Making an application for the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund

These guidelines give you the information you'll need to write a good application to the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund. 

1. Overview

The BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund has been allocated £15m over three years to support ambitious, audience-facing independent UK and international film and broader screen activity of national significance. 

Bringing films to audiences across the UK in a dynamic and original way, the activity supported will demonstrate cultural ambition and encourage audiences to take risks in the viewing choices they make.  Projects should be high profile and therefore be able to attract national press and media coverage.  For local projects, funding is available through the BFI Film Audience Network.

Fund aims

We aim to achieve the following through the fund:

  • a larger audience for independent UK and international film and broader screen activity that is representative of the UK population, achieved via a genuine change in working practices.  This could include, for example, new approaches to marketing and promotion, investing in an inclusive workforce that is representative of our population
  • increased number of accessible screenings right across the UK to ensure independent UK and international film and broader screen activity is truly accessible to all
  • an increased profile for independent UK and international film and broader screen activity
  • a broader range of organisations supported by the fund, breaking down historic barriers to funding

2. Delivering against our National Lottery Strategy

All activity funded through the Audience Projects Fund should deliver against at least three of the following strategy outcome(s) of the BFI National Lottery strategy:


Everyone can experience a great range of screen culture

  • People across the UK can access a wider choice of film and the moving image including stories that reflect their lives
  • Funding helps to tackle social, economic, and geographic barriers for screen audiences in new and effective ways
  • Children and young people are empowered to develop their own relationships with a wider range of screen culture
  • Screen organisations have significantly reduced their carbon footprint

In addition, all National Lottery awards must deliver against our three principles for National Lottery funding:

  • Equity, diversity and inclusion
  • UK-wide
  • Environmental sustainability

Key Performance Indicators

The BFI will measure the success of the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund using the following Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):


  • Percentage of successful applicants from outside London and the South East. Target: 60%
  • Percentage of funded projects which take place outside London and the South East. Target: 100%
  • Admissions / beneficiaries from outside London and the South East. Target: 75%
  • Successful applicants new to BFI National Lottery funding. Target: 20%
  • Total admissions. Target: 6 million


  • Accessible screenings (closed captions, audio description, BSL interpretation, marketing materials, ticket incentives / discounts). Target: 50%
  • Relaxed Screenings (autism / neuro-diverse / dementia / baby friendly). Target: 50%
  • Percentage of Projects available online. Target: 50%


  • 100% of awardees have calculated a carbon footprint using designated tool within a 12 month period
  • Year 1 — baseline carbon footprint data is established for 100% of awards
  • Year 2 + 3 – minimum 30% absolute carbon footprint reduction overall for awards against Y1 baseline

Equity, diversity and inclusion

We champion everyday inclusion at the BFI. A clearly defined and communicated set of Inclusion Targets gives us, our partners and the wider industry ambitious goals for a more diverse screen sector and representative audiences.

Collectively, all projects supported by this Fund will contribute towards achieving the BFI’s Inclusion Targets, which are:

  • Disabled (including those with a longstanding physical or mental condition and those identifying as D/deaf or neurodiverse) 18%
  • Black and Global Majority (London) 40%
  • Black and Global Majority (outside London) 30%  
  • Gender balance — of those identifying within the gender binary (also monitoring trans and non-binary identities) 50%
  • Sexual identity – those identifying as LGB+ 10%
  • Working class background 39%.

BFI Diversity Standards

All of the activity supported by our funding is informed by the BFI Diversity Standards. You will need to demonstrate how your project meaningfully tackles under-representation in relation to disability, gender, race, age, sexual orientation and socio-economic status, while also considering the interactions of these identities and any other barriers to opportunity. If successful, you will need to report following the conclusion of your activity, evaluating how you have delivered against the aims of the Diversity Standards in practice.


Collectively, all projects supported by this Fund will contribute towards achieving the BFI’s aim of UK Wide. 

The BFI funds activity throughout the UK. This includes national, regional and local provision to ensure that communities throughout the UK feel the benefit of the screen industries and culture. You’ll need to tell us where your proposed activity will be delivered and how this will support the BFI’s UK-wide principle.  

Environmental sustainability

You’ll need to tell us how you will embed the principle of environmental sustainability throughout your funded activity. This includes describing what you’re doing to reduce your negative impact as well as what you’re doing to increase your positive impact.  This work should be relevant to your activity and meaningful within your organisation. Due to the range of organisations and activity that we fund, we are not prescriptive about what this should look like, but there are five priority areas that you could focus on in your planning and application: food, energy, transport, materials use, and influencing change.

You can find inspiration and guidance on the types of things that might be appropriate to your funded activity via the Julie’s Bicycle website.

If you are offered an award, you will have access to expertise from the Julie’s Bicycle team and a range of resources to support you in delivering against this principle. You can find out more about support for awardees using the BFI National Lottery Sustainable Screen programme.

3. Check if you’re eligible

You will need experience of film distribution, film exhibition or audience development activities in the UK to be eligible. Examples include:

  • marketing initiatives
  • film festivals
  • film distribution, including cinema and online
  • immersive installations and tours
  • in-venue programmes or seasons
  • touring projects
  • in-venue audience analysis projects

Your organisation

Your organisation must be a legally constituted organisation centrally managed in the UK that is one of the following:

  • A limited company registered at Companies House that is not: 
    • Defined as a ‘large’ company under the Companies Act 2006; or
    • more than 50% owned by (or a subsidiary of)
      • non-UK resident individuals or
      • a company or corporation owned by non UK-resident individuals or
      • a company or corporation having shares listed on any stock exchange
  • A community interest company registered at Companies House
  • A limited liability partnership (LLP) registered at Companies House that is not more than 50% owned by non-UK residents partners/members
  • A UK combined or local authority or statutory body
  • A UK charity or trust registered with the Charity Commission.

Individuals cannot apply.

Get in touch with the team if you’re unsure whether your organisation is eligible to apply to the fund:

4. What you can use the funding for

Project awards

You can apply for projects awards of any duration but any activity will need to be completed by 31 March 2026. 

Funding can only be used to support projects that respond to the Fund’s aims and BFI National Lottery outcomes, that demonstrate cultural ambition and encourage audiences to take risks in the viewing choices they make.  

We will only accept applications for projects that focus on new, time limited activity which would take place within or separately to your core activity. For example, a new marketing approach within a film festival to attract audiences not currently engaging with the festival. Your project should also have specific outcomes reflecting the changes you wish to achieve with an award from the fund.

We will not accept applications for projects which are an extension of ongoing work or core activity, which we define as the main activity you were established to deliver eg running a film festival, a year round venue programme, the distribution of films. 

You can apply if your project:

  • Takes place in the UK
  • Is for a national public audience
  • Is for public benefit
  • Starts 16 weeks or more after the time of application
  • Is additional to your core delivery (please refer to the ineligible costs section below and the budget templates for further guidance)

You can apply for an award from £20,000 with an upper limit of £200,000 each year.   

We can consider making awards of up to £500,000 each year but these will be made only for those projects which demonstrate exceptional cultural ambition, national profile and scale and are supported by a good range of partners. These awards will be rare so if applying for an award for over £200,000 we would strongly advise that you discuss your project with a member of the team before applying. 

With an allocation of £15m over three years, the Fund will be highly competitive.  Please bear this in mind when deciding what level of award you will need to deliver the proposed project and if the scale of request is appropriate for the level of public benefit.

Apart from pilot projects, we are not able to make awards under £20,000. This is because we want National Lottery awards to have maximum impact on delivering against the fund’s aims.

Pilot projects awards

Awards will be between £10,000 and £20,000. 

The fund will support pilot projects which take creative, operational and economic risks in developing audiences from specific under-represented backgrounds and have the potential to grow and reach national audiences.

You cannot apply to the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund for a pilot project award if you have previously made a successful application to the BFI’s audience funds (for example, the former Audience Fund and this, the Audience Projects Fund), as these are intended to support new organisations and break down historic barriers to funding.

During the assessment process, we may discuss with you whether it is appropriate to apply for a pilot projects award or a project award to achieve your aims.

Multi-year awards

The Audience Projects Fund runs from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2026.  These revised guidelines cover the period from 31 January 2024 to 31 March 2026.    As we cannot accept applications where activity goes beyond 31 March 2026, the length of your project will be dictated by when you make an application. 

Our decision to offer funding for more than 12 months will be based on evidence that your project will deliver strongly against the fund’s objectives and that your project outcomes cannot be achieved within a shorter period of time. 

If you are successful in securing an award for more than one year, funding will be cashflowed in line with your projected expenditure subject to:

  • Satisfactory performance — you being able to continue to deliver your activity in accordance with the contractual terms of the offer of funding and the parameters of these guidelines, and provided that you can satisfactorily demonstrate (through submission of routine reporting) that you are able to remain financially viable through to the end of the term
  • Receipt and approval by BFI of routine reporting including progress against KPIs and costs to date, and which can include proposed modifications to the forecast budget and activity plans to adapt to learnings and changing circumstances, and details of planned activity as those plans solidify.

The amount of funding that BFI can make available for the second year of funding may be impacted by the ongoing availability of National Lottery funds at predicted levels. If we have to reduce funding we will aim to provide sufficient notice and work with you to modify plans accordingly.

The Audience Projects Fund will usually offer funding by way of a grant.  However, the BFI complies with UK subsidy legislation in its operation of the Audience Projects Fund.  Where the proposed use of funding comprises subsidy, additional conditions will attach to the offer of funding and if the project is expected to result in a commercial gain for the applicant, the BFI will offer funding as a recoupable grant repayable from such gains. We may request further information at application stage if this is assumed to be the case.

When you’re ineligible

You’re not eligible to apply to the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund if:

  • the focus of your project is talent development (for example, panels or workshops discussing filmmaking skills)
  • filmmakers are the intended audiences
  • students are the intended audiences, where the screenings form part of their studies
  • screenings which take place in spaces not open to the general public (for example university campuses)
  • the primary outcome of your project is not developing audiences for screen culture
  • the project is for large scale capital expenditure (small scale expenditure if directly relating to the delivery and outcomes of the project can be included)
  • the project has a focus on artforms other than independent UK and international film and broader screen activity
  • the project is for local and / or regional audiences
    • we define local and regional projects as projects which draw the majority of their audience from a single catchment area.  These projects offer a broad programme of films and events, rather than one which might be considered to have national reach because of its focus on a particular aspect of film culture or a distinct genre.  They will be of limited scale, for example projecting relatively modest admissions (as a guide, we would consider under 5,000 admissions for a film festival to be modest).  The BFI Film Audience Network has opportunities for local projects, so applicants should contact their local Film Hub for further details.
  • the project relates to business development or business start-up costs
  • the project includes and / or promotes exclusive availability (for example but not limited to exclusive availability on one VOD platform)
  • the project is an extension of ongoing work
  • the project is for core activity

Funds are not intended to substitute or replace existing funding or income that would otherwise be available, or to fund activity at the same scale that can go ahead without an award. National Lottery funds can only be awarded to applicants who demonstrate need and a clear public benefit from the activity being funded.                                                                                             

BFI National Lottery Funding is project-based, time-limited funding and, as such, there should be no expectations of ongoing support beyond the term of any awards made.

Eligible costs

The budget templates include additional guidance on eligible and ineligible costs. 

You can use this funding for project costs such as:

  • Activities needed to deliver the project for example marketing, curation
  • Contribution to overheads relating to the delivery of the project
  • Engaging specialist advice for example marketing, PR, access associated with the project
  • Accessibility needs, for example subtitles, close captions, audio description, BSL interpreted events, relaxed screenings, marketing materials
  • Professional development spend if relating to the outcomes in the project

Ineligible costs

Examples of common ineligible costs are:

  • Core costs for day to day running of your organisation not associated with the project
  • Staffing costs which are covered by other sources of funding
  • Business start up costs
  • Development of your business not relating to the project
  • Costs relating to an extension of ongoing work
  • Parties, including opening and closing night galas, awards ceremonies and prizes
  • Large scale capital expenditure
  • Activity that is currently or has already been specifically supported by another external source of funding
  • Cost incurred prior to an offer of funding from BFI
  • Promotional or other activity (such as standees and printed brochures) which do not support environmental sustainability
  • A contribution to the same activity supported by other BFI funds such as BFI Film Audience Network
  • Costs not directly relating to audience development.

This list is not exhaustive and we may inform you that other types of activity within your application cannot be supported by a BFI award, or request that you amend specific lines and allocations. 

Please note, if you are registered for VAT, your figures should not include VAT that you can claim back. If you are not registered for VAT, or you are registered for VAT but cannot fully recover the VAT you incur on costs, your figures should include irrecoverable VAT. Grants we make are ‘outside the scope’ of VAT and should be listed in your accounts as a grant and not, for example, as a fee for any services supplied to the BFI. You should get financial advice from your own accountant or the relevant tax office.

Partnership funding

For your application to be eligible you will need to demonstrate an element of partnership support which can include cash or in-kind support. Partnership contributions are an important demonstration that there is genuine support for your project from your community, stakeholders and other partners.

The larger the request to the fund the more partnership funding we would expect to see.  As a guide, we would expect to this to be a minimum of 40% of the total project budget (cash and in-kind).  For Pilot Projects, there is no minimum percentage. 

Partnership funding does not have to be secured at the point of application, but will need to be secured in advance of payment of any award from the BFI and before the proposed project start date.  Other BFI funds cannot be used as partnership funding (for example from the BFI Film Audience Network).  UK National Lottery funding from another distributor (for example Arts Council) should not be the only form of partnership funding. 

5. How to apply

When you can apply

There are no deadlines — you can apply all year round but you must apply at least 16 weeks before the start of your project and at least 6 months before the end of the current National Lottery plan (31 March 2026). However, we would strongly encourage you to apply as soon as you are ready to make an application in order to provide sufficient lead time to the start of your project. 

Applications submitted less than 16 weeks before the start of a project will be declined as ineligible.   

If your project relates primarily to the distribution of a single film, you can request for the start date to come forward no earlier than two weeks from the original intended date if the market conditions make such a move necessary in order to achieve the most beneficial outcomes relating to the project (for example competitive titles, availability of key talent). Requests for a change of date will need to be made no later than 7 weeks before the intended project start date.

If you have any questions before making an application, contact

Submitting an application

You need to create an account to make your application online. You can save your application and return to it later.

Make sure you complete all the sections as incomplete applications will be automatically ineligible.

View a PDF preview of the application form

Start an application for the Audience Projects Fund.

Information you need to provide

In the main application you’ll need to provide:

  • A brief overview of the core activity your organisation delivers
  • A brief overview of the specific audience facing project you want the BFI to support
  • The specific audiences you will be targeting with BFI funding
  • How evidence of or research on your existing and potential audiences has informed your project
  • What is your approach to ensuring the activities in the project are accessible
  • A 1,000 word proposal (details are in the application form) 
  • Evidence that your organisation can successfully deliver the project
  • A full project budget and cashflow for the project.

You will also need to attach the following documents to your application:

  • Budget (completed on the template provided).  If applying for  multi editions of the project, your budget should be for the total duration During the assessment process, you may be asked to provide a budget for each year
  • KPI target (completed on the template provided).  KPIs should be for the duration of the project
  • Environmental plan for your organisation
  • Environmental plan for your project
  • Workplace bullying, harassment and anti-racism policies
  • Marketing plans for the project. Please do not provide your organisation’s marketing plans
  • Any other document requested.

If applying with a distribution project, you will also need to submit evidence that you control the UK distribution rights for the proposed film title or that you are in the process of acquiring those rights.

If you’re applying for a multi-year project (ie a project spanning more than a year, not just crossing over a financial or calendar year end) you will also be asked why you need multi-year support and to provide key milestones and measures of success and the following:

  • Your last set of independently certified / audited accounts
    • If more than 12 months has passed since the year end covered in your certified accounts, please additionally provide draft accounts for the intervening auditable period as approved by your board (including both income and expenditure reporting and a balance sheet)
  • Your most recent budget and management accounts for the current financial year as approved by your Board (including both income and expenditure reporting and a balance sheet), as well as any subsequent budget reforecast since board approval was provided
  • Budget and forecast for your organisation for financial years 2023 to 2026, accompanied by notes highlighting the assumptions made and key risks (for instance around renewal of funding from other sources)
  • Your organisational risk register

Please note any documents submitted other than those requested will not be considered. 

Which budget to use

Use the distribution budget template if your project is the release of a film. All other types of project should use the projects budget template including pilot projects.

Download the Distribution budget template

Download the Projects budget template

Download the KPI targets template

Equality monitoring

You’ll be asked to complete an equality monitoring form when you submit your application. The data that you submit on this form will be confidential and anonymous and not seen by the staff assessing your application. However, we will not be able to put forward your application for assessment until you have completed the equality monitoring form.

If you have any questions when completing the application form please contact us on

6. What happens after you apply?

  1. You’ll get confirmation we received your application within 1-2 working days.
  2. We’ll request any additional information we may need within 4 weeks.
  3. You’ll get a decision within 12 weeks.
  4. If your project is for the release of a film, you will need to arrange a screening or provide a screening link so that we can watch the film as part of the assessment process.

Once submitted, we will review your application and if necessary, may write to you or request to meet with you to obtain more information about your application. If we need additional information from you, it may take us longer to reach a decision on your application but we will aim to reach a decision within 12 weeks.

How your application is assessed

When assessing your application, we consider the public benefit from your proposed activity and need for National Lottery funding along with the following:

Contribution to the Fund’s aims and outcomes

We are looking for projects of national significance, ensuring a larger UK population has access to UK and independent film and broader screen activity, reducing historic barriers and ensuring activity is accessible.  Activity needs to be additional to an organisation’s core work and demonstrate a need for National Lottery.  We are also looking for projects which will result in greater diversity in the workforce and audiences. 

Whether there is clear public benefit to the proposed activity

We are looking for projects of cultural significance which have partnerships at their core;  projects which promote diversity in content; provide opportunities for audiences to experience or learn about types of films to which they would not otherwise have access; evidence of research on which the project is based; relevance to the intended identified audiences; how many people will benefit from the project; evidence of sustained, long term audience development especially outside London and South East England. 

Strength of the delivery and management plans

We are looking for evidence that the proposed activity is technically and logistically viable and the applicant has the relevant experience to deliver the project and reach the identified audiences.  We are looking for robust monitoring and evaluation plans and how you will integrate the outcomes of the project into your core work.  If applicable, we will also consider how you have managed any previous BFI awards.  

Strength of the financial plan

We will assess whether the level of request is appropriate to the scale of the project; if the request is above £200,000 whether the project is exceptional; it is clear what BFI funding will support, whether the request represents good value for money and the costs and revenues are realistic.  We will look at how much partnership support is included and if there is any possibility of further income from other sources. You will need to demonstrate you are financially secure especially in the context of multi year awards.

We may share your application with other BFI teams or external consultants to help us assess it.

How we prioritise applications

We get a lot of applications and cannot support them all.  We prioritise projects that:

  • best deliver on the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund aims
  • we think will have the biggest impact on developing new audiences for independent UK and international film and broader screen activity
  • offer value for money and have the greatest potential to unlock additional partnership funding
  • take risks and try new approaches
  • aim for sustainable audience development and have a plan for future financial sustainability
  • best address the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, and UK-wide
  • allocate a greater percentage of Lottery funds in supporting direct audience development rather than staffing and overheads

7. Getting a decision

If you’re successful

  • You’ll receive a written offer of funding
  • You’ll need to sign the offer of funding and return it to the BFI within 14 days

Your offer of funding will set out details of how you’ll receive the funding, how to use it and how we expect you to report to us.

Read section 8 below to find out what to will have to do if you are offered an award.

If you’re unsuccessful

We may have turned down your application because we determined that the project:

  • did not fit our funding objectives and outcomes
  • did not demonstrate a strong enough commitment to one or all of the following principles: equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI); environmental sustainability; UK-wide
  • did not offer value for money or sufficient public benefit
  • was too ambitious for the budget
  • did not demonstrate enough relevant experience
  • was not yet developed enough
  • did not demonstrate sufficient need for National Lottery support and should be financed by other means
  • did not meet with the BFI Diversity Standards

Feedback on an unsuccessful application

If requested, we will endeavour to provide feedback. As a small team we will prioritise those organisations where we asked for additional information in support of your project during the assessment process. This will be via email, zoom or telephone.

We will keep the data and supporting materials you sent to us in line with our records retention policy.

We welcome your feedback on the application process and how we might improve it.

8. Conditions of our funding

If you are offered an award, in addition to the General Conditions of National Lottery Funding, the following conditions will apply:

  • Progress will be measured based on submission by you of interim and final reports, dates for the receipt of which will be set out in your funding agreement matched to cashflow of instalments of the award
  • Where applicable, you will need to adopt safeguarding provisions for protecting children and vulnerable adults and ensure that data on all participants in and beneficiaries of the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund can be shared with BFI in compliance with data protection legislation
  • You will be required to work collaboratively with relevant BFI departments and partners
  • You will be required to share data insights, data reports and learning from your project and ensure their continued availability after expiry of the term of funding
  • All awardees will be required to work with our designated cultural sustainability partner to assess your environmental impact and to develop and implement a net zero carbon pathway. You will be required to calculate the carbon footprint of your funded activity using our designated partner. For awards made over multiple years, an annual footprint will be required. Further guidance and support will be provided to you once the award period begins
  • If the award may result in commercial gain or profit from the activity it will take the form of a recoupable grant (see also section on Subsidy Control in the Nation Lottery Funding General Conditions)
  • If the award relates to the distribution of a film you will be required to make available audio-description files and soft-subtitled files (or similar) on the digital cinema package and for the home release and you will be required to display the BFI moving/animated logo (featuring the National Lottery logo) at the start of the film

For multi-year awards we will confirm the amount to be allocated, how it will be cashflowed and when performance review points will occur. Prior to each new financial year we will review:

  • achievement of agreed deliverables to date
  • any updates to your plan, budget forecast (including income and other partnership funding) and risk register)
  • your ongoing ability to deliver the agreed activity (including in relation to your continuing financial stability)

Such awards will be offered for the relevant multi-year period to ensure stability and continuity of awarded activities and we anticipate cashflowing each award in equal annual amounts.

The BFI National Lottery Funding Plan 2023-2026 has been developed based on full use of predicted income from National Lottery ticket sales due to BFI. In the event that receipts to BFI are lower than predicted we may have to make a pro-rated reduction across all funding plan programmes. The amount of funding that we can make available for the later year(s) may therefore be impacted by the ongoing availability of National Lottery funds at predicted levels. If we have to reduce funding for any year we will ensure that we provide sufficient notice and work with you to modify plans accordingly.