Nailing It – or what makes a strong funding application? Episode 3: Being the right match

Photograph of Unlimited posters and a man in a wheelchair accompanied by a standing woman.
Southbank's Unlimited Festival 2014. Photo by Rachel Cherry

Unlimited’s Project Manager Clara Giraud has for the past two weeks been blogging her top tips on crafting a successful arts funding application. In her third and final installment, she talks ‘matching up’ with what funders are looking for…

Funding is bitterly competitive these days, and when faced with a range of exciting ideas and strong applications, funders’ decisions sometimes come down to ‘match making’ – choosing a project that is right for the fund’s current aims.

So what can applicants do to convey that they are pitching the right project, for that fund, at that time?

Be explicit

Of course, it’s clear to you why you’re motivated to apply to this opportunity, but your application should address how you meet the funder’s aims, timescales and deliverables. How do the funders’ objective align with yours?

One way to make sure you’re being very clear about this is to research your funder’s aims and objectives and, if suitable, to use a similar tone and language within your application,

Remember, it’s a definitions game

Some opportunities are clearly ring-fenced for a certain age group, geographic area or artform, however, sometimes definitions require a little more thought and interpretation.

If an opportunity is aimed at an emerging, early-career, mid-career or established artist, you will need to highlight the ways in which you match this criteria. What these terms mean for one funder can differ to the next – research, or get in touch with the funder to discuss your understanding of their definitions before you submit an application; it’s a subjective minefield, so there’s nothing to lose in asking.

Think about who’s deciding

There will be people reading and judging your application, and their background and expertise can really influence their understanding of your idea. Some funders are transparent about who their decision makers are (we list our panel members on our website, for example), so do check – or enquire to find out about their profiles even if you don’t have specific names.

Consider the language and structure you’re using to make your idea relevant to them. Don’t assume that the panel have prior knowledge of your work, proposal or references, tell them all they need to know.

Edit, edit, edit!

One of the trickiest things with applications is the word limit. There’s always so much to say, and no matter how large the word limit is it very often feels painfully, well, limiting. Checking how your application is speaking to this particular funder and the questions they might have can be a really useful way to make editing decisions.

At the end of the day, a funding application is a call to collaboration, a reach out for partnership and risk-sharing, a wild pitch for the start of a potential long-term conversation. Knowing who you’re reaching out to is a key part of the task. Good luck!

Read “Nailing It – or what makes a strong funding application? Episode 1: Sharing a vision”

Read “Nailing It – or what makes a strong funding application? Episode 2: Ambition vs Realism”

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