Fundraising can be hard, especially with the increased competition we’re seeing for funds right now - but there are also some simple things you can do to help resource yourself.
I’m Tom, I’m the new Development Manager at CPT. I’m also a freelance writer and organiser and I make my own work so I have seen fundraising from both the venue and artist point of view. Fundraising can be hard, especially with the increased competition we’re seeing for funds right now - but there are also some simple things you can do to help resource yourself, so I thought I would put together my top tips:
1. Plan in advance
I know this is easier said than done, there is a culture of short programming windows in Fringe theatres especially, but if you don’t know you’ve got a programming slot until 10 weeks before you open, you don’t even really have time to write an ACE bid let alone anything else. I plan fundraising for a project at least a year before the first iteration of it.
2. Diversify your income streams
ACE is one of the most accessible funders, believe it or not an 8 week turn around is about the quickest you’re going to get in arts funding. But, there are other ways. Consider other trusts and foundations, write to any famous / rich people you think might care, ask the venue for more money, look at sponsorship. It’s only with experience that you can work out how likely all of these things are, but if the entire project relies on 1 ACE grant and you don’t get it - there’s no contingency.
3. Think about your legal entity
In order to apply to a lot of funds, you can’t be a sole trader. Setting up a small limited company can open up a lot more, and then some interaction with the charity commissions in its various structures opens up even more. It’s a lot of work and we should be putting funds directly into the hands of artists, but this is a reality until we change it. Most theatres are charities, if you find a good fund ask them if they will receive the funds for you into their bank.
4. Think through the project from the very first iteration
Fundraising isn’t something that happens for the big final iterations of a project, if you’re doing a scratch then you need to be thinking about fundraising then. Invite as many potential donors as you can to that first scratch, send them updates throughout the process, then when you need the money they’re already primed for “the ask”. One good way to identify potential donors, is to look on the boards of charities that might have an interest in the themes of your project.
5. Don’t work solo - create accountability.
Fundraising is hard, don’t do it alone. Other people don’t have to work on your applications, but they can sit and work on zoom / in a cafe with you for motivation. It’s called “Body Doubling”, if you google it someone can probably explain it better than me. I am in a little whatsapp group with some friends where we hold each other accountable to doing difficult tasks - it’s great.
6. Read the strategy of the funder
I know, they’re all long and generally seem boring but it’s important. One observation about a lot of fundraising strategies right now is that they’re not often about “great art” any more, they’re about the way in which art interacts with communities and wider society. Designing a project with a tacked-on workshop might not be enough anymore, think about what your project leaves behind in society when it finishes.
7. Make a budget and a contingency
Lots of people tell me they need “some” money, but they don’t know how much. Make a budget, then you can make informed decisions about how much you need. Then make a contingency, so you know if you only get some funding the project might go ahead. Make sure this is all communicated with the venue in advance, so it’s not a surprise.
8. First draft on wine, second draft on coffee.
I’m not advocating you getting drunk, but I am advocating that you write a really audacious and confident first draft and whether you need a glass of wine or a friend to act as your hype-person, do that. Then, in your second draft, turn it into something the funder understands, have a coffee and focus on the detail.
9. Look at other applications
Look at other similar applications, you can request them from ACE or a good place to look is The White Pube funding library. Ask your friends to read their applications, but don’t copy them or the funder is likely to notice.
10. Have a get out plan
This is the horrible part. If you’ve planned in advance, you should also have planned the point where you can safely pull the project with no liabilities if you haven’t got the funding. Your credit card is not a back up. Repeat after me. YOUR CREDIT CARD IS NOT A BACK UP.