Preparing and writing funding submissions are a necessary part of the management of every arts organisation. Competition for funds is ferocious, therefore it is important you prepare an effective funding submission.
While there is no set way to write a funding submission there are a number of things you can do to write an effective funding submission – that is one that catches the attention of the reader.
Let’s start at the beginning. Prepare by reading the guidelines. They are designed to help you, often providing information and examples and tips. Most importantly they contain word length, structure and submission date. Do not exceed the word length and do not miss the submission deadline.
Having read the guidelines, if you have any questions, then pick up the phone and talk to the contact person whose details are provided, These people have an intimate idea of what they are seeking and can provide you with sound advice and guidance.
Some years ago while preparing a funding submission for a national art exhibition, discussions with the funder’s contact revealed some political aspects they felt needed to be addressed in our submission. This level of information and support is rarely found in the guidelines.
It is a good idea to write a draft of each section in Microsoft Word prior to copying and pasting into your application. Doing so will allow you to keep track of the word count, while also allowing you to type what you want to say, then edit and par down to what you need to say.
Your funding submission is an exercise in storytelling. You need to stand out from the competition and they only difference between you and them is your story. Unless sought, don’t waste people’s time with organisational details they can find on your website or in an attached annual report, such as organisational charts. No one ever received funding because they have a nice looking organisational chart!
By all means talk about what your intend to do with the funds, however more importantly talk about the impact you will create by doing this. Impact sells. Even if you think you are not doing anything special, you are, and someone, somewhere will be impacted by your event. For example, if you provide opportunities for disadvantaged dancers, you achieve more than enabling them to dance, you empower them, provide physical, social & emotional support, provide them with income and put the smile on their face. You know you do this, just don’t assume the reader will know this. You have to tell them what you want them to know.
Read, read and read some more. Go so far as to ask someone unconnected with the proposal to read the draft. Did it make sense to them? If not, rewrite that part of your submission because it likely won’t make sense to anyone else either.
Prepare reasonable but justifiable budgets. Don’t skimp on costs in the hope this will get you over the line. It might and you also might go broke in the process. Bring your artistic, finance and operational people together to nut out the real costs. If you are required to submit details of quotes or estimates, then ensure you allow sufficient time to obtain them.
If your submission is complex and detailed, then it will likely be lengthy and time consuming. Look to form a team of people to share the job of research, preparing and writing. Bring them together to brainstorm ideas for the key sections. A task shared is a task completed.
Often you will be required to submit a maximum word length for parts, if not all the submission. This requires the final version to be concise and clear if you want to prepare an effective funding submission. Paring your beloved prose down to 500 words while retaining the essence and meaning can be challenging, and it is also time consuming. You will need to make decisions on what to include and what to leave out. Less is more, just make the more, really, really good. Your not writing a blog post LOL!
Finally if you have the resources, look to compile a calendar of funding opportunities as they are announced. In this way you will not be left trying to write an effective funding submission at the very last minute.
John Coxon is founder of art4u.australia, a consulting agency helping arts organisations to remain viable through application of The Cycle, a proven model for arts organisations. If you would like assistance with preparing a funding submission reach out to John.