Arts Grant Funding has got to be a consideration for many creatives – especially for those with a fantastic idea but limitation when it comes to finance. Arts grant funding is something many of us want to get our heads around therefore if we’re looking to set up and launch our own show, burlesque or otherwise…

From costumes to rehearsal space to show promotion, Burlesque can be a pricey game for the unprepared. (Penny Starr Jr perfectly summarises vital “Burlesque-nomics” over at 21st Century Burlesque.)

Thankfully there is (seemingly) no shortage of funding opportunities, for example The National Lottery Community Fund awarded over £588million to almost 30,000+ projects in 2019/20. Funding Central – a UK based funding database – lists 70+ funds and grant investment providers awarding over £3 billion of investment.

Arts Grant Funding and COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 has also seen a rise in support schemes and relief funds, with the Culture Recovery Fund awarding £333million worth of grants to arts organisations. Woohoo!

But despite the many corona relief grants popping up and the impact of the virus on the entertainment industry, competition has never been so fierce for those monies. It’s crucial you prepare, perfect, and present your arts grant funding application with finesse.

Let’s take a look at the preparation, research, and common application mistakes to avoid when applying for arts grant funding.

1. . What preparation do you need to do for arts grant funding?

Before you even begin the process of any application ask yourself this question truthfully – ‘Is my project ready and fully realised?’

While you might think this to be a stupid question, Arts Council England always encourages creatives to take part in their Is My Project Ready  tool, a quiz set up to help you understand where you are in your idea process.

Questions to ask yourself are:

– Could you summarise your production’s unique selling point in one sentence or create an “elevator pitch” for it?

– What is it about your show that makes it stand out from other burlesque events?

– What is the aim of your burlesque show and what community does it serve?

– How does it give back to the arts or support further creative endeavours for your peers?

Illuminating what makes your proposition unique is vital! in arts grant fundingIf you need extra inspiration for the answers to these questions, perhaps look up the ethos and creative missions of the fund you are applying for (if they have one). For example Arts Council England’s LETS CREATE video below clearly outlines their strategy and the kind of projects they are looking to fund.

2. Research and writing your application for arts grant funding

Some would argue that the research process takes as long as actually writing the application, but that doesn’t need to feel overwhelming.

Here are our suggestions of what’s useful…

– First port of call should be to see if the fund you are applying for has application information videos on their website or socials. Or in the absence of those, check for a blog section, as you can often find reports, tips and helpful articles there.

– But also do your homework on previous successful applicants and understand what made them unique and worthy of funding.

– Seek advice and recommendations for grant writing in your creative communities, such as related Facebook groups, or shoutouts on Twitter and Instagram, as it’s essential to get a second opinion, or a second pair of fresh eyes on your application where possible.

After you have done your research, create yourself a manageable checklist to keep track of what has been done, and/or what might need to be researched further.

There is also the option of hiring a grant writer to help with or completely take over and guide you through the process. Many can be found on outsourcing and freelance websites such as Upwork, Fivver and PeoplePerHour, or if you are looking for personal recommendations, if you have a friend who recently had a creative project funded perhaps ask who they used, or again post shoutouts on social media.

3. Common mistakes to avoid

We did a shout out to friends and colleagues to get some advice on common pitfalls…

– Staff costs

Cassie, producer of The Cocoa Butter Club, says, “Make sure you are paying yourself when you are writing budgets, this is to highlight to the funder that no one is working for free. Funders want to be able to pay artists and creators, especially ones in a position to create jobs for others. If you are stuck for ideas of rates, the ITC Arts Rate Of Pay page is always helpful”.

– Criteria check

Make sure you actually fit the criteria of the grant you are applying for. There is nothing worse than spending ages writing a form only to find out the grant is only for certain sectors, locations, or even age groups.

– Allow enough time

In her article “The Praise Of Going Slow”, researcher Beth Keithly recommends giving yourself a timeframe of at least six weeks before the due date when working on grants of any kind.

– Other grant options

It’s easy to fall in the trap of only applying for national grants and not local options. Some local councils have funding and grants for the arts, and be on the lookout for brands, charities and initiatives promoting their own support funds.

Don’t miss these extra ones, so set up a Google Alert for “creative arts fund” “creative arts grants” and similar keywords for update emails to keep you in the loop.

Grants may feel like a laborious process, but the achievement felt when finished along with the joy of if that application is successful makes it totally worth it.

Happy grant applying!

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