Arts Council England is a government-funded body dedicated to promoting arts and culture in England. The organization dates from 1946 when the Arts Council of Great Britain was founded. In 1994, that organization was divided into three separate bodies for England, Scotland, and Wales. At that time, Arts Council England also became responsible for distributing lottery funding. In 2002, the arts funding system across England was reorganized when regional arts boards became part of the national Arts Council of England. Today the organization is the national development agency for creativity and culture in England which works to grow skills, knowledge, and networks to establish the conditions in which creativity and culture can flourish.
Arts Council England has always had to robustly report how public monies they receive are being spent. Several years ago, the organization was challenged both to reduce administrative costs, and to remove hurdles for those applying for funding.
At the time, the organization was using a bespoke IT system to manage operations which was very expensive to operate and very expensive to change. As Nigel Bacon, IT Director, describes it, “We couldn’t do anything quickly because we were relying on a third party if we wanted to release a new funding program.”
The Council was further hampered because the previous system was not built to handle online applications or notifications. And hence, was spending a tremendous amount of time and money mailing materials back and forth to those seeking funding.
Knowing the organization needed a much more flexible and configurable system, Arts Council England began researching options and learned about Calytera’s GrantiumTM software in a Gartner report in 2012. After viewing a demo, and then going through a standard government tender exercise, the Council selected Grantium as their new IT system for managing their grant applications. Nigel emphasized that the Council needed flexibility, “One of the key criteria for us was the fact that it was a configurable system, funding programs could be designed without the need for bespoke development.”
By 2016 Arts Council England was up and running on Grantium allowing the Council to move the entire grant-making process online. Today, applicants for funding submit applications online, the Council can communicate with applicants online during the review process, and ultimately manage payments to approved projects — all online. The reduction in printing and mailing alone was a tremendous jump forward in efficiency, cost savings, and far more secure.
The level of configurability is an additional efficiency gain for the Council. To date the organization has run about 150 programs through Grantium. When they need to launch a new program, they can do so easily – sometimes even in a few minutes, using Grantium’s clone function. The IT team at Arts Council can easily create a new program themselves avoiding the need for and time and cost of having a third-party build something from scratch.
Most recently that ability was displayed when the council was able to organize emergency funding programs to support artists and organizations whose income streams had been badly affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a matter of weeks Arts Council England was able to design the programs, launch them in Grantium, evaluate applications and distribute funds. To date they have distributed more than £160 million in much-needed funding across England to keep artists and art organizations operable during a critical time. Recently, the U.K. government announced a further £1.57 billion funding for the arts and culture sector – a significant portion of which will be distributed by Arts Council using Grantium in August and September.
Operating with a single master data set has also been an efficiency boost for Arts Council England. Now that everything is managed online, applicants need only enter their data one time, in one profile. It saves the applicants from having to enter the same information every time they make an application and reduces errors across the system. It also gives a view, both to the Arts Council and to applicants of their funding history. Additionally, the Council can monitor exactly how long it takes for an application to pass through each stage of a grant award process, allowing the team to identify and target process improvements.
Grantium has also enabled easier and more robust reporting required of the Council. Arts Council England is an agency of the U.K. government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport to which it reports on a variety of metrics ranging from spending levels, number of applications received and funded and where the money is being spent. Additionally, because the Arts Council receives lottery funding, it is important it can report both how and where that money is being spent. The Council works to invest lottery money back into those areas from which it was received.
Arts Council England was able to integrate Grantium with their CRM system and easily pull data needed for various reporting needed. The Council publishes details of the grants it makes so that it is transparent to citizens how government money is being invested. Before Grantium, to produce such a report required a request of the IT department who had to work with an Oracle database and build a one-off report.
Asked about what they have learned in implementing Grantium, Nigel replied, “ The mistake we made when we first started work was trying to make Grantium do what we already did, as opposed to determining what was it we really needed to do and how best to exploit the opportunities Grantium gave us.” Once the team approached it that way, the flexibility, and configurability of the new system paid off for them and they were able to leverage Grantium for the best possible efficiency.
In the near future, Arts Council England is preparing for upgrading to the latest version of Grantium, potentially by this autumn. The new version will address some of the feedback the Council has received from applicants and passed to Calytera, regarding the user interface and terminology.
Grantium helps grant-making organizations of all types efficiently administer all aspects of a grant-making process and produce robust reporting necessary about how monies are awarded. If we can help your organization, please get in touch for a demo of Grantium’s capabilities.