Effective fundraising can transform your project or railway, but where do you turn for advice and ideas? The Heritage Railway Association can help members navigate the complexities and find their best options.

The HRA can also provide expert help on the process of gaining charitable status.

Advice was originally offered on applications to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, but we are now able to offer guidance on a number of different funding streams including donations and legacies. We can offer suggestions on commercial sources of funding and even government grants. To get started, take a look at the handy hints below from funding expert Roger Kelly.

To begin with it is well worth having one person in your Railway taking a specific role at a senior level responsible for Funding. Not that they should do all the work but be a first point of call to provide the Railway with knowledge of where and how money can be raised. This person should also have two specific functions.

The first is to have Funding Strategy for the Railway. This Strategy should be part of, or at the very least, complement the Railway’s Business Plan. Not all funding sources are suitable for every project. The Strategy should include where to go for funds, when and what to ask for.

The second role is keeping accurate records of your network of individual donors and ensuring you comply with both data protection legislation and the rules with how they may be approached for further donations. Falling foul of the legislation and rules can be costly. This is all the more reason to have someone in your organisation responsible for looking after your donors. Remember if they have made a donation they are interested in you so keep in touch with them if you can.

In addition to the NLHF there are other sources of National Lottery Money such as the Arts Council of England (ACE) and the Big Lottery; although getting something from one Lottery source can rule out another. This should be dealt with in your Funding Strategy.

As well as the Lottery and individual donors there are Grant Giving Trusts, Corporate Sponsors, Patrons and Government Grants at every level from local to national government. Any of these sources may wish to contribute to something other than Heritage, such as disability, training or community benefits. Therefore it is worth thinking beyond what you want to achieve as to how your project may help other funding sources develop their interests. Corporate Sponsors and Patrons may wish to remain anonymous so as not to attract attention from other organisations seeking financial help.

Grants from other sources may often be small in comparison to the Lottery but return on investment of your time can be just as great. Particularly when a letter and phone call can produce a four or five figure sum.  A good initial source of information on possible grant giving bodies is the Heritage Funding Directory managed by the Heritage Alliance and the Architectural Heritage Fund. See

With regard to local or national government you have to make the case for what your Railway does for the economy. It is important to emphasise the benefits to the community and economy in order to shed the anorak image of “playing trains.

Good luck with all your funding activities and remember the HRA exists to help you.

Roger Kelly. HRA Funding Advisor

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