If there is one word that strikes fear and dread into the heart of anyone working in the arts it is ‘funding’. It’s a word that can encompass both infinite possibilities and the absolute desolation of a project. Although there are obviously other factors involved, funding is the ultimate yes or no. Whether you get all, some, or nothing, funding shapes your work immeasurably.
My work with funding has been quite limited in a certain sense as I haven’t been in the industry for long enough to have experience applying to a lot of different pots of funding, but also wide in others as every project I have been involved in has required funding. Therefore I cannot talk about all aspects of funding, but will give you an overview of what I have learnt.
In order to give us an idea of what it is like from the other side I will interview Jane Moore, an artist who has successfully crowd funded her recent Sketch A Day project – go and check it out.
Often the easiest way to get a person or institution to support your project is to suggest to them the possibility (tone is everything) of in-kind support. This means that no money exchanges hands, but a service or something that helps your project is given free of charge. Examples of this that I have experienced are having a venue provided free of charge, catering put on for meeting or a sponsors reception, and certain items of infrastructure like marquees and changing rooms being provided for an event.
In-kind support can also include marketing support, for example a larger company or institution can promote your event or project to their larger database so that you get a higher level of awareness or attendance for your project. This can be a really important tool for you to make use of, tailor your marketing materials to the expected audience of this company and make the most of all of the platforms that they will allow. Suggest times that prove the most effective for them to release the marketing to their subscribers and make the experience as easy and pleasurable for this company as possible.
A really important tool in this kind of funding is to build relationships with these companies or institution. If this is managed well then you can find yourself in the situation where that company is coming to you and asking what you are putting on and developing a continuing relationship.
Although these aren’t necessarily make or break factors for a project, they are incredibly helpful none the less. In-kind support is so much easier for people to give you and therefore can be the most dependable. However, as it is easier to give away than money, sometimes people do not see the need to write a letter of agreement or contract for services agreed. Therefore it is easy for people to ‘forget’ or, if your contact moves on from that company, then it can be difficult to get other employees to honour their promises. Therefore it is always useful to get a letter of agreement in place, especially for larger pieces of in-kind support such as venue hire. Failing this have a strong email trail.
When I use the term ‘personal funding’ I don’t necessarily mean funding from individuals. It’s more a way of creating ambassadors for your project and getting funding through this.
The most obvious way to think of this is as individual giving. It can be difficult to ascertain how to go about this and it can be a long process. By looking at your repeat visitors or those who are most interested in what you are doing, you can foster channels that make them feel more involved in what you are doing. Invite them to workshops, rehearsals, viewings etc. Through feeling involved in all aspects of the project you have more of a chance of people wanting to see it grow. And an easy way for this to happen is to add more money to its pot. Personal giving is not all about taking rich people to fancy dinners (although this is an effective way for certain institutions); if you don’t have the money to put into the project then it is unlikely you have it for dinner at the Ritz.
The elements of personal giving can also be applied to businesses that have money to give. A lot of larger companies want to give to local charities or projects – make the most of this. Look for large companies in your area, tell them about what you are doing and how they can help, offer them publicity through it, tell them about the good things that you are doing in the community. Find the relevant individual in that company and go and meet with them, talk to them about what you are doing and make them engage with it. Create ambassadors for your project who can influence the people who control the money. Be aware with this type of funding that there may be constraints, you may have to add in or alter certain aspects of your project to fit in with the companies priorities but this should never take away from or change your project. This money should be supporting what you do, not taking away from it.
If you are successful in getting funding then build on this relationship and keep the company and individual involved and up to date with what you are doing all year round. This style of funding is not usually a short term fix, sometimes a company will want to see a year’s worth of your work before they make a decision. So invite people to see how you work and what you do, make yourself visible and make everything you do look worthwhile and full of scope that they can help you achieve. It may be a longer process than you first imagine but be patient with it.
Ah grants. Grants, grants, grants. Grants.
I’m not sure if grants and I are really friends at the moment.
I won’t say that much about grants because the best advice that you can get is from the place that you are applying to. The main thing is to be pure in the writing of your applications – by this I mean do not stray away from the true meaning of the project you are applying for. Don’t fuss and faff. Know your project inside and out and know exactly what you want, why you want to do it and how the funding will make this possible and how without it the project would not be possible. If you are invited to an interview then make sure you are fully prepared, know your budget inside out and be ready for them to pick apart everything you have so lovingly and passionately put together. Remember that when it comes to grants it is a business situation rather than a creative artsy meeting about how fabulous everything is going to be. But also make sure to mention the fabulous.
Read through the guidance. Know the company that is funding you and their priorities and the priorities of that funding pot. Make sure that you are applying to the right fund with the right project.
As a final thing on grants – don’t be disheartened, take on feedback and learn from it, apply to multiple pots in the likelihood that some will fall through.
And now I’ll hand over to Jane who can tell us a bit about funding from the other side being an artist and her most recent project a Sketch A Day.
Can you give us a bit of an introduction to you and your work as an artist?
I am a Belfast born artist and studied Fine Art before moving to London to embark upon a degree in Fashion Promotion and Illustration, graduating from the University College for the Creative Arts (UCA).
Since graduating I have been working as a freelance illustrator and storyboard artist in the Advertising, Commercial, Marketing, Fashion and Publishing industries. I have been fortunate to have worked with clients such as Beats by Dre, RSA Films, i-D magazine, Douwe Egberts, The BFI, The National Portrait Gallery, Barbican and The Royal Academy of Arts. To see examples of my illustration and storyboarding work please visit inkodyssey.com
What is the story behind the Sketch A Day project?
The Sketch A Day project is the product of a New Year’s resolution I set myself in January 2014, to draw a sketch every day. Every year I make a New Year’s Resolution and I usually stick to them until about March. They normally consist of giving up chocolate or starting a new sport! I decided to make a New Year’s Resolution that I knew I would be dedicated to. One that I knew I would love and throw myself into, and that was to keep a Sketch A Day journal.
To celebrate the completion of the Sketch A day Project the innovative arts venue, Shapes in Hackney Wick, London will house all 365 individual mounted and framed sketches. To compliment the drawings, there will be an eclectic line up of live music from folk and classical to dreamy pop and Spanish guitar!
Alongside the exhibition I will also be running drawing workshops for school groups based in and around London. Pupils will get the opportunity to work alongside me drawing from costumed life models and creating their own Sketch A Day journal!
How did you go about funding it? And what was your experience in doing so?
I decided around mid-way into the project that I would celebrate the end of the Sketch A Day with a exhibition of all the 365 drawings. I also wanted to a self-publish a book of all the drawings and knew I would need to raise quite a large sum to fund both.
I decided I would use crowd-funding as a means to fund the project after talking to a few friends who ran their own successful projects and having backed a few myself. I did a lot of homework, joined crowd-funding forums to get advice and used it as a means to sell the artwork in advance along with other merchandise. That way the exhibition would be self-funding. I used Kickstarter as it is the most know for creative projects and the experience. The project received a huge response and I went over my target by 1.5k. It is a full-time job and in order for the project to be a success you really need to research well before you launch and put in the hours on social media and marketing. Getting the project out there in it’s early days and before you launch is key. It is also a good idea to look at other similar crowd-funding projects to yours.
Can you talk to us about any of your other experiences with funding projects?
This was my first crowd-funding project and the Sketch A Day Project 2014 is my first solo exhibition so funding art projects is relatively new to me. I am continuing the Sketch A Day Project into 2015 and now looking at other means to fund this project through art and new business grants etc. Selling artwork in advance is a great method you just have to hope for patient buyers!
For more information on the project and exhibition please visit www.sketchadayproject.com and the Facebook fan page https://www.facebook.com/sketchadayproject
The exhibition opening night is on the 22nd of Jan 2015 from 6pm with an evening of live music and runs until the 28th of Jan at Shapes, 117 Wallis Road, Hackney Wick, London, E9 5LN