Self Producing II: Funding
Funding: the things that everyone wants and no one has. The bottom line of funding is that there is a finite amount and you should always create a budget for if your funding application gets denied. The competition, particularly for government funding, is fierce. It also usually has nothing to do with the quality of your work. Unless you are applying for funding in relation to a specific topic or issue, the content of your piece has little to nothing to do with your funding application. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Government Funding: Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, etc
There are certain things that government funding is looking for in your application. The two biggest are outreach and diversity. Outreach needs to have some connection with your project. For example, you are making a piece about dementia in rural communities so your outreach should have to do with partnering with a dementia charity, running dementia-friendly drama classes, or putting on dementia-friendly performances. In addition, they will want to see evidence that you have consulted with families dealing with dementia and dementia specialists in the creation of the piece. Immediately you might be saying “This seems like a lot to do just to put on one play!” and you are correct. The government does not value art at the fringe level and will expect you to “prove” your value via outreach. They do not look kindly on art for art's sake. Outreach of this kind is undoubtedly good, but forced outreach because of the government’s disdain for art is not good. But that’s another blog post…
Diversity is the other key aspect you need to include. Your creative team, collaborators, and audience all need to be diverse. Think about ways that you can make your piece accessible. Creative Scotland will award you a separate budget for access costs, such as a BSL interpreter or open captioning. They will want to see how you are dedicated to diversity in every aspect of the work. Good ways to do this (aside from hiring a diverse creative team) are by offering a mentorship/apprenticeship to a young theatre maker, bringing in a BSL teacher to help you include BSL in your production, making sure that your venues are accessible, and having relaxed performances. Make these regular practices for your company or organization and be dedicated to making your work accessible!
Budgets are very important and understanding how to balance them is a skill. Government funding wants everyone on your project to be fairly paid, so use fringe standard professional rates such as ITC to help you suss out artist fees. Take into consideration support-in-kind as this will really help you balance your budget. Support-in-kind is mentorship from other theatremakers, free rehearsal space, or marketing support from your alma mater. It is free support given to you and your project from outside sources. Calculate the value of this support in a monetary value and add it to your income. Remember that your budget needs to balance, so your income and expenses need to be the same.
Be sure to list all of the organizations and artists that are collaborating with you. These are different from your actors or creative team. These are venues, mentors, charities you consult, and marketing gurus. They do not have a say in your creative project, but they are key to delivering your project. They will add credibility to your project in the eyes of governmental funding.
If you can, use an address outside of London for your Arts Council England account. They are more likely to fund companies, artists, and projects based outside of London.
Find someone that has had a successful application to help you write yours.
Arts Council England is particularly interested in work that is based rurally, works with young people/children, and works with marginalized groups.
Have very clear outcomes: we will have x amount of audience, we will work with x amount of workshop participants, etc.
You can apply for funding up to a year before your project ends so be sure to get your applications in early and with enough time to resubmit if you are rejected. Be aware that Creative Scotland only allows you to apply once for a project after you have been initially rejected, so use their feedback resources!
Crowdfunding is, unfortunately, a staple in our industry. When the government fails to provide you with funding, you must turn to the people. Crowdfunding is good for building a sense of community around your project. You can engage your local community or the community around the topic of your project. The downside is that, due to late-stage capitalism and the cost of living crisis, very few people have very much to give. Take what you can and always be grateful for everything you get. Find crowdfunding platforms that don’t take much from you. Admittedly, I haven’t used them for a few years so I don’t have any specific recommendations, but there are plenty of guides and reviews out there if you do your research.
Patreon is crowdfunding, but it is not project-based. It allows people to become patrons of you or your company. They can donate an amount monthly in a subscription. You assign rewards to them based on the amount they donate. This is also a great way to develop a following and community based around you as an artist. It takes a lot of work and is not a quick fundraising scheme, but is a long-haul campaign. It’s an account that you need to add to in addition to your social media pages. You need to create bespoke content for it. The payoff can be great if you put the time and effort in.
Where to look for alternative funding: