When applying for funding, you’re appealing to another organisation’s brand – whether it fits with yours is essential. All funding organisations have a remit and a clear idea of who they want to fund, which means they’ll quickly separate out who fits with their brand, values and ethos from the pile. So do your homework – make sure the fit is right so you’re not barking up the wrong tree before you’ve even started.
As founder of dance company Turned On Its Head, Liz Clark shares
“We develop a project first in consultation with the families we work with and then look to see which funders share our ethos and aims.”
“We’ve had a great relationship with the Big Lottery and I think their grant programmes are very accessible.” As Liz says “It does take a while to get to know funders and how their grant schemes operate,” but it’s always worth getting to know what options are out there and which are best suited to your brand and the immediate needs of the business.
As self-published children’s author James Sykes advises:
“The targets for fundraising are often those that either empathise with your efforts or have some form of attachment to what you are aiming to achieve.”
He shares how important it is to use the resources out there to investigate your options: “Being very new to this industry, the key thing for me in targeting fundraising was to approach people with far superior knowledge to my own in order to recognise the true extent of my options. There are great people out there who are willing to offer time and advice, even to those at the initial stages of their venture.”
James Sykes’ book, Where is Frederick the Fly?
So how do you identify where and how to target your fundraising? 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 – advises
“I try to get right to the heart of the project/company to understand the ethos behind it and then research which grant body is most closely aligned.
If you can dig out the way your work will affect and transform people it is easier to articulate the need for funding support through your applications. In terms of public funding, again it’s all about understanding your audience and their needs/preferences and then getting to the nub of what you do and what you can offer and how this reflects them.”
To do this, Alan Chapman, writer, producer and musician with Rude Angel, a band with a mission to raise suicide awareness since losing lead vocalist Lianne Ashberry in 2015 suggests putting yourself in the funders shoes: “Look very carefully at – and really understand by probing and inquiring if necessary – what does the potential giver or donor want in return for their funding? Often it’s not financial at all – although the bigger the funding, the more it will be about the outputs or results the giver needs.
So, find out the funder’s key criteria for making their selections – then make sure you can meet those expectations and needs.
Probably the person who makes the decision is answerable to somebody more senior, in which case try to see the selection/decision/measurement/follow-up process from their standpoint. The better you understand and meet the needs of the funder, then the better your chances of winning the decision.”
With so many funding options and avenues out there (more on those in a future blog), it’s not only about finding the right organisation. In fact, an organisation might not be the right avenue for your particular project or business. First and foremost, it’s about identifying the right avenue, or even tailoring your plans to fit one. Performance poet Lydia Towsey has found there are many, many ways to skin a cat when it comes to funding… “I’m most familiar with Arts Council England’s G4A funding programme, with numerous projects I’ve led on or been involved with having been supported via them. However, I often undertake research to explore other funding options within given sectors, areas or timescales, such as Ward Funding, Awards for All, Big Lottery, local festivals or events.
I may tailor plans, where possible, to take advantage of funding opportunities – for example, undertaking a performance as part of a particular festival as a condition of a commission.”
Lydia’s approach is about using the resources she has and matching them with the resources available. Sound advice indeed – you cannot beat marrying lots of research with an open mind.