Accessing external funding

How to go about accessing external funding for public engagement

Overview

Public engagement remains a key priority for many funders including those inside and outside academia, which means that there are a number of funding avenues available. For those supporting engagement within their institutions, it is critical to understand the funding landscape. 

Top tips

There are currently three main sources of funding to support public engagement:

1. Public engagement specific funding 

Our funding pages list funding sources that we are aware of that you may wish to apply for, or signpost to your staff and students. Many of these are from higher education funders, however there are a significant number of other places where you can look to gain support for your work.

2. Impact funding 

UKRI expects researchers to generate societal impact through their research, and public engagement is promoted by them as one ‘pathway’ through which such impact can be achieved:

  • The REF: Public engagement is encouraged in the Research Excellence Framework.  Elsewhere on the site we explain how this is working in practice. Given the value of having 4 star impact case studies, those supporting engagement within their institution can use this as a basis for championing investment into engaged ways of working from their QR funding.  
  • UKRI no longer require Pathways to Impact statements, but they do encourage applicants to use the case for support to describe the impact and engagement activities they are planning as part of their proposal, and to include costs for this in the budget they submit
  • The KEF: Public and Community Engagement is featured as one of the seven perspectives in the Knowledge Exchange Framework. Although the KEF is not currently linked to funding, many HEIs use KE funding (like the HEIF fund in England) to invest in public engagement. You can find out more about the KEF in our briefing pack

3. Institutional funding

Institutions have a range of funding sources that could be used to support engagement. For example:

  • HEIF: The Higher Education Innovation Fund is administered by UKRI to many English HEIs to support knowledge exchange activity, including public engagement. Some universities use this funding to support their engagement work.  
  • Civic Mission: HEFCW have a fund to support civic mission activities in HEIs in Wales, and many draw on this funding to invest in their public engagement.
  • ISSF: some institutions receive funding from the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund which encourages institutions to invest in areas of strategic importance, which could include embedding effective public engagement into the fabric of the institution. 
  • Alumni: institutions often fundraise from their alumni – some universities have chosen to use this income to fund their engagement work.  

Inspire me!

Increasingly public engagement teams are working with their research offices to provide expert help to researchers in writing successful bids that incorporate public engagement.  Indeed, this ‘service’ is key to them securing ongoing investment from their universities.  This was the main focus of the Kings College London Catalyst Seed Fund project. In order to develop a ‘scalable model’ the team developed a costed ’menu of services’ that researchers could choose from, and identified a cohort of specialists in different types of engagement who could be costed into projects. Key lessons learnt include:

  • Raising the awareness of the grant consultation service you are offering with related departments or services is a key to driving take-up of the service. 
  • In the early days of offering the service, it is likely researchers will get in contact when they are very close to the grant deadline. This results in a very short consultation period which does not allow for adequate support or significant changes.  
  • With an increased consultation period you can expect to see an increase in quality of the consultation process and an increase in the quality of the proposals  
  • A ‘Menu of Services’ is extremely valuable, at least for ‘back of house’ calculations.  

Kings College London Catalyst Seed Fund project 

Explore how KCL established their menu of services to support public engagement

 

What next?

Find out more about how to develop your skills as a Public Engagement Professional.