Preparing an application for a grant takes time and effort, even for the highly experienced. It is a task that requires considerable creative thinking, networking, research, well honed writing skills, sound financial management, teamwork and time management. It can be particularly challenging when you are a small town applying for an arts grant. If you live in regional or rural Australia it can be more difficult to source the specialist skills you need for your project. With limited available funding for arts-based projects, grants can be competitive. Traditionally, grants have been awarded to larger towns or regions with a track record of experience, so it can be even more disheartening for smaller towns to miss out on funding.
Here are some tips for regional towns who have been unsuccessful in a grant application.
Tip #1. Get feedback on your application
It is really important to book a time with the funding body to have a conversation about your application and where you could have improved. Every organisation is different and the reason for granting funding to one project or another can vary and may not be what you expect. Regional Arts Victoria recently received 65 applications for applications for their Small Town Transformations project yet only five towns of less than 1500 people could be awarded the grant of $350,000 to use the arts to transform their town. There were a great number of strong applications and all who applied were offered detailed feedback on their submission. Those who called for feedback were also given advice about what other options may be open to them. Make sure you receive detailed and clearly articulated feedback on your submission to give you a greater chance of success the next time you apply for a grant.
Tip #2. Look at other funding options
Just because you were unsuccessful for a particular grant doesn’t mean your creative idea doesn’t have legs. It may be possible to break the project into small component parts over a number of years and seek funding from a range of sources for those mini-projects. Not-for-profit arts organisations in Australia have an obligation to identify a diverse range of funding options at the planning stage to ensure the organisation or project is no overly dependent on one source of funding. For this reason, it can be a good idea to take a component of your project to a number of other funding bodies and discuss whether there may be opportunities to gain support from them.
Tip #3. Build on the creative project
You have already put a considerable amount of time and effort into designing your creative project. It may not be funded through this particular grant, but don’t think the big dreaming has been done in vain. The process of having had to think the project through to its logical conclusion should be inspiration to keep creating and keep dreaming. There may be other ways to use aspects of your project in other ways. For example, can aspects of your project be taken and used in a small town festival? Can you partner with another town to create a bigger project and apply it in a different way? Just because you were unsuccessful for this particular grant doesn’t mean you should give up on your idea, particularly if you have received helpful feedback on your submission.
Tip #4. Utilise your grant-writing experience
Although you have not been successful in this round, you have developed a skill that is going to need to be drawn upon in the future. There will be other opportunities to prepare a grant application and now you have some valuable experience. You should file away your application somewhere safe because it is even likely that some aspects of your written submission for this project may be able to be used for future grant submissions. You won’t need to reinvent the wheel next time.
Tip #5. Maintain community spirit and support
The process itself of putting together a grant application can be a community-building experience for small towns. It is likely that in the process of designing the project you have formed committees, established project teams, sought specialists and had free-flowing discussions about creative ideas. If you live in regional and rural Australia, you will already know that this process itself can help to strengthen your community, whether you are successful or not in your application. Hold on to this outcome and feeling. It is important to maintain this sense of teamwork and community and consider how it can be taken forward to the next project, or used in other ways.
And finally, it is important to remember that whichever arts grant you may have applied for and been unsuccessful, keep an eye on that organisation into the years ahead because you never know if other additional rounds of funding may be offered in the future. You may be in a strong position to try again.
As Winston Churchill once said: