The first in a new series of articles focused on making a strong funding application. Project Manager,Clara Giraud, shares some of her personal tips gathered from years of writing them herself, and also from shaping the current application process with Unlimited.
The most important thing in pitching a project is to share your vision, and to enable the selection panel to share, understand, and support it with you. What are you looking to do? What questions is the work tackling? Why do you think this project is urgent in the current context? I find it useful to take a step back, and remember that the panel does not have the background information or the same cultural references as I do.
Some top tips I try and follow include:
Be concise. Don’t write very long paragraphs and sentences. Keep the words to the point, and structure written text with paragraphs, titles and bullet points to highlight the focus of each section for readers if the system you are applying through lets you. Watch the arty language too. Often those assessing applications don’t have long to spend on each one – don’t make them reach for the dictionary.
Tell a story. Everyone likes a good story, they speak to people. But keep it concise, you’re not writing a novel. Make sure the tone of the writing will help the reader understand the background to your idea, and the vision you have for its future. This often gives a more human and emotional layer to a funding application, and even if it’s only through one introductory sentence, it can really help piece elements together.
Don’t assume. You are an expert in your field of work, but the selection panel reading your application may know little about your artform and its particularities. It’s easy to get caught up in grand theoretical ideas, and forget to detail what exactly you are looking to do. What context will you work in? How will you breakdown the creative process? Who will be involved in that process? Who will be experiencing your work? Some of these things may be obvious to you… but potential funders want to know the detail.
Give a flavour. Many applications allow you to attach supporting documents. This is an opportunity to give a flavour of your artistic vision. You can give examples of previous work by you or your collaborators if there are clear links to make with the project. You can also share visuals/sounds/texts that are informing your artistic idea to help the panel imagine your project in more concrete terms. It’s often a great opportunity to bring some art into the mix to support your written proposal. Always check with the funder what they expect in this section.
Get a different perspective. After being caught up in the intricacies of writing a funding application, getting advice from someone reading it afresh can be extremely valuable. Make sure you leave plenty of time for collaborators but also mentors or advisors to read and feedback on the work. It might be that you even test some sections on someone that doesn’t work in your specific sector to see if your idea comes across clearly and speaks on a human level.
Many artists and producers are always in the midst of one application or another. Good luck with the project shaping and the writing, and remember to make it a useful process for you, more than anything else, it’s an opportunity to clarify your idea for yourself!