Changes to the Grant for the Arts application form from Arts Council England: What you need to know

posted in: Blog | 38
With the release of the new Arts Council England’s online portal for grant administration, wonderfully named Grantium (I would have loved to have been in the room when that was suggested), going online last month those of us who use the portal regularly have to now adapt to the new one. Fair do, the old one was slightly clunky and we’re promised this new system will reduce the amount of paperwork and expenditure ACE has to go through as part of their cost cutting and efficency management. What’s not to like?

Regardless of your opinion on the new portal there are some fundamental changes that you should be aware of before going to apply. As I’m going through the process of a resubmission (sad face) at the moment I figured it was worth highlighting the big changes. Despite being told there are no changes to the submission form I’m happy to report that there are changes and they do matter.

Profiles and Validating

You now have to set up a profile for your organisation/individual. This is fairly straightforward as it allows you to have a profile on the portal and apply to the various strands of grants offered by ACE. What you need to know is any profile now takes at least five working days before it is verified. If you supply the wrong information or if ACE query anything you will have two days to resubmit the right information. If you miss the two day deadline your profile will be treated as new and you will have to wait another five working days.

You’ve got to build an additional week on your funding timeline to ensure you get through this initial process. Of course once your profile is established all is good and you’ll go straight to the application process.

Governing Documents

One thing to note is the new requirement of Governance documents. If you’re an incorporated or non-corporated organisation you must show ACE that there is a governing document that shows how your organisation is run. This is important, especially for emerging companies just starting out. Gloria Lindh at Littlemighty has wonderfully put together this document for those needing to put together a constitution model – although this is best suited to those not thinking of going down the Charity route at a later date – or you can see some examples online here.

If you’re starting out it is best to put this document together as soon as possible to ensure a smooth profile setup.


Changes to the Arts Council England Grant Application

Now down to the submission form itself. I’ve only had time to go through the under £15,000 application as I figured this would be more useful to those just starting out. Here is what I’ve spotted that is different to the previous application process.


1. Word counts are gone & replaced with character counts. In theory this will mean you have more words in each section unless you use big words. This also means the ‘&’ symbol now counts as a character but might still save on overall character count.


2. Artist outlines are now broken down individually instead of listing one by one followed by 250 words. This means there is less space to talk about other aspects/artists in the previous 250 word section unless you allocate it within an individual artist line, but this will have a character count limit.


3. Specific participants has been updated to now include specific ages, ethnicity, disability, sexuality or gender (including trans). The latter two are new, and might show ACE wanting to expand their work to those specific factors. Equally this might just be linked to their new monitoring information (more below).


4. How you will reach your target audience and marketing activities has been given more space and priority. The new form allows for 3000 characters, which is roughly 480-600 words instead of 250 words on the old form. I can only imagine this is to give applicants the opportunity to clearly demonstrate they know how they will reach their audience and show they have their marketing activities in order. This does make me wonder what the word count will be for over £15,000 applications.


5. Income on budgets now are shown as a percentage of entire budget, I’m guessing this is to clearly show the breakdown of non-ACE money. It also clearly breaks down percentage of confirmed vs expected. Clearly ACE will be assessing or giving their assessors more clarity over the breakdown of the budget. It does make it easier to scan the budget but this might flag up any issues during the reporting stage of the process.


6. Support In Kind is now more detailed within the budget. It has to be represented in both income and expenditure. ACE want you to clearly demonstrate the value of the in-kind and how to contributes to your entire budget. Great for those with lots of in-kind support although it will now be more time consuming to enter in each in-kind budget line potentially twice.

7. Less than 10% of non-ACE now has to be explained why this ‘exceptional circumstance’ prevents you from raising the minimum 10%. This is a tick box with further information required.


8. Location and type of activity. It is now possible to select BOTH Touring and Non-touring. Great for those who are requesting a grant that covers both touring and non-touring activities.


9. Activity Plan is slightly more user friendly with the ability to edit items (as you do across the entire form). This means that you can go back to make amendments on dates if you missed one however it does not automatically list in date order. I guess it depends how OCD you are on your date order but ACE does still express the desire to have them in date order but the form will allow you proceed with them in the wrong order. A small victory for those of us who loathe this part of the form.


10. Monitoring figures are taken from your profile setup and includes gender and sexuality of those behind your organisation.


11. Declarations now include having to list if anyone in the delivery of the activity has: worked at ACE in the last three years, is an ACE council member or is related to a current ACE staff or council member. I guess this is for transparency.
Those are all the changes I found when going through the under £15,000 application form. If you know of any others please do leave a comment for others.

38 Responses

  1. Katharine Kavanagh

    The big question – does it auto-update so that you don’t get locked out because of ‘inactivity’ when filling in sections and then lose them all?!

    • Jake Orr

      After each section it forces you to save in order to move on to the next section. Once you hit inactivity time a message pops up. If you’re in a different browser window it automatically opens the ACE one. So that’s definitely an improvement, but if it auto-saves I’m not entirely sure.

    • Jake Orr

      Glad it is useful Nikki. Figured it was worth putting together as I was going through the process myself.

  2. Amber

    You can now have more than one user online viewing the application at the same time. But only one person can type at a time!

    • Jake Orr

      That’s really useful and good to know Amber. I guess this allows people to collaborate more easily on their ACE applications.

  3. Adantes Vieira

    Thanks a lot for this Jake and all for your comments!!! Best of luck for your projects!!

  4. Bridget Floyer

    Great stuff Jake. Few things from a resubmission I just did. I found 1500 characters to be definitely less than 250 words and I don’t think they were particularly long words. 250 words seemed to equate to about 1,700 characters with this application so it’s definitely one to watch out for.

    I found the artist section way better – well, if you have a number of artists anyway. Even with a small show if you have a director, writer, designer etc they stack up. The new form gave me more room and I didn’t even work out what the limit is (it didn’t specify).

    A minor thing but you don’t have to enter the in-kind twice – it does it for you.

    A major bug bear for me – and mind I was doing it over the weekend so there may be a solution – is you have to enter your grant request amount in the eligibility questionnaire and submit this before being able to access the form itself. You then can’t edit it. Now I don’t know about you but I often want to start work on an application whilst still waiting for some final answers which may affect that line, and it caught me out.

  5. Emma Frankland

    thank you for this Jake and Bridget!
    Bridget, how did you resolve the final point? did you have to change your budget? x

    • Keir Cooper

      When I phoned them up, apparently it won’t count against you to have a different number in the elegibiliy questionaire. it simply works out what sort of form (under 15k for instance) they need to present you with. So you can be imprecise and different to your final budget.

  6. Marion

    Thank you for writing this. We are applying for more than £15,000 and 2 points we found are –
    in some sections there are 2 text boxes, EG. Why is this activity important for your artistic development?
    Below it is a text box for 1500 characters and below that a second box with 1500 characters allocated to it, but nothing saying that the text box is for.
    This is for additional characters of the question. So you write in two 1500 characters blocks, rather than one box of 3000.

    Saving – I would save after working on each box, if you work on one box, then another and get stuck with character counts etc in the 2nd box it won’t let you save with a box that is over characters so your 1st box that is correct character count still won’t save..


    This is great – Do you know, if one is applying as a consortium of organisations, do you need a constitution for the consortium, or will tit be the main organisation acting to hold the funds that supplies the governing document ?

    • Jake Orr

      Hey Alison,

      It would definitely be best to contact ACE directly about this. Their advisers are really helpful and if they don’t know the answer they’ll be able to call you back once they’ve established what is best.


  8. Ian Woods

    We completed and submitted a form and experienced most of your points as we staggered through it.
    Finance section won’t give you the green tick unless it does balance income and expenditure
    If you go over character count it wouldn’t save properly so that’s worth watching if you are cutting and pasting data in. Also it seems to ignore spaces in the count (we hope!)
    Now awaiting to see what (if any) initial questions we get back from ACE.

  9. Paula

    Thank you very useful – just about to set up new social enterprise and applying for funds this month! So will give myself more time and not leave to last minute!

  10. Lucy Williams

    Really useful ( and the comments too !) thanks especially as one cannot get a proper look at the form ( character count etc etc ) without actually starting it online !

  11. Penny

    Just found out my tight-turnaround bid will take a further 5 days to submit (plus character count wrestling it seems) as I registered my freelance profile upon launch, but not my day-job one… thinking it would be the same as the old G4A login where you could be linked to various organisations. Did ACE test this out on anyone before launch I wonder?

  12. Amusicsite

    I’ve noticed the new form does not seem to work on Firefox running in Linux, Chrome does work.

  13. Katie Lodge

    Yes, anyone know that one, about whether character counts include spaces?

    This is such a helpful post by the way – thank you!!!

  14. Lindsay Fraser (@LindsaycFraser)

    Thanks so much for this Jake. Very helpful! Do you know if the constitution has to be certified by Companies House or can you submit it without certification? I asked the ACE enquiries team but they didn’t seem to know.

    • Jake Orr

      I can only imagine that it doesn’t have to be certified because you may be applying before your company documents have been approved at Companies House / not incorporated yet (and therefore only need a governance document you make yourself)

  15. Gary

    I’ve just submitted with a similar application to the last one I did, though this was part 2 for exhibition & curating. The pdf to this one was 50 pages, last one done last year was 20 pages. Not sure how it’ll save on paperwork.

    • Jake Orr

      I’ve been wondering much the same thing Gary. Perhaps they will no longer be printed out by assessors?

  16. Imogen

    Does anyone have a template for the over £15k applications by any chance?

  17. Priya Mistry

    Hi Jake

    Firstly thanks for this.

    My sharing- Can you log in and view or log in and work on the form at the same time as another person?
    I have so far found that neither is possible.

    Which is a bit pants for me because I’m currently working together with another person on one!

  18. Tom Bingham

    Is it ok for members of our local arts panel to allocate grants to members of the panel. Though they will not be directly voting for themselves?