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Surviving to Thriving: Supporting Sustainable Scottish Heritage Businesses

About the programme

The Business Support Programme, ‘Surviving to Thriving’ (StT) was funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and developed by MGS, Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS), and greenspace scotland to support heritage organisations in Scotland to develop sustainable business models.

The original 18-month programme commenced in April 2021, and delivered a comprehensive resilience and leadership training programme for 39 at-risk heritage organisations across Scotland. Funding for this programme was extended for a further year thanks to the continued support of the Heritage Fund therefore we will be working with a further 20 organisations via a 9-month version of the programme starting in March 2023.

Each participating organisation takes part in 14-18 days of training which is tailored to their needs, focusing on four main themes of  leadership, governance, business planning and community engagement. The programme is delivered through leadership cohorts, training courses, organisational interventions, and bespoke facilitated sessions.

Designed to build resilience across Scotland’s heritage sector, StT invests in individual and organisational capacity through a focus on building confidence and knowledge in business practice.

This project was designed to upskill and support the work of the heritage workforce across Scotland, including representatives from at-risk organisations in all fields, but with a specific focus on those organisations with tangible assets.

Training directly engages with the heritage workforce at vulnerable and resilience-focused organisations and addresses the skills gaps identified as required for a thriving heritage sector. Eligible organisations are awarded a community grant to enable them to fully participate in this skills programme.

2023 Participants

  • Clan Baird Society Scotland
  • Comann Eachdraidh Eirisgeidh
  • Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST)
  • Dunbeath Heritage Museum
  • Eyemouth Museum Trust
  • Ferryhill Railway Heritage Trust (inc. Ferryhill Men’s Shed)
  • John Paul Jones Birthplace Museum
  • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
  • Scottish Catholic Heritage Trust
  • Shetland Amenity Trust
  • Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum
  • The Alasdair Gray Archive
  • The Green Team (Edinburgh & Lothians)
  • The Leighton Library
  • The Museum of The Royal Regiment of Scotland
  • The National Mining Museum Scotland
  • The Royal Scots Museum
  • The Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture
  • Wellwood Burns Centre & Museum
  • West Highland Museum

Where are the participants located?

Training Strands


The core strand of this programme focused on Leadership and training encompassed leadership styles, personal and professional development, change and performance management, leading others to grow and develop, and how to support teams to develop shared values and create a shared vision. 


The training delivered in this strand focused on interventions designed to support Trustees to understand their responsibilities, how to define their roles and how to work more strategically to embrace business opportunities. This strand also included training on good practise around sustainable board development, recruitment and fundraising strategies.  

Business Planning 

This strand supported participants to embrace the opportunities that come from running their heritage organisations as businesses and give participants the skills to approach challenges strategically. Training was designed to support participating organisations to embark on effective forward and business planning, including exploring and mitigating risk, understanding VAT and balancing social and economic impact. 

Community Engagement  

This strand supported organisations to better understand engagement as heritage businesses, and offered training in working inclusively and effectively with communities and building the crucial relationships required to enable heritage businesses to thrive as part of their locality and as part of the growing place agenda. 

Training addressed participant skills gaps in marketing and commercial activity, while considering the organisations wider communication core activities and challenges. This strand also included training around evaluating and communicating the impact of heritage businesses as part of a wider advocacy strategy, helping these organisations to better articulate the impact they make on a local and national level.

Who is it for?

There are places for 20 heritage organisations to join us for our 2023 Business Support Programme – including museums, galleries, built environment, greenspaces and community heritage. Participants will be split into 2 cohorts of 10 organisations for networking and sharing of best practice.

Ideally, each organisation will put forward two leaders for each of the four training strands, who will provide the best chance of effectively embedding their learning and development in their organisation.

We know that ‘leaders’ come with a range of job titles, expertise, experience and confidence levels and we welcome that variety within the cohorts. What is key is the desire and remit to make change happen within our heritage organisations.

What will be gained?

  • Individual participants (and their organisations) will have increased their skills in the areas they need to operate thriving heritage businesses
  • The heritage workforce will be better able to manage change, embrace opportunity, and mitigate risk within their organisations
  • Participants will have greater well-being through the establishment of peer-support networks and professional cohorts
  • Participants will feel more confident through training and facilitation, and better able to share good practise across and beyond the heritage sector
  • Heritage businesses will be equipped with confident, skilled, empowered staff and leaders who are motivated to embrace new opportunities to deliver their work

When, where, and time commitment

Over nine months, beginning March 2023 (see specific dates below), participants will receive a comprehensive training and support programme covering the four key area of Leadership, Governance, Business Planning and Community Engagement, including:

  • Five days online training focussing on effective Leadership and leading effective teams
  • Three days online training focussing on Governance best-practice, including fundraising strategies
  • Three days online training focussing on Business Planning, including identifying and mitigating risks, and forward planning
  • Three days online training focussing on Community Engagement including values, communications and audience development
  • Access to additional skills-based workshops throughout the programme
  • Being part of a friendly, support group of peers all facing similar challenges, connected via an online community space

In addition to attending the online training and workshops outlined above, participants will be required to spend time within their leadership role, learning, reflecting, connecting with peers and trying out new approaches.

We will help participants plan this self-directed learning around their particular needs and priorities.

  • Perhaps they will need to better understand their own leadership style and how best to communicate with and manage their teams and volunteers?
  • Maybe they want to better understand how to maximise the potential of their Trustees and develop sustainable fundraising strategies?
  • Or how to embrace and lead change, mitigate risks and be better placed to make the most of opportunities?
  • Perhaps they know that their organisation needs to build its community engagement activities and develop their audiences?

These training sessions can benefit individual to clarify goals and talk through challenges in a supportive space. They are an opportunity to reflect and gain greater perspective on their own development.

Whatever starting point the participants are at, the training and resources will help them figure out the changes they need to make and put theory into practice.

We don’t want participants to think of this as ‘extra’ time on top of their day job – our experienced trainers will support them tin planning and trying out approached that serve their organisation’s mission and purpose, align with current (and/or future) projects and most importantly, are realistic and achievable. This is about building leadership and resilience in useful ways, not burdening people with ‘homework’ for the sake of it.

Engagement with the training is integral to the process, and we expect our participants to commit to attending all sessions.

Why is this of value for heritage organisations? And why now?

As the sector emerges from the pandemic, now is the time for leaders to reframe and take action for the future of their organisations.

Each organisation is at a different stage in its journey, their ambitions and priorities differ, but the fundamentals of effective leadership and organisational resilience apply to all heritage organisations.

This programme will help leaders to become more informed, reflective, responsive, active and confident around leading their organisations, in order to help their organisations thrive and serve their strategic aims. It will support them to explore how they understand, value and manage resilience across every aspect of their organisation’s activity.

The 2023 Business Support Programme follows the success of the 2021-22 flagship programme which supported 39 at-risk heritage organisations across Scotland over an 18-month period, upskilling over 120 current and future leaders.

Hear from previous participants

How much will it cost?

This is a FREE training and support programme. All training sessions and workshops delivered as part of the programme are at no cost to the participating organisations.

In addition, a bursary will be paid to each organisation to allow full participation in programme.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund Logo and the words "Taing dhan A' Mhaoin-Dualchais | Made possible with Heritage Fund".
Application guide and FAQ page
Application guide for 2023 programme
(PDF, 208 KB)
FAQ page for 2023 programme
(PDF, 205 KB)


If you'd like to find our more about Surviving to Thriving, please contact Project Manager, Fiona Skiffington.

Fiona Skiffington