If you are thinking of applying for the Arts Council Cultural Recovery Fund Grant, then here are my top 10 tips.
My journey into grant writing started 12 years ago, when I became the Chief Executive of a Charity, at the time we had no fundraiser, and myself and my assistant found ourselves thrown in at the deep end, it was a sink or swim moment. My background was in marketing having worked in marketing for organisations such as Unilever, Microsoft, Mars and Aldi, so I thought that the skills I had honed in creative writing could be put to good use, what I didn’t realise is that creative and emotive writing needs to be coupled with evidence-based writing and it needs to be succinct. Word limits are a fundraisers nightmare and best friend, and the Arts Council Cultural Recovery Fund application has not only word counts but the dreaded character count!
Since that first foray into grant writing 12 years ago where I secured over £5 million from a variety of sources to restore a beautiful Victorian Music Hall to its former glory and turned it into a cultural hotspot for arts, crafts, music and heritage. I have gone on to secure millions of pounds of funding for projects as diverse as festivals, events, regeneration, culture, safety projects, safe spaces, theatre projects, volunteer organisations and live music venues. Whilst I have been building Night Time Economy Solutions Ltd I topped up my income by also working for grant and tender writing specialists Silverlock.
Here are my tops tips, learnt in the school of hard knocks for applying for Arts Council and other grants.
- Register for Grantium early: Grantium is the Arts Council portal for applying for grants, they accept that it’s not the most user friendly of portals. It also takes approximately 5 days from signing up to getting approved, so make sure that you sign up in plenty of time. When I say register it’s not just a case of signing in, getting your log-on name and password and popping all of your details in, you have to submit the initial form along with your governing documents, if you are a business rather than a charity this is your Memorandum and Articles that you would have received from companies house on registering. Then you have to press submit and wait for the Arts Council to send you an email opening the grant form.
- Read the guidance: The Arts Council publish extremely helpful guidance with every grant round, make sure that you read and use these guidelines as you write your application. They also publish really helpful supplementary guidance, make sure you take the time to read it all. For example, I’ve just contacted a client after rereading the documentation because they hadn’t considered ongoing social distancing measures in their current planning and this new information changes their plans significantly. Also, check whether your organisation can apply, it would be distressing to fill in the application form and realise that you aren’t eligible. The criteria and list of organisations and art types that can be funded can be found here.
- Ask for help: The Arts Council also has a helpful and friendly telephone hotline, their advisors, know the forms and process inside out if you are unsure pick up the phone, send that tweet. However, do be aware that they can’t offer to read your application. Alternatively, you can find yourself a mentor, or someone used to grant writing to review or write your application. They can’t guarantee you will be successful, but having a neutral third party can be helpful. They can offer feedback and highlight where you might not have made something clear or where you lack evidence. They can also help you out with ideas especially if they have or are working with other arts organisations.
- Try not to feel overwhelmed or intimidated: The Arts Council are pro artist, they want to help you succeed. They understand that many of the organisations applying to them are new to fundraising and new to the whole applying for grants thing. They understand that the whole process can seem pretty daunting and there is so much at stake at the minute. You can help them to choose you and your organisation by giving them the information that they need in a clear, concise, detailed, and evidenced format.
- Create offline documents: Before you start to write, download the guidance. Gather all the documents in one place. There are 4 questions to answer, so copy and paste these into a document, then write your application in word first. Use short succinct sentences and back up statements with data and examples. Before uploading check spellings, word and character count. Remove flouncy or unnecessary words. For the Cultural Recovery Fund under £1million, you will also need.
- Set clear goals: To receive a grant you have to identify a specific culture related need. You must be able to clearly define a feasible goal that costs a specific amount of money. This grant round is intended to ensure that by 31st March 2021 you will be fully or partially reopened or operating on a sustainable cost-efficient basis so that you can reopen at a later date. Pages 8 to 10 of the Cultural Recovery Fund Grant guidance document gives you clear guidance as to what the Arts Council will and won’t fund.
- Artistic merit: If there are several projects lined up side by side vying for funding, the weight will be on the quality of the artistic merit of the organisation applying, so don’t be shy in selling your artistic worth, and how valuable you are to your community locally, nationally or internationally.
- Evidence: It’s essential to evidence everything that you say. Don’t try and shoehorn ideas in, don’t lie, don’t over exaggerate, be honest and if there are gaps, don’t be afraid to address those, and tell the Arts Council what you are going to do to address them. It’s so important not to twist and distort your goals to fit the expectations of the funding source, if this isn’t the right grant for you, maybe the next one will be. Do be genuine about where your project might meet wider Arts Council values and ambitions share that.
- It’s read by Humans: Think about having 1 minute in an elevator with the person that is going to read your application, what would you tell that person to get them excited by your ideas. Now transfer that to your application. Please don’t be afraid to show your excitement, your passion and enthusiasm in the way you write, and remember that a human just like you will be assessing your application and they have to try and get underneath the skin of your organisation in minutes, and they will be processing 1000’s of applications, how can you stand out positively and engagingly. Spare that person the headache of searching for missing items or reading through a long, rambling narrative. Make sure your submission is clear and to the point, don’t miss anything out, because if you do that will automatically discount your application.
- Cashflow/Budget: Do make sure that you have created a realistic project cashflow/budget. Therefore, many organisations are desperate for funding, so don’t ask for more than you need, but do make sure you request enough money to do what you require to survive and thrive. Get current estimates. Don’t base your budget on last year’s prices, as you will have to consider the impact of COVID-19 and also inflation. Once you’ve gathered this information, present it in the format that the arts council have asked for.
Finally, it’s worth noting that if you are a live music venue and you applied to the Emergency Grassroots Music Venues Fund you can also apply to this fund. Because, the Emergency Grassroots Music Venues Fund was created to support grassroots live music venues in imminent risk of insolvency, to remain solvent until 30 September 2020. The Recovery Grant covers a much longer period, from 1 October 2020 to 31 March 2021
The NTIA is also hosting a free session on how to apply and venues can register here
You can contact Jo on firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on 07734255807 for more information
If you have any questions, need a sounding board or would like someone to read your application before you submit it or write your application then we would be happy to help you and we have discounted our rates for all venues applying to COVID-19 recovery funds. We are currently writing and checking applications for businesses as diverse as theatre companies, festival organisers, arts and music venues.