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13 February 2020

Three top tips for grant applicants

David Francis Image: David Francis  

Some major opportunities for funding new works and projects have their closing dates in the near future, including the APRA AMCOS Art Music Fund (applications closing 24 February), the Create NSW Arts and Cultural Funding (closing 2 March), and the PPCA Australia Council partnership for new sound recordings (closing 2 March).

AMC's Board Member David Francis spends a lot of time writing grant applications in his role as Executive Director of Four Winds in Bermagui, NSW. He also founded a major grant maker in the UK and is a member of the Create NSW Classical Music Board. We asked him for some key tips on how to write a successful application. Here are his three key pointers.

CLARITY: Make it easy for the grant-making body to understand you/your project and what you want to do. When describing your work try to adopt a 'does what it says on the tin' approach. Use really clear language.

Often the grant-making body suggests what you might address in your response to a particular question. You can use their suggestions (those that are relevant to you) as subheadings to structure your response. You can always add a bit of freestyle at the end if you think you've not covered everything.

REALITY: Base your responses in reality. Don't make sweeping statements unless you can back them up with evidence. Such statements, unless rooted in evidence, undermine the credibility of your application and are easily challenged by expert panels. If you are going to 'make a claim', where is the evidence to back it up - what have you based it on?; what's your track-record in this area? If the 'claim' is true, why should the grant-maker fund you, in particular, to deliver?

CONSISTENCY: Make sure your entire application hangs together and the budget tells the same story as the narrative. Budgets that tell a different story to the narrative can also undermine the credibility of the application. Help the grant maker understand your budget; more detail lends credibility. Show how you have calculated your totals, for example:

Income - Box Office; $5 per ticket (based on precedent) x 100 people (50% capacity) = $500. - i.e., don't just put $500 in the total column. How does the assessor know that's a realistic or appropriate goal, or why you have settled on that particular figure? Unsubstantiated sums (particularly large ones) raise concerns.

Budgets are not everyone's strong point, so find someone who is good with figures to help you.

And finally, think about the following questions as you complete your application. Before you press submit allow time for someone who is not too close to your project to read your application, including the finances, and ask them the same questions:

  • Is it clear what we want to do?
  • Does the application address the criteria according to the grant maker's definitions?
  • Is the application rooted in reality/evidence and do the finances tell the same story?

> Read also: Cameron Lam's article 'Composers and commissions: we need to think beyond the premiere' (ArtsHub 24 January 2020), related to applying for funds from the APRA Art Music Fund but applicable to a wide range of projects involving the commissioning of a new work.

David Francis is the Executive Director of Four Winds Concerts Inc, an international arts organisation based in Bermagui on the far South Coast of rural New South Wales. David originates from the UK. Before moving to Australia in 2014 as General Manager of Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, David was Director of Arts at Dartington (UK) – a rural centre for the Arts, Sustainability and Social Justice. Prior to Dartington, David’s achievements include the development and management of the PRS for Music Foundation; and the development of Sound and Music, a national agency for new music and sonic art. David studied singing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and graduated from Exeter Business School’s ‘One Planet’ MBA.


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