Arts and the F Word...
Funding for the arts and creative projects has long been the subject of heated discussion, and not without good reason.
Having spent many an hour (or day, for that matter) scrutinising funding submissions for both arts and business proposals - I'm more than a little familiar with the painful process of validation, economic statistics and projections.
Undoubtedly, it's far easier to make the case for a new product than a new show - where comparators and simple customer validation can be collected, checked and rationalised within a short space of time, versus the uncertainty of showcasing a new piece of writing or exhibiting visual art.
When I speak to colleagues entering the funding fray - the general concern tends to rest on the suitability of the information they possess, the time they have to compile and complete their application, and their fear of rejection. Fairly standard concerns, one might think - but theirs are exacerbated by other factors (which would require a whole other post!).
Specifically, though, as so much of creative and arts endeavours are reliant on State supports for planning and devising programming - being able to make the case solidly tends to occupy most project owners minds. I've been interested to see a large amount of commentary on the economic validation argument of late - most notably, these pieces in the Guardian and The Buffalo News - which clearly indicate the frustration generated by drawing comparison between artistic projects and business processes in making the case for funding.
I, for one, am somebody who believes that compelling projects are not simply about return on investment. Undoubtedly it's important to allocate funding to projects which are worthwhile for a whole suite of reasons - but does that also mean they must have impeccable metrics? As arts projects are often akin to not-for-profit in ethos, financial return is not always the central priority - therefore expectations should reflect the realities of this type of operational model, rather than shoe-horning data analysis.
However, to continue to bemoan such challenges is to bypass the sorts of information that can be most useful for arts project managers. To my mind, there are some simple pointers to consider before beginning the process of applying for funding:
Availability & Appropriateness: I always aver in the direction of understanding the funding mechanism before taking the first step in the application process (it saves a lot of time!)... how regularly is the award proferred? Is it an annual or biannual submission? Can projects apply under different funding arms (e.g. festival and new project, youth and touring?). Does the project meet the right criteria?
In essence - garnering a clear perspective on how regularly the funding is available and how appropriate it is to the organisation or project.
Audience & Awareness: Bearing some of the bugbears experienced by arts promoters - these are the simplest questions to ask of yourself at the beginning of the process. Do we have clarity regarding our audience target? Who is this project going to interest, how will we engage with them? How much awareness exists regarding our work to date?
Approach & Action-planning: With a clear sense of these issues, it is then straightforward to create an action plan for both project and application. Working through these points doesn't always appeal to promoters and project teams, but is an absolute must!
Like more tips? Here are some other useful guides: