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Small grants

Thanks to a generous bequest from the Dickinson family we provide small grants to help NHSN members carry out natural history projects.

The Dickinson family has a long association with NHSN and we are very grateful to Elisabeth Pestell who has bequeathed and donated sums of money to NHSN in memory of her father Tony Dickinson. This money has been invested and the income that this generates is used to provide small grants to NHSN members for conservation and research projects.

In some years NHSN makes a “call” for applications and the deadline for this is usually the end of February. At other times we will accept applications at any point in the year. A committee of trustees acts as the grants panel and decides which projects should receive money.

We are now open for applications!
Deadline 28 February 2020

Who can apply for a grant?

Anyone who is a member of NHSN.

How to apply for a grant

We try to make this process as easy as possible. You should apply in writing (preferably by email) on no more than 3 sides of A4, telling us:

  • what your project is about
  • how much money you would like
  • exactly what the money will be spent on
  • the timescale for your project.

If you are applying as an individual rather than one of the NHSN Sections then you should also provide two references.

It might be a good idea to have a chat with NHSN Director Clare Freeman before you submit your application. You can contact her on 0191 208 2790 or email

The deadline for applications is 28 February 2020. Decisions will be made by the panel in mid-April.

How much money can I apply for?

The Dickinson Memorial Fund usually has around £1-2,000 per year to award in grants. From this we expect to fund at least 2 or 3 projects. As a result we rarely provide a grant of more than £1,000.

What can the money be used for?

Projects should be concerned with the natural world and natural history in some way. There are no restrictions on what the money can be used for. The grants panel decides whether or not it feels your project is relevant, worthwhile and represents a good use of funds. However, you can not apply for funds to pay for your own time.

Payment is usually given on an expenses-claim basis. This means that you may need to pay for any costs yourself and claim the money back by providing proof of expenditure.

Time Line

The panel aims to have made its decision by mid-April 2020. It can take 6 weeks to decide on an application, but you may be asked for additional information which can make the process longer. Your project should be completed within 15 months of the grant being awarded.

Examples of projects that have been awarded Dickinson Grants in recent years:

The NHSN Botany Group was awarded £800 to purchase preservation materials in order to ensure that the Society’s important herbarium collection (dried plant specimens dating back to the 19th century) could be properly conserved.

The Nathusius Bat Project was awarded £750 towards the purchase of a BAT AT100 wide bandwidth ultrasonic transmitter. Nathusius Bats have recently been discovered in Northumberland and this project aims to find out more about this rare species by catching them and fitting radio-tracking devices. The ultrasonic transmitter is used to attract the bats down to a level that they can be caught in nets.

Philip Hamner was awarded £375 to purchase materials to build and install large nest boxes for Owls, Kestrels and Goldeneye.

John Richards was awarded £140 to pay for the DNA fingerprinting of four Black Poplar trees that he discovered near Stamfordham. This was to find out whether they are native trees or well-known clones which have been planted. There was thought to be only one other native Black Poplar known in Northumberland, near Humshaugh, and after DNA testing this was found to be a well-known clone and therefore presumably planted.

The North East Beached Birds Survey (NEBBS) was awarded £200 for the preservation and mounting of some beached bird specimens. These are used by NEBBS for educational purposes – to illustrate the birds they find washed up on our beaches and help explain to people about pollution, food, migration and the weather. These specimens are available for use by the Learning Team in the Great North Museum: Hancock.

NHSN’s Bird Ringing Group was awarded £300 towards the costs of new GPS devices to enable them to continue their important Kittiwake foraging research. This involves catching adult birds and fitting them with GPS tags which record the birds’ movements. The Kittiwakes then have to be re-captured and the tags removed in order to download the data from them. This work is providing some fascinating and important data about their feeding behaviour.

Anne Stephenson was awarded £1,500 to make 20 letters from the Hancock Correspondence Collection in our Archives available on our website, in order to make them more accessible and highlight the diversity of the collection. This is a culmination of several years work by Anne who has meticulously catalogued and transcribed the correspondence.