In addition to a good idea, you need a solid team, plan and proof of delivery so make sure to build strong partnerships and collaborations. Any good business development requires an awareness of other organisations which do similar work to yours or run activities who complement your work. This is also an excellent way of being aware of what’s out there in terms of funding and opportunities. Beyond looking at the big funders it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for organisations who offer one-off grants – this may be a good start for small pots of funding to help you get started and removes the barrier of not only having to learn a whole new application language but offers the opportunity to try out an idea before building on it further.
Funding bodies – especially the larger ones which have established themselves as the go-to funders for creative projects – have the tendency to ask for information which serve as box-ticking exercises. That narrative has to shift, and one way of doing that as organisations is to view every single rejection, feedback and survey as a genuine benefit to strengthen your project and future applications.
Finally: ask for help. Funding applications are draining and require the ability to budget, research, write copy, project manage and have a clear understanding of evaluation and monitoring. It’s not a one-person job. Most funders will offer sessions, either one-to-one or group workshops to help you better understand what they’re looking for. There are consultants and experts out there who can support your application, but if there is no budget to invest then look at funding libraries online or ask someone who has experience if they could look through your application or offer advice.
We can’t pretend to be accessible if we’re only awarding funds to those with the resources to afford full time fundraising teams or create barriers by insisting on a certain language to be used in funding applications. Many of the things outlined above touch on the continued frustration of writing funding applications; a cycle which perpetuates that in order to get funding, you have to have established yourself without any funding. I hope to see a shift where access is taken seriously and isn’t just lip service. This includes offering more transparency and making it easier for new ideas to be supported. Until then, we keep going and join in on the efforts to offer transparency and support.