We began working with the Foundation for Common Land in early 2019 to help them secure the match funding for a £2.7m National Lottery Heritage Funded project to support Common Land*. Our Common Cause, the project in question, is an ambitious heritage and environmental scheme, taking place in several locations across the couunty, aiming to make a substantial investment in the ecologies, communities and futures of Common Land. To realise the project and return to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to ratify the grant offer, the foundation needed to secure substantial lottery match funding from partners, trusts and foundations.

As with many projects which secure an initial pass from the National Lottery, the Foundation for Common Land, faced a series of challenges. In around a year they needed to undertake a programme of development work to test and develop their plans and projects, and the secure match funding for the lottery application. Whereas for the Round 1 pass from National Lottery Heritage Fund required an outline vision, developed for a single audience, the match funding for the lottery process would require different proposals to different funders.

Like many small organisations, the Foundation for Common Land doesn’t have a large team, nor a dedicated fundraiser. They chose to work with Tarnside on a consultancy basis, to increase their capacity and develop a compelling fundraising proposition for funders. Developing the core proposal was a delicate process: very few people are aware of Common Land, the central issue, and this was a project involving c.20 partners, all with different geographic and thematic interests, and a vast range of activities, from developing oral history projects to capture the folklore of the Commons,  to trialling bracken management via drone. The core document went through a series of revisions, and grew in clarity and strenth of message.  There was a need to shift from the messages and focus used for the foundation’s former funders and partners, towards a language and narrative more suited to charitable trusts.

A key aim of the process was to secure the interest of one of two major funders early on, who could commit six-figures sums: this would give comfort to partners and the National Lottery that the project was viable, and give the project credence as we approached smaller funders to ‘close the gap’. One funders was content to look at a major proposal early on, but required in-depth information on key areas and – whereas the lottery were content to look at the big picture – they needed to understand which elements they might be backing. This required a considerable investment in hours early on, but resulted in a very significant commitment at a relatively early stage. The other major prospect was interested but wanted to first see the outcome of this application, and secondly had a specific date in mind for a meeting, much later on in the process.

With something of a hiatus imposed on this large approach, we focussed on refining the messages and documents for the project and approaching other funders. Our Common Cause had the potential to interest a wide range of funders: it involved work to the landscape and to delicate ecosystems, work with young people from disadvantaged areas, training for hill farmers, support for communities, physical and folk history, and campaigning work to encourage a shift in policy beyond Brexit. It took place in many areas too, with signifciant investment in Yorkshire, Cumbria, Shropshire and on Dartmoor.

With a core document agreed and in continuous development, we were able to develop different versions for different audiences. Local partners were very pleased to have a document that set the work in their area in focus, within the context of the wider programme: it also made it easy to secure the support of local partners. Rather than centrally targetting smaller partners of funders in the regions, regional partners were empowered to raise the project with potential funders locally, and had the appealing and thorough documents to achieve this. As such this made the process of securing lottery match funding more efficient, empowering local partners to win funding themselves. This phase was highly effective, with almost every partner commiting funds at a proportionate level, and additional funds identified through local and national networks.

With a great deal of progress ‘under the belt’ the Foundation was able to develop and submit a formal application to the final major funder for an Autumn meeting. Once more, the funder had specified that the proposal needed to identify particular areas of work within the application – they also requested a group of representatives to present and answer questions about the project, its background and rationale. By this stage much of the funding was in place, and there had been time to refine the plans that would be the focus of the proposal. The application presented a much briefer overview of the project as a whole and its intended impact, with a much more in-depth section on the work we propsoed they support. Happily the application and predentation was well-recieved, and a second major award fell into place in time to complete (and indeed exceed) the lottery match funding campaign.

We’re delighted that the match funding campaign was even more successful than we had all hoped, and that the project should be a reality next year. This was a wonderful subject to learn about and a terrific campaign to work on. It proved the value of a really strong core document, and the ability to flex in focus and in time to take advantage of every opportunity.

The Foundation for Common Land instructed Tarnside to help raise over £500K match funding for a complex multi partner pan England Heritage Fund project. Frances quickly got to grips with the project and guided us through the process with professionalism and focus. Tarnside drafted our grant bids and worked closely with us to hone bids to a range of partners and grant giving trusts.

We are delighted with the outcome having exceeded our target by a significant margin. Tarnside also provide immensely good value. We highly recommend them to others.

Julia Aglionby, Director


*What is Common Land?

Sadly this is something few of us understand today – despite it being an important concept in our law, culture and landscape. Indeed, one of Our Common Cause’s aims is to ensure more people understand and enjoy Common Land.

Common Land is land with ‘Rights of Common’: it belongs to a landowner, but others have traditional rights over it. The most common right in use today is to graze animals (‘right of pasture) but historically people depended on many other Rights of Common. These included the right to cut timber for tools and buildings and bracken for bedding (rights of estover), to let out pigs to eat acorns (rights of pannage), to fish (rights of piscary) and even to extract minerals from the soil (common in the soil). First enshrined in law in the Magna Carta in 1215, Common Land traditionally sustained the poorest people in rural communities, who owned no land of their own, providing them with a living (indeed it’s likely that the term ‘common’ as used to describe people refers to those who didn’t own land and therefore were Commoners). 

At one point around half of the land in Britain was Common Land, but from the C16th onwards the gentry excluded Commoners from land which could be ‘improvedthrough agriculture. That is why most Common Land is now found in areas with low agricultural potential, but which we now value for its high conservation significance and natural beauty. Common Land now accounts for 3% of England, but this includes large tracts of our most well-loved and ecologically rich landscapes including Dartmoor, the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Shropshire Hills.

See here for more on this fascinating topic.