10th May, 2011

Writing grants: the first steps

One of the most commonly asked questions we get at MusicNSW is about how to get funding – and rightly so, the world of government funding is a bit of a mystery when all you really care about is making music. Next month Arts NSW funding for 2012 closes, so we thought it’d be a good time to take a break from our regular column to give you some tips on how to get a grant. The first thing to getting a grant is identifying what funding exists, and what funding is relevant to you. Most government departments will provide funding for various activities, and it’s about finding the most appropriate one for you. Given you’re a muso, or working within music, it’s most likely that support for your practice is going to come from one of the Arts departments – in NSW that’s Arts NSW, and nationally that’s the Australia Council for the Arts.

The most important step to go through before starting the painstaking task of writing a funding application is to then work out if the funding available is relevant to what you’re doing. Before you even think to start applying for funding, know that grants exist for different purposes, but that there will always be a purpose. While you might be doing the most worthwhile thing in the world, and you should absolutely be supported to keep doing it, but ultimately you need to make sure you fit the purpose of the grant you’re applying for. If you’re finding it difficult to work out where your goals might align any funding application will make it pretty clear in their own selection criteria.

Make sure you read through these criteria at least eighteen hundred times, and that you tick every box there is to tick. If you don’t get past this stage, don’t even think about applying – it’ll be a waste of your time and we guarantee you’ll hate the world at the end of the process. If you’re unsure if you fit the criteria think about what you’re doing – it’s something we rarely do, but is a good way to work out if its possible someone might fund you to continue doing it. Who are you? What are you doing? How are you doing it? Why are you doing it? It’s essential you know how to answer these questions because you’ll need to be able to communicate this clearly to the assessors of the grant in your application. If you’re still not sure, or you think you’re kinda on the right path but want to check, call up the funding body. There will always be a number you can call so you can speak to someone about your eligibility. If you’re unsure of who to call, get in touch with MusicNSW and we’ll point you in the right direction.

So, you’ve now identified the funding you want to get, and you’ve determined that – yup – you’re totally eligible. What now? Write the application! When it comes to writing your app look at your project from different angles, and work out the priorities – both yours, and the funding bodies. What are the areas that could benefit your own practice as an artist? This might be creative development for your own work, professional development for your industry skills, a career defining opportunity, or a mixture of all three.

What benefits will you be bringing your audience?

This can be as simple as you growing your audience, which is kinda more a benefit for you, than your audience, but other ways that your work may benefit your audience would be if you’re taking your music to a place where people don’t have access to what you’re doing – like touring regionally. It might also be that you’re showcasing talent from your town in far away places, like if you’re touring internationally, or it could be that you’re doing something exciting creatively that is going to challenge the boundaries of music in your genre, and your audience’s perception.

And finally, think about who else might be a stakeholder in your project. This could be other artists, different communities, the government, industry… anyone, really! Explore partnerships for delivering your project with people or organisations who have mutually beneficial goals, identify who else is working in the same area you are and what they might gain from your work, and think about what benefits your project may bring to the funding body you’re applying to. You can get some tips on addressing that by looking at their plans and policy documents, so you can start to understand their current priorities and where they’re coming from.

Once you’ve done all that, work out what the goals to your project are and work out how to express them in a clear and simple way. You’ve only got so many words to get your message across, and in most cases you’ll be speaking to a panel of assessors who don’t know your work, and mightn’t even be familiar with the music you make. Your application, along with supporting material, is all you’ve got to convince someone to give you support for your project.

Okay! I’m ready! Where do I go for the dollars?

Keep your eye on funding opportunities through Arts NSW, the Australia Council, or find out all the info you need through signing up to the MusicNSW newsletter – do it at musicnsw.com