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Our Strategy 2023-28
01: FUND
Delivering targeted investment that leads to the sustainable reuse and management of historic buildings.

We will continue to be a fundraiser as well as a funding distributor, looking at how we can lever in new finance for historic building reuse.

In terms of lending funds, our endowment fund will remain open to organisations bringing forward projects and will continue to have a clear emphasis on heritage impact. It will remain flexible on loan term length, including longer term finance where needed. The Heritage Impact Fund will remain a source of loan funding for delivering both heritage and social impact, typically for loans of up to 5 years. We aim to grow both funds during the lifetime of this Strategy, with the primary aim of expanding the HIF to around £15m.

In regard to grant funding, we will target our efforts on raising and awarding grants for the early stages of the project development cycle, for feasibility and development funding. We know these can be challenging stages to raise funding for and where our flexibility and knowledge is most appreciated by projects.

We will look to develop blended funds, combining loans and grants, where there is the opportunity to do so and demand from clients - this will include revenue funding, as we know this is a particularly significant gap in the funding offer, particularly within the heritage and not-for-profit sectors.


Country and fund specific guidance will make clear how to apply to us and our decision-making processes. Across all our programmes, the following priorities will guide our thinking and decision making:

Place-based regeneration

We will look to develop funding packages and make awards that support place-based regeneration and which complement the investment of our strategic partners. This will include supporting programmes within town centres and high streets, particularly those undergoing long term structural change. We will look at the development of bespoke, place specific funds that are targeted at different geographies and which look to capitalise on the devolution of funding – including to and within the devolved countries of the UK. We will also look at how we can focus some support on bringing forward projects in rural areas, as we have with our Village Catalyst scheme in Northern Ireland.

Thematic funds

As well as having funds open to a wide variety of reuse projects, we recognise that a thematic focus can bring together new funding and partners to target a specific need or issue, or which helps lever in funds that support heritage-led regeneration. This will involve the creation of specific funds, for example, around housing or the arts-led regeneration of historic buildings. Our annual plans will detail the types of thematic funds we intend to focus on in each year of the Strategy.

New business models and revenue funding

From what organisations tell us and sector surveys, we know that charities and social enterprises often rely on fragile and unpredictable sources of funding. There is evidence that stronger organisations tend to have an asset base and income diversity better able to provide a more stable income over the long term; and we know there is unrecognised potential in social enterprises playing a greater role in place-based regeneration. We therefore want to further invest in organisations as well as projects, and offer more funding and support for organisations to develop new business models. This will include the expansion of our Heritage Development Trust model and new blended funds.

Addressing deprivation and equality, diversity and inclusion

Historic buildings are located throughout the UK, but tend to be most at risk in areas of multiple deprivation, including those with high levels of ethnic diversity. Ensuring our funding and support reaches all types of organisation is therefore an important part of delivering our charitable purposes. We already invest the majority of our funding in the top 30% of deprived areas, as measured by the indices of multiple deprivation, and this will continue to be an important marker of where our investment goes. But we also want to improve our capacity and the funding we have available to support organisations to bring forward projects, particularly to organisations and places where we have not been active in recent years.

Increasing reuse, creating greener, more sustainable historic buildings and organisations

The climate crisis is the biggest risk facing life on the planet and adapting, retrofitting and reusing buildings can be a central part of how we tackle this ever more urgent crisis. We therefore want to help organisations reuse buildings (as we have always done) but also to help them ensure their buildings and operations reduce and mitigate their impact - this will include working with partners to develop new finance and providing guidance to projects in tackling the often-complex choices involved in making buildings more sustainable.

Through our Annual Plans and communications, we will announce the funding available during each year and our annual fundraising priorities.

Supporting charities and social enterprises to take ownership of, develop and sustain new uses for historic buildings

As well as funding for individual projects and organisations, we know that our expertise – built up over 50 years’ experience of investing in heritage and community-led regeneration – is a highly regarded source of knowledge.

Many of the organisations we advise are inexperienced in the process of regenerating historic buildings and may only carry out one project in their lifetime. Early advice, coupled with targeted funding, is therefore seen as critical to effectively starting up projects and our team of UK wide expert officers will continue to be a foundation of the support and guidance we offer to organisations. We will also use our network of consultants and partner organisations to help bring additional insight and experience to the charities and social enterprises we work with.

During our last strategy we launched our Re-Plan service, which provides business support and advice to operational organisations. The demand for RePlan has been high in recent years, as a consequence of COVID-19 and the knock-on effects following the pandemic.

We will continue to ensure that we combine our funding with pragmatic, easy to access advice and guidance and expand our advisory services, including RePlan, into any new areas where gaps are identified and where we have the resources to assist organisations.

“The most valued aspect is early support, followed by sustained support at key stages - continuing to invest in a challenging project over an extended period of years and responding to changing needs.”
A project participant’s view on the importance of AHF’s expertise
“I would describe AHF’s role as using finance and support to help communities use their heritage for future prosperity. AHF is an enabler of people and local places to use those assets and take them on for good and for the future.”
Evaluation stakeholder consultee
Championing the impact of heritage and community-led regeneration

Our last strategy further demonstrated how the types of projects we invest in build social capital, contribute to high street regeneration and increase the civic pride and confidence of deprived areas. We will continue to help raise the profile of the role charities and social enterprises play in heritage and place-based regeneration, particularly within government and amongst a broader range of social investors.

Our work with the pilot Heritage Development Trusts (HDTs) has demonstrated the potential of specialist social enterprise organisations playing a greater role in town centre regeneration. We will continue to communicate the learning around our HDTs, including through our specific reports on their work, to further evidence the impact of these organisations.

An evaluation framework will support the delivery of this Strategy and we will continue to produce a range of communications, including our easily accessible case studies, to inspire and communicate the benefits of the projects we have supported. Our newer approaches to evaluation, including the development of our longitudinal model that tracks projects over 5- and 10-year periods, will remain vital to our efforts to track the long-term impact of our work and the projects we support.

As an organisation we will continue to dedicate time to working with our partners in the heritage and social investment sectors and in making the case for the impact of our collective work. This will be through cross sector initiatives and working groups and in developing the evidence base for the impact of heritage and community led regeneration.

In our 50th year, we will showcase some of the new and long-standing projects we have supported over the lifetime of the AHF. We will use this unique opportunity to demonstrate the lasting impact and regenerative potential that community-led heritage projects can have on communities across the UK, focusing on the people, as well as the buildings, behind the stories of revitalisation.

“AHF is visible and vocal as champions of the value of heritage, and making the case for the various ways heritage can be used for social impact…”
Evaluation consultee