South West Museum Development Programme.

Applications for 2019/20 Small Grant: Big Improvement have now closed. We are now reviewing and will be in touch via email shortly. 

Scheme aims:

  • For museums to develop or explore new ways of working to improve how they run
  • To enhance what museums can offer their local community or audiences from further afield
  • Support future proofing of museums so they can thrive now and in the years ahead

Funding is available for projects that address one of the following three strands aligned to the museum Accreditation Standard:

  • Organisational health – projects that support organisational development, volunteering, financial and/or environmental sustainability
  • Managing collections – projects that improve collections care and management or improve the display and interpretation of collections
  • Users and their experiences – projects that support museums to grow or diversify audiences, support community engagement or digital engagement

South West Museum Development is committed to supporting equality and diversity in the museum sector. We will prioritise applications under these strands that seek to improve the representation of their community within their museum and their museum’s activities as part of their project.

There are two sizes of small grants available:

  • Grants of up to £1,000 are available to support projects with a minimum of 25% match funding.
  • Grants of up to £7,000 are available to support partnership projects involving three or more museums with a minimum of 25% match funding.

To find out more information and apply click on the drop-down menus below.

Are you eligible to apply?

The scheme is open to museums in the South West that are Accredited, provisionally Accredited or formally working towards Accreditation. Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations cannot apply.

Only museums in local authority areas where the local authority financially contributes to South West Museum Development Programme are eligible for this grant scheme as it is this additional investment that makes this grant scheme possible.

Confirmed 2019/20 Investors:

  • Bath and North East Somerset Council
  • Bristol City Council
  • Bournemouth Borough Council
  • Cornwall Council
  • Dorset County Council
  • East Devon District Council
  • Exeter City Council
  • Gloucester City Council
  • Mid Devon District Council
  • North Devon Council
  • Poole Borough Council
  • Sidmouth Town Council
  • Somerset County Council
  • South Somerset District Council
  • South Gloucestershire Council
  • Stroud District Council
  • Torbay Council
  • Wiltshire Council

Please contact [email protected] for further information.

If your museum has previously received funding from South West Museum Development, the museum must have completed and have met the conditions of the previous grant(s) to be eligible for further funding.

Museums must have completed the two previous years* of the South West Museum Development Annual Data return or submit any missing returns as part of your application.

*This includes the Annual Data return due during the project funding period. E.g. if your SGBI is funded in 2019/20 you must have submitted your 2017/18 return, and submit your 2018/19 return when requested.

How to apply?

1. Before you apply you should read the scheme guidance to make sure that your project fits within our funding guidelines.

2. You should contact your local MDO to discuss your project proposal. Your application will not be eligible for funding unless a completed draft application has been received and endorsed by your local MDO prior to the application deadline specified in the scheme guidance notes.

For Collections based projects you must also contact the Conservation Development Officer Helena Jaeschke.

For Audiences based projects please contact Audiences & Insights Officer Rachel Miller . If your project also a Digital focus please also include our Digital Engagement Officer Rachel Cartwright in your correspondence.

If you are applying for a partnership grant then you must also contact the Museum Development office at [email protected] .

3. You can read examples of previous successful applications in the tab below and view case studies from previous rounds on our case study pages.

4. Complete the grant application form and submit this along with your museum’s Forward/ Business Plan to the Museum Development office at [email protected] .

2019/20 Scheme guidance

For full guidance on the scheme  please download here:

2019/20 Application form

Please download the application form here.

Grant Recipients

Grant conditions

When you were awarded a grant you were issued with a grant offer letter setting out the terms and conditions of the grant – any special terms associated with your grant would have been added to our standard terms and conditions. You may request a copy of our standard grant terms and conditions at anytime, contact us at [email protected] . When you return your grant acceptance you acknowledge your organisation’s acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Interim Reports

Award holders with awards over £500 are required to complete an interim report. The deadline for this interim report will be specified in your grant conditions. The named contact on the grant application will be emailed an interim report template to be completed. The interim report must be forwarded to your local MDO for comment prior to submission.

Claiming your grant

In order for us to release funds you must submit the following documentation:

  • A completed claim form (template supplied)
  • A completed case study (template supplied)
  • Evidence of expenditure
  • An image or other documentation which reflects your project

No grants will be paid prior to receipt of this information. You can request the templates and send your completed documentation either by email or post using the contact details below.

Once this received grant payments will be paid by BACs within 28 working days unless otherwise stated.

Acknowledging your grant

South West Museum Development and Arts Council England branding should be acknowledged in any output, publicity or promotional material produced by the museum in association with the work or project. Award holders will be issued with full branding guidance with their outcome letter.

Other information

Read our tips on writing a grant application.

Take a look at case studies from previous projects funded by the grant scheme.


If you have any queries regarding the Small Grant Big Improvement scheme please contact the Grants Lead for South West Museum Development Roz Bonnet.

South West Museum Development, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Queen’s Road, Bristol, BS8 1RL