COVID-19: Support for Community Voluntary and Charitable Organisations Active in the Heritage Sector

Historic England’s Communities Development team are working to understand the impact of the current situation on the Community Voluntary and Charitable Organisations (CVCOs) active in the heritage sector.

This page summarises the evidence base, the available support we have identified, and offers links to the responses of key CVCO support organisations. This includes advice on seeking grants, diversifying funding, and other non-financial advice and guidance.

The Government has produced guidance aimed to help charities to continue to run during the coronavirus outbreak.

How are community voluntary and charitable organisations active in the heritage sector being affected by COVID-19?

A recent survey by National Lottery Heritage Fund has assessed the impacts of COVID-19 on the heritage sector, finding that 90% of charity, third sector or private organisations state high or moderate risk to their long-term viability. 35% stated their financial reserves will be depleted within at least 4 months. For the organisational types with the least financial reserves, the charity and third sector organisations and the community or voluntary groups, a financial shortfall of up to £50k is most prevalent at 31% and 58% respectively. (NHLF Survey March 2020)

Who is providing support for CVCOs?

Support is being offered by funding organizations, and leading heritage and community sector support organisations.

On this page you will find information sourced from the following organisations:

Find out more about principle funding organisations for the community business sector in ‘Connecting the dots: The funding landscape for community business’ (Power to Change, March 2020).

What support measures are already in place?

There are extensive resources for third sector and community organisations already in place, distributed across the website of these organisations. We group them together here so that  heritage sector CVCOs can find quick reference to support in priority areas. In summary these are:

Who is offering grants?

UK Government: £750 million support across the Charities Sector, particularly for those working with the relief of poverty, hardship or distress; the elderly; the advancement of education; lives of young people; or health.

The government is distributing this support through the following departments and bodies:

Directly Allocated by Government Departments: £360 million to charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people during the crisis. This includes specific allocations for hospices (£200 million), domestic violence charities, St Johns Ambulance and Citizens Advice Bureaux.

The Social Investment Business announced a £25 million Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund to help social enterprises and charities. This closed to applications on 31 March 2021.

Charities are able to retain Gift Aid on some payments that have been received for cancelled events.

National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF):  A total of £370 million for smaller charities to “support those organisations at the heart of local communities which are making a big difference during the outbreak.”

All the funding decisions for the next six months (up to £300 million of National Lottery funding) will be devoted to addressing the current crisis. It will prioritise faster payments for existing grant holders and applicants, on the criteria that activities are specifically geared to supporting communities through this crisis and helping organisations overcome any liquidity issues caused by Covid-19.

National Lottery Heritage Fund:  The Fund continues to offer grants through its normal programmes and through funds specifically related to Covid-19.

National Emergencies Trust: At least £20 million to the National Emergencies Trust appeal, as part of the government's announcement it will “match pound for pound whatever the public decides to donate” to the BBC's Big Night In charity appeal on 23 April. (See: Locality 09/04/20 update)

Arts Council England: £160 million of emergency funding is available for those organisations and individuals who will need it during this crisis. ACE has changed funding requirements for individuals and organisations currently in receipt of their funding to help alleviate pressure.

Power to Change is launching up to £12 million of emergency support to provide both immediate and medium-term help for community businesses facing a loss of trading income during the coronavirus crisis.

Power to Change: Project grants of up to £50,000 to conduct research projects on the theme of volunteering and how it relates to the community business sector in England.

Nesta reference several sources of funding in their Coronovirus Get funding page, including:

Solve MIT: This scheme offered grants of $10,000 for technical solutions that help communities prepare, detect and respond to pandemics. The scheme has now closed to new applications.

UK Community Foundations: Many local community foundation groups have set up Coronavirus funds to support the most vulnerable in their communities.

Tesco Community Grants: Fund thousands of community projects focused on children and families.

Clothworkers’ Foundation: grants are for registered charities and other not-for-profit organisations for capital projects.

These cover only some of the major funds referenced by the organisations listed. Further links to wider sources of funding can be found in  'seeking and diversifying financial support' and 'Operational and Business Support' below.

Where can I find advice and guidance?

Many of the principle funding organisations and other community heritage stakeholders provide extensive capacity-building advice and guidance, often supported by online or digital resources. Priority areas for support have been rapidly identified by the National Lottery Community Fund on their COVID-19 Insights Page:  

  • Operational Business support
  • Seeking and diversifying financial support
  • Managing workforce
  • Effective use of evidence and data.
  • Volunteering support
  • Leadership
  • Digital Skills

Operational and business support for community organisations

Nesta's Policy and Evidence Centre predicts an acute impact on arts/heritage/culture charities as they are often small, venue-based, or dependent upon on physical gatherings for delivery, as well as being formed of large numbers of freelancers and micro-businesses. Many are reliant upon fundraising events and donations.

On average, community businesses get 57% of their income from trading, 43% of which comes from venue-based activities (e.g. cafes, shops, hiring out space), currently halted and closed due to social distancing measures (Power to Change, March 2020). Consequently there is a high risk of disruption to service delivery and business continuity for community businesses, precipitated by loss of grants and trading income, staffing and volunteers, and potential failure to meet contractual obligations.

However, Locality has emphasised that there is also the opportunity for communities to play a central role in mitigating the crisis.


Power to Change: Provides a range of business support including:

Power to Change also offers a programme webinars.

Creative Industries Federation: Provide key resources from creative and culture sector businesses

Esmee Fairbairn Foundation: Provides resources including remote working, skills support, communications and digital, strategic support:

Plunkett Foundation: Range of networked advice for community business support:

Heritage Trust Network: Offers a Toolkit that includes information on: Heritage trusts organisation and governance, Planning and delivering of  projects and future proofing.

AHF: Provision of extensive list of support, including information on grants guidance, advice and templates available to Community organisations to use.

Social Enterprise UK: Provides support and resources for social enterprises.

Charity Comms: Provides case studies, templates and information to help organisations get their messages across.

Charity Finance Group: Their hub provides information for charity finance professionals.

Charity Commission: Provides guidance for charities to help them decide what steps to take during the pandemic.

NCVO: Provides resources for all charities on a range of topics including supporting staff and contingency planning.

Seeking and diversifying financial support

The NLHF survey references acute impacts upon charities, community and voluntary groups: 90% of charity, third sector or private organisations state high or moderate risk to their long-term viability. 35% stated their financial reserves will be depleted within at least 4 months. For the organisational types with the least financial reserves, the charity and third sector organisations and the community or voluntary groups, a financial shortfall of up to £50k is most prevalent at 31% and 58% respectively. (NLHF Survey March 2020)


Locality: Advice on Emergency funding streams

ACRE: Guidance on eligibility for Government support for rural community buildings

NCVO:  Contingency Planning and Financial Implications

Managing workforce

Of all respondents to the NHLF survey, 49% are being affected by staff absence. There is clearly a need for financial resource and support for jobs at risk, and to address organisational instability.


Co-op: Has produced a webinar recording and accompanying FAQ addressing HR‑specific questions in the context of COVID-19

Effective Use of Evidence and Data

A cross-sector response to COVID-19 will be driven by the effective use of evidence and data. The NLCF has appealed to the community sector to share best practice, such as citizen reporting methods, and recommended that large  organisations play leading roles in compiling and coordinating data to support long term resilience. Nesta has called for innovative data practices, such as solution mapping and widespread contribution to open data platforms.


NESTA: has launched a project to collect data from across the sector to help policymakers understand and respond to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Alongside shared data sets, they also offer 10 tips for designing business surveys to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the creative industries.

Volunteering Support

Volunteers occupy a central role in the running of community businesses – of the 9,000 community businesses in England, a total of 33,900 staff are employed, while they use 205,600 volunteers (Power to Change: Community Business Market in 2019 report)

The NLHF COVID-19 survey found 55% of all respondents to the NLHF survey affected by lack of available volunteers. Apart from the immediate effect of UK Government restrictions, this is due to specialist skills that are in high demand, and the need for increased community volunteering to support vulnerable people. There are also ongoing (and potentially long term) concerns about the age profile of members, staff, trustees and volunteers across the sector who are likely to be subject to social distancing for longer; and associated risks such as the extent to which travel is required for both volunteers and staff to fulfil their objectives.


NESTAMutual Aid groups have been set up around the country to support the most vulnerable in communities.

Locality: Support available for furlough and volunteering, Locality (recorded webinar) 

The Heritage Volunteering Group: advice is available to help organisations redeploy and remobilise volunteers when they plan for reopening.

Digital skills

Coronavirus will place greater emphasis on how CVCOs work and engage digitally. NLCF has noted the need for widespread digital transformation across CVCOs; to support training, access, technical capacity, and alignment of need and response. New contractors, policies, practices approaches will be required, along with significant investment and a central body to coordinate digital capacity for communities sector.

A number of organizations provide resources to build digital skills and explore how digital technologies can support CVCOs working in the heritage sector.


NESTA: Coronavirus Tech Handbook 

Co-op: Information provision to local communities:

Plunkett Foundation: advocates the use of digital platforms such as Next Door neighbourhood hub to increase local connectedness and support

Heritage Alliance: As part of NHLF’s Digital Skills for Heritage campaign, the Heritage Alliance and Arts Marketing Association have been commissioned to increase the free advice and support available to heritage organisations on digital skills. The consortium will deliver a digital skills training programme to help build the capacity of over 2,000 heritage organisations across the UK.

Mentoring and Free Expert Advice

NLHF have committed a further  £2 million commitment to support their register of support services, additional funding for consultants to support NLHF grantees.

Heritage Trust Network: Unlocking the Power of Communities mentoring programme (NLHF, HES, Pilgrim Trust) – up to 3 days free consultancy from members and partner experts in fundraising strategies to change management, business planning and other areas.

Co-op: deliver expert mentoring through their Network of member Pioneers

What does the future look like for the heritage sector?

This is a challenging time for many and we are working with our partners in the sector and within Government to better understand who is most affected and how.  The evidence base is constantly growing. For example, the Heritage Lottery Fund has recently produced an Economic Insight briefing into the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the Heritage Sector in the UK

Historic England has also undertaken a survey of the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the heritage sector. This survey complemented that of the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), whose survey had targeted the charities and third sector organisations which they had previously supported.

Read more about Historic England’s Historic England Coronavirus Heritage Sector Survey.

As the sector continues to respond to COVID-19 we will update the information on this page.

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