How to get financial help for your theatre company
The arts council offer funding but will only support theatre companies with an existing reputation and work they have seen. So how do you get this reputation. One way of securing financial backing is to set your group up as a non for profit entity or Community Interest Company (CIC). This will allow you to pay your actors, director etc but any profit will need to be reinvested into your company. Then having done this you can apply for funding through local authorities etc. The best way to seek what funding is available is to speak to you arts engagement officer in your local area who will tell you what pots of funding there are locally. You will then see if your work matches the criteria of the work that you want to make. For example if you were looking at a play that had an issue around cyberbullying this would be of interest to young people and schools so your funding would be for the education pack which would allow you to fund the project or part fund it. Working alongside another group locally will also be favoured by funding bodies, ie I recently did a project with older people and our partner was Age Concern thereby a partnership was easier to fund that just one lone arts body.
This model won't hopefully detract from your work but will allow you to reach new audiences - to get those bums on seats - and have some longevity to your work ie the education packs. Funding bodies want to be able to see that you are proactive in attracting partners so the reach of the work you do is greater and thereby they are getting more for their money, but also, that the project they are funding will not just be a short play but that there is some lasting legacy to the project.
It's virtually impossible to get source funding for your project hence the add ons for an education pack or schools workshop. Once you have set your self up and established a reputation which you can prove by monitoring and evaluating the previous project you can use this information to show that there is a demand for your work, that it's current, it engages the audience and particularly it brings theatre to new audiences. Then, you are able to go for bigger funding pots and take a more national approach.
Don't be afraid to start small and local. You will need to work to get that reputation I talked about earlier. Validating this is vital, testimonials that can be traced back, vox pop your audience to show that they like not only the subject matter but the treatment you gave it. The arts is also about reaching new audiences especially non traditional theatre going audiences, so if you can demonstrate that then so much the better. This is particularly vital in areas that are seen as being deprived as access to the theatre for people living in these areas may be severely limited. The best way to find out the areas of deprivation are from the Office of National Statistics who have what is called Indices of Deprivation.
Ensuring that your work is diverse is vital but that it also truly represents the audience that it is for. For example a project aimed at young people is going to fall flat if you apply for funding that is targeted at older people. The arts needs to be more diverse so a theme that reflects cultural and ethnic diversity and actors will be vital in your application.
Once you have secured some funding you will then be able to look at organisations ie: local companies and business that 'Match Fund'. This is where the company will match the amount you have already raised.