How to prepare a good funding application
Before I begin, I should add that this article is based on my knowledge of the now defunct Scottish Arts Council and I am well aware that the funding process Creative Scotland is quite different, but the general points I hope to make are simple and should also apply in some measure to The Arts Council of England.
For a number of years I worked as a freelance Specialist Advisor in the Drama Department of the Scottish Arts Council (now Creative Scotland) for whom I evaluated lots of productions and sat in on project funding meetings - reading a great many funding applications in the process.
First, I don't think there is one right way to go about filling in a funding application but there are lots of wrong ways. I believe that the first thing you must do is believe in your project and allow some of that passion to infuse the application. So many applications seems to have been written by the dead hand of town councillor. Of course your figures have to be right and of course you actually have to have spoken to the venues you claim to be in partnership with (many times an Arts Council bod will call up the venue that appears in the fantasy tour in a theatre application only to discover they have never spoken to the applicant), but no matter what it might look like on paper, and what some conspiracy theorists may tell you - it's NOT a box-ticking exercise. Yes, there are criteria (who'll benefit from your project?) and you have to come across as a professional, as a safe pair of hands who is not just to run away with the money
But work on the assumption that the people reading the application also might genuinely want to see your show or -in the case of an artists bursary to develop your practice -support your artistic exploration.
When I sat in on funding applications, the conversation would often start with an individual (often an arts practitioner themselves) picking up an application and saying "This sounds really exciting! I'd love to see this." The application should reflect the spirit of the project - and give the reader a flavour of what to expect.
If the funding body or any bona fide arts bods who sit in on their meetings, know who you are, all the better. If you are new, with little track record, get written testimonials from those who have seen your work, or whom you have spoken to about it, and who support your vision. If you are planning to perform a work-in -progress, then by all means get a visual record of it , as it's always good to have evidence, but also. call up Creative Scotland (or whoever) and ask them to send someone along. If that isn't possible, ask some recognized arts practitioner you know to attend, then get a statement of support from them.
I know all this seems a little simple, and of course, there is no doubt that a little luck is required. But, to reiterate what I have said above, have faith in your project, and reflect that in your application. Don't worry about being too zeitgeisty and feel the need to fill in your application with this weeks buzz words. Be honest - there's no need to be uber cool. If your project is an old school hand knitted affair and that's your thing, then have that reflected in your application - particularly if it asks for a personal statement.
I hope that is useful. As I said, it's been a while since I worked for the Scottish Arts Council, but I am currently in receipt of an Artists Bursary and in filling in my application, I probably heeded most of my own advice above.