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Business 101 - A publication for artists, writers, performers and presenters is still available free of charge for residents of the Canadian Columbia Basin. The 60-page booklet is a basic training manual in marketing (yourself or your event); how to write a media release; applying for funding; contracts; copyright and a list of resources. The publication was made possible with funding from the Columbia Basin Trust and HRDC.
 
NEW  We have recently added a listing of performance and exhibition venues in the Canadian Columbia Basin to assist those touring performances or art exhibitions.
 
To obtain a digital copy, please e-mail wkracassistant@telus.net
 
If you are from outside our region, or are an organization that would like to order multiple copies there is a charge of $10.00 per booklet to cover costs of printing/binding. Non-profit organizations ordering multiple copies may be eligible for a discount - please contact us for details.
 
 

Business 101 - A publication for artists, writers, performers and presenters
Written and Compiled by Rod Taylor

Business 101 Excerpt: Researching and applying for funding
For many artists and craftspeople, the process of looking and applying for arts funding can seem mysterious and even a little intimidating. The purpose of this unit is to shed some light on that subject and give you some sense of where to begin.
 
This unit does not cover sources of funding for full time or basic training in a particular discipline (e.g. college or university scholarships). That funding is more academic in nature and is beyond the scope of this publication. As mentioned earlier, this booklet is intended for individual artists and craftspeople that already have experience and/or completed basic training in their chosen discipline. The amount of experience required will vary depending on the funding agency and the type of funding being sought.
 
Artist's groups, collectives or organizations will also find that while much of the information here is relevant for them, specific details may differ somewhat (e.g. types of funding available). Regardless, attention to detail when researching programs of funding and eligibility is key.
 
Also note that this unit is only concerned with sources of arts funding, or funding whose primary purpose is to support and promote the arts in some way. Other sources of funding that are not specifically arts related do exist (e.g. those primarily intended to promote business or economic growth), but will not be discussed in this publication. If you are interested in other types of funding, agencies such as Human Resources and Development Canada and Community Futures would be good places to start looking.
 
There are three basic steps in applying for funding:
 
     1) Determining your needs: what are you seeking funding for?
     2) Doing your homework: researching sources of funding
     3) Putting together the necessary information: proposals, applications &
         budgets

 
This unit describes each step and provides a sample budget form. See the end of the booklet for a list of resources and places where you can find additional information.
 
1) Determining your needs: what are you seeking funding for?
 
There is a wide range of financial awards available, so the first step in the search is figuring out what you need money for. This is not as complicated as it may seem. For example, you may be looking for money to undertake a specific project, or to seek additional training in your field.
 
Awards are generally intended to help offset reasonable costs that you may incur during a project or endeavor (e.g. writing a novel, creating a piece of sculpture) in order to help further your creative development in a way that would not have been otherwise possible (more on eligibility in Step 2). The list of available funding is definitely shorter than those seeking it, but knowing what you want is the first step in finding out how to get it.
 
As an individual, here's what you will not find arts funding for:
 
     ● buying a piece of equipment (capital expenditures)
     ● servicing existing debts
     ● work that is already completed
     ● work that is clearly commercial or market driven (i.e. commissions,
        dinnerware sets)
     ● developing a commercial market

 
You will find arts funding opportunities for reasonable expenses that are related to creative research and/or production including :
 
     ● travel (if a necessary part of your project)
     ● cost of living while undertaking the project
     ● cost of production (e.g. materials, other people you may have to hire)
     ● education (usually for short term periods of additional study or training
        for professional artists)

 
Applying for more than one award is advisable if you are eligible, and is sometimes necessary depending on the scope of the project. This isn't a problem as long as you are up front about it, and it's permitted under the terms of the grant or award you're applying for (you can apply for as many as you like, but some awards stipulate that the recipient cannot receive awards in addition to theirs, or multiple awards from the same organization, either at once or within a certain period of time). That being said, properly preparing a grant application or project proposal can be a fairly labour intensive process. So, even if you qualify for more than one, you'll need to determine your priorities and start with those that are best suited to your needs. It's better to do a really good job on one application than a mediocre job on several!
 
2) Doing your homework: researching sources of funding that match your needs and for which you are eligible
 
There are a number of places that you can look for information on funding programs and sources. The internet is a very good resource. Your local library can also be a useful place to look. Arts councils at all levels (local, regional, provincial and federal) often have websites where you can find information on any funding that they offer (see Resources at the end of this booklet). As well, they often have articles and links to other information on funding, both on and off the internet. In addition to the internet, visiting or phoning the office of arts councils in your area can be very worthwhile. There are numerous publications that list funding sources and program details, and many arts councils have at least a modest collection of these and other arts related material, which they may either loan out (in some cases) or make available for reference. Another benefit is that is that you may get to talk to an actual person who may be willing to offer feedback or advice on what you're trying to do.
 
Generally speaking, there is more funding available for non-profit arts groups and organizations than for individuals. Occasionally, these groups may be willing and/or able to apply for funding on your behalf if your project is appropriate.
 
You can also approach businesses or other interested individuals. Although this may seem a bit intimidating, it doesn't hurt to ask, especially if you are looking for donations in kind (non-cash donations such as materials or use of space) and can give them some sort of recognition in return.
 
Where does arts funding come from?
The vast majority of it comes from

  • Federal (Government of Canada) sources - arms length governmental bodies such as the Canada Council and Telefilm Canada administer programs which are primarily publicly funded by the Federal Government.
    Provincial (Government of BC) sources - arms length governmental bodies such as the BC Arts Council administer programs funded by the provincial government.
     
  • Local and Regional sources - local (e.g. Nelson and District Arts Council) and regional (e.g. the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance) governmental agencies and/or arts councils administer programs funded through public and private sources.
     
  • Other sources - foundations (e.g. the Pollack Krasner - - Foundation) and other non-profit organizations (e.g. the Crafts Association of BC) administer programs funded from either public or private sources, or a combination of the two.

Who's eligible?
Eligibility varies depending on the award, and the terms are usually quite specific. Look at the criteria closely and thoroughly. It should be one of the first things you do look at, because if you're not eligible, there's no sense spending much more of your time reading further (unless you're just generally interested). Determining your eligibility early on will also greatly speed up the process of going through long lists of funding sources.
 
It's also important to make sure you clearly understand the terms funders use to define eligibility (e.g. emerging artist, established artist). Most arts awards for individuals aren't targeted at a particular age group, but rather at artists that are at a certain point in their career or training (e.g. the term "senior artist" isn't necessarily referring to an artist over the age of 65). These terms are usually quite well defined, but sometimes it can be easy to overlook these kinds of details if you're not careful.
 
When researching awards, here are some key points to look for:

  • level of experience and/or training required
  • application deadlines (do you have enough time to assemble and submit the required information?)
  • any other limitations ( e.g. citizenship, residency, age).

3) Putting together the necessary information: proposals, applications & budgets
 
Depending on the award, you will typically be asked to submit one or more of the following:

  • a completed application form
  • a proposal clearly describing what you want to do
  • a budget for the proposed project
  • other supporting materials (e.g. slides, cv) (see Unit 1 of this booklet)
  • letters of reference.

The following excerpt is from the Canada Council, but much of the information applies equally to other funding agencies:

When you have decided to apply to a particular program and have obtained a current copy of the appropriate application form, read the application guidelines and application form carefully before you complete the form. If you are a first-time applicant, you should contact the Program Officer in charge of the program in which you are interested.

Proofread and review all the information you are providing before you submit it. Peer assessment committees must review many applications in a limited period. The committee members will be better able to evaluate your application if you have followed the application guidelines carefully, prepared your proposal in a clear manner and attached only the support material that has been requested. Support material is crucial to the peer assessment committee's consideration of your application - make sure that it adequately reflects the quality of your work.

Most sections at the Canada Council for the Arts require you to submit all support material (audio, visual and written) with your application form. Do not include original works unless specifically requested to do so (i.e. do not send us your only copy of your work). The Canada Council is not responsible for the loss or damage, whatever the cause, of materials submitted in support of your application.

Excerpt from the Canada Council website, section entitled: "Applying to the Canada Council for the Arts

Particular requirements will vary depending on the award. Generally speaking you will greatly improve your chances of success if all of your application material is neatly and clearly presented in exactly the way in which they request it. Good organization at this stage can suggest general competence as well as a methodical and professional attitude.

There is often stiff competition for any grant or award and the people who review the applications must often go over a great number of them in a short period of time. If they have to spend extra time with your application because you've labeled your slides improperly (for example), it may not dispose them favourably when looking at the rest of your application. By paying attention to the details, you make it easier for them to look directly at the merits of your project, instead of worrying about your ability to organize the details that surround it.

This doesn't mean, however, that your application should be too showy. Fancy covers, bindings or gimmicky use of coloured ink can suggest needless extravagance and obscure the nature of your work in the same way that a sloppy application can. Remember, they don't know you, all they have to go on is the material you give them, so be sure you make the right impression.

Writing a proposal
 
Proposal formats will vary slightly depending on the funding agency and the type of funding you're asking for. Again, it's a good idea to talk with the appropriate contact person for your discipline at the funding agency. They can give you helpful advice on what they're looking for.
 
Unless stated otherwise, a proposal should contain:

  • What you want to do
  • How you plan to do it (where, with what materials)
  • Who else will be involved, including their qualifications
  • Why you want to do it
  • When it will happen and the duration of it (timeline)
  • What results and impacts do you expect from it (to your career, to the public, to a cause)
  • What factors give you a reasonable chance of success (your skills, previous experience).
     
    from the BC Touring Council, based on a presentation prepared by Bitsy Bidwell

Proposals should be typed and easy to read. Try to avoid the use of needlessly complex language or jargon. Keep the language as simple and concise as possible. If a document length or number of words is specified, use it up, but don't exceed it. Once you have completed the proposal, get your friends or other people who have some knowledge of writing to read it. They can look at it with a fresh eye and tell you if there are any areas that seem unclear or poorly organized. Once again, it pays to look closely at what you're being asked for and ensure that you answer any specific questions they may have.
 
While writing a proposal will require some hard work, it doesn't have to be an intimidating process. The following excerpt from the Canada Council breaks it down pretty simply:
 
Describe what you want to do. Present your plan in such a way that someone who has never heard of you can understand your vision. Write about how you intend to organize your time to carry out the project. Present your plan clearly and succinctly, allowing the peer assessment committee to grasp the nature, intention and relevance of your project in relation to your artistic approach. State what you will accomplish with the grant. Remember, you are writing for artists who work in your artistic discipline.
 
Excerpt from the Canada Council website, section entitled: "Applying to the Canada Council for the Arts"

Developing a budget
Funding sources require varying degrees of detail in the budget portion of the proposal. Funding agencies (e.g. the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance) will often have forms for you to use, along with instructions for their completion. Make sure that you are clear on the level of detail they are requesting before you begin and that you follow their format if one is provided.
 
If a budget sheet is provided, don't feel that you must enter a figure in every category. They are only there as a guide, so fill in the ones that are relevant to you and either leave the rest blank, or mark them "N/A."
 
Also, even when a budget sheet is provided, you still may be able to use one that you've created yourself (e.g. on your computer). Check with the funding agency.
 
Be as specific as possible in your cost estimations and avoid vague references (e.g. expense categories such as "miscellaneous", or "contingency") and unsupported, "ballpark" type figures. If your project requires a moving van, for example, phone around and get some prices on what that will cost.
 
Unless it's requested, be cautious in rounding off all your figures to hundreds or thousands of dollars, as this doesn't tend to suggest a great deal of work has gone into their calculation. Again, avoid making assumptions and check with the funding agency if you're unclear on what they're asking for. This way, you will be sure that you're providing them with the level of detail they require in a format that they find acceptable. Remember, this is as much for your benefit as it is for theirs and thorough planning at this stage can save you a lot of stress further into the project.
 
You will, however, not be held accountable for every penny being spent as you lay it out in your budget. While significant changes to the project may require permission in writing from the funding source, you do have some leeway in how the money is actually spent, provided you don't exceed the total amount of the award.

 

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