Updated: Jul 8, 2019
Funding – the holy grail of any creative project, it seems. Although the lengthy grant application forms seem daunting, getting them right with the help of input, advice and guidance is essential. No man is an island – don’t sit overwhelmed and surrounded by forms thinking it’s not worth the painstaking effort. It usually is. Funding can make or break an idea or project. Pull on all the resources you have to make your case as strong as possible. And if you are that island – for now – then take advice from the people for whom funding has been both a steep learning curve and a blessing…
Part One: Why funding? So how important is funding to the creative industry? According to Sallie Varnam – who works with organisations as diverse as Phoenix Arts, Leicester City Council, Leicestershire Police, Coventry University, Turned on its Head, Pedestrian and the Public Health service –
“Essential, a life blood if you are creating work which impacts positively on others. Grants can elevate your company to the next level towards sustainability and transform your art form into a profitable business. I am a fully subscribed believer that the arts require subsidy if artists are to be paid properly and their work is to be accessed by all.”
For founder of dance company Turned On Its Head, Liz Clark, funding grants have meant the difference between a project being an idea and a reality. “Up until now getting grants has been the only way we have been able to get projects off the ground,” she shares, whilst realising that relying on funding isn’t a sustainable long term business plan. “This approach is very labour intensive and if we don’t get the money, it leaves us unable to create the projects we dream about and reach the families we want to. So while seeking grant funding remains an important part of our work, we’re looking to create more sustainable forms of income, such as revenue from the resources we create.” That should be a given for any forward thinking business – grants are a means for developing projects, trying out ideas and unleashing yourself on the market. They shouldn’t be a long term strategy for sustainability.
Turned On Its Head
What grants often enable you to do is to assemble a team around you, giving you the resources to turn an idea on paper into something you can share with an audience or market. For instance, if you’re an artist, funding can enable you to take a show on the road, meaning you can workshop it with difference audiences, gather feedback and raise your public profile. That does – and should – require teamwork. And a team requires funding. Performance poet Lydia Towsey explains:
“As an artist, the time spent writing, rehearsing and performing the work I make will often vastly outstrip the income it’s possible to recoup from book sales and performances.”
“The multidisciplinary approach I sometimes take, involving other artists and creative professionals, further adds to this total cost. I’m currently UK touring a one woman stage show, The Venus Papers. Here the phrase ‘one woman’ is misleading, as up to ten artists or creative professionals are involved in the staging of each date! Even without counting the years of work undertaken in advance, ticket sales alone would not be sufficient to cover the show by show cost of making it happen. The value of developing and staging the work is evident – for me, the other artists, its audience and, thankfully, for Arts Council England who are supporting it. Without that support it simply wouldn’t be possible to do.”
Thankfully there are a wide range of funding options and avenues available. The two main avenues are official sources – Government bodies, councils, charities, lotteries and the like – and fundraising via personal donation, which can cover anything from crowd funding to holding a fundraising event. As Inzar Haq of Insight Consultancy, who specialises in small business funding, says:
“Government grant funding is not the only option. Others such as crowd funding, angel investment and venture capital investment are equally beneficial. The best option for you is ultimately based on the type of business you have.”
It’s all about ‘the right fit’, for both yours and the investor’s brand and ambitions.