Here are 5 things that I've learnt in the last few months about making funding applications.
1. Think about the funding guidelines at all timesI think this is the most important of all these tips, and the one I struggled most with. As the applicant, you are totally obsessed with your project and want to tell anyone who will listen all about it.
I've applied to lots of different funding sources for the various aspects of this project, including ones that were solely interested in the work I would produce as an artist, and ones that were completely focussed on what the community will achieve from the funding. Every funding source has its own agenda, and what you write about the aims of your project has to be adjusted to fit into what they want to fund.
It was really, really hard to keep my focus and make sure I only told them about the stuff that they were interested in, and downplay the parts that they weren’t interested in. If we found ourselves losing our focus and talking about the whole project, Bill and I developed a brilliant technique of chanting to each other the funding’s purpose. E.g. “It’s all about ME - not them!” or “it’s nothing to do with me - it's about the Explorer Scouts!”.
2. Get advice from everyone you can.In Fife we have the wonderful resource that is FCA&C, and they were a fantastic help to me throughout the planning of my project. I even arranged an individual consultation with them to look through my main application and budget, and have them explain to me where I was on the right track, and more essentially, where I was going wrong. It was a brutal hour, where I had to justify my choices again and again. But it felt necessary, in order to create a stronger application, and I feel that my whole project is stronger because I had to argue for it.
I attended a short funding workshop at the annual Fife Artist’s Forum, and picked up a lot of tips from them. This was given by the Cultural Enterprise Office who run longer courses as well.
There are various websites that have brilliant advice and funding tips in them. Here's a good place to start:
Cultural Enterprise Office - Funding and Finance
Cultural Enterprise Office - Budget's Guide
3. Find a friendTwo minds are much better than one when it comes to application forms. Having a friend who isn’t in your industry is best, because they’ll pick up on any jargon you use and want it explained. I owe my husband, Bill a huge thank you for helping me write my applications. He’s given up evenings, weekends and most of the Christmas holidays and without him I’d have been really stuck.
Having someone else read through your weak, garbled sentences really focusses your mind to making things clearer.
The way we work
This isn't a way everyone will choose to work, Its just what works best for us. We've tried working together for the whole thing, but it didn't work for us.
a. I write down pointers of what I want to say for each section of the form - often with rather garbled paragraphs talking about a rather abstract thoughts I want to include.
b. We look at this together and decide which of these points we should keep, and if anything else should be added.
c. I go back to my computer and put everything into more coherent sentences.
d. Finally we work together to make the whole thing correctly structured, so it makes complete sense to someone coming to the project idea from scratch.
4. Explain everythingI know this sounds obvious, but the people who are reading your application have never heard of your project before. You have to tell them who you are and what your project is. You need to mention why you are doing the project the way that you are, and what the benefits are of doing it the way you’ve chosen. All technical terms need to be explained clearly.
Every aspect of your project budget needs to be accounted for and justified. They also want to see how the funding you’re applying for fits within the whole project budget.
5. Do your researchBeing able to back up your statements with other people’s quotes is really useful. I asked for a letter of support from every organisation I was planning to work with, which gave me a lot of quotes I was able to dip into.
The internet is a wonderful invention. There will always be someone who has worked out exactly what you need to know and has posted it online. All you need to do is to find it among all the dross.
This can take ages, or can be really simple. I easily found out lots of marketing facts about the Lake of Stars Festival because they had written them on their website, but I spent ages trawling the internet looking for useful facts I could include about the benefits to Scotland from me taking part in the Lake of Stars Festival.
I hope these tips have been useful, I'll write part two in a few weeks time