How to develop and write a strong funding proposal or application

The key to your funding application being successful is a thorough, solid budget plan along with a detailed, passionate but objective cover letter. Sounds intimidating? It really isn't. All it takes if you, or your team, spending time thinking about the specific elements of your project from the research and development stages, through the process (whatever form that may take) to the final product. What is unique about your project? How can it improve a wider community?

In your cover letter, let that funding organisation know about your USP (unique selling point). Will your project help to nurture new voices, does it have positive impact on a community, is there any international appeal, can you support and be supported by other registered charitable organisations? Be confident, articulate and honestly ambitious about the scale, range and benefits of your work. And remember, funding organisations exist solely to give money to people willing to use it in innovative and beneficial ways. You just need to let them know why that should be you!

Drafting your budget is as creative an exercise as any design meeting, workshop or rehearsal and gives you authority over the entire process. In deciding how much money or time to spend on a table read or on a meeting with a specialist consultant, you will become more intimately aware of the priorities of your project, its aims and objectives and the outcomes that you need to achieve for it to be successful.

The sections you should include in your budget are:

- Income

- What funding do you hope to secure? Have you approached any other foundations?

- Have you received commissioning fees?

- What is your anticipated box office? (as a rule, budget for 60-75% capacity)

- Do you have support in kind, sponsorship or donations?

- Is there any income from workshops, merchandise, or other sources?

- Expenditure

- How much will it cost to hire individuals including directors, writers, actors, stage managers, assistant stage managers, designers, lighting designers, sound designers, composers, voice and movement coaches, etc.

- How much will you set aside for per diems (daily allowances for food/travel)

- Are you in a position to offer pensions or holiday pay?

- What are the production costs, from the venue, to site visits, costume, set and equipment hire?

- If you plan on touring, what money will you allot to travel costs, accommodation, venue contracts?

- How much will you spend marketing your show online, in person and through print?

- What other costs will you budget for including educational outreach, administration and other miscellaneous costs?

Once you and your team have reasoned your way through this extensive list, you will have covered every base that a funding organisation is likely to want to know. As I said earlier, be ambitious with this budget plan, but within reason. Do you really need that third video projector or the Senegalese accent coach? If the answer is yes, then account for them. If you’re project is particularly ambitious or relates to a niche topic, then perhaps you should create a separate budget for your research and development period and another for the rehearsal process and final product.

Strengthen and legitimize your application by contacting relevant authorities and organisations, ask their advice and see if they are willing to offer their expertise. If, for example, you are making a short film about a young blind man in inner-city London, contact some of the numerous charities that exist to serve young people, assist the visually impaired as well as the county councils that you plan to film in. It may be that your agenda will help further theirs and in doing so your work will be mutually beneficial. They may be willing to offer their advice, and in some cases have some funding of their own that they can offer you. This all relates back to my initial point about recognizing your USP and being active about it.

Nobody knows your work like you do. Nobody is a better advocate for it. Nobody can market it quite like you. That positive proactive process starts here. Get writing, get budgeting!