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A freelance career in the creative arts
A freelance career in the creative arts

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5.1 Applying for a grant

NCVO Knowhow (2018) offers the following advice for writing grant applications.

  • Keep the application short – if you have to complete an application form, stick to the word limit and if the funder requests a letter of application, make this no longer than two sides of A4 paper.
  • Give the funder what they want – follow their process and provide every piece of information they ask for.
  • Tell the funder who you are – explain your background, activities and aims and show them they can trust you to deliver. Provide hard evidence where possible, such as press clippings or endorsements.
  • Describe the problem and your solution – address key questions, such as: What is the issue? Why is it a problem and how do you know this? What will you do to address it?
  • Ask for project funding – put in a timeframe with a deadline for results. Funders would rather fund something tangible and new than something vague and administrative.
  • Be positive in your application – use positive language about what will happen when you get the money. Show that your project doesn’t begin and end with this funding.
  • Offer a human story – case studies of the people you have helped or plan to help can demonstrate impact.
  • Avoid jargon – make sure that anyone who reads it will understand your application. Only use the jargon that the funding body themselves use.
  • Offer evidence – support any claims you make with evidence, e.g. government statistics or market research.
  • Ask for money – even if you are not asked, include a basic budget for the project. If the grant won’t cover the whole project, explain where the rest of the money is coming from.
  • Check your application – and double check it. Ask someone unconnected to your project to check for errors and ask for explanations.

While this advice is primarily aimed at charities and voluntary sector organisations, it will be relevant to any funding application you make.

Activity 5 Improving a funding bid

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Adapted from an example provided by Cambridge CVS (CCVS, no date) at

Review and critique the following example of a bad funding application.

What is the purpose of your group?

To run arts events for the local community, involving dance and theatre.

What do you want funding for?

We want funding to cover the running costs and administration of our group and to book business premises for our meetings.

How do you know that there is a need for this project activity?

People we speak to in the community say they would like to come to our events. We know that theatre and creative arts can help disadvantaged people.

How will you measure the impact of your work?

We will ask those who attend whether they enjoyed it.

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The funding bid could be improved in the following ways:

  • The first answer is too vague. The funder needs to know more about the group, for example what it does, how long it has existed and the number of members. When asked about purpose, this is a good opportunity to talk about the vision for the group and its overall goals and objectives.
  • Many funders won’t want to fund administrative costs. It would be better to talk about the elements of the project that are new and different and how they will impact on those who attend the event.
  • Speaking to people is one useful way to measure need, but this should be explained in more detail. How many people have been spoken to and what methods were used – interviews or focus groups, for example? More detail about the specific groups that will be targeted, and evidence (research and statistics) to support the claim about helping them, would be useful here.
  • Impact measurement is a significant part of the application as the funders will want to know that their funds are making a difference. Asking people is one way to do that, but there might be other ways to measure it, for example monitoring the number of people attending the events, the number of people attending more than one event, and so on.

While you might not be planning to apply for funding at this stage of your business, you can also use the tactics and techniques suggested in Activity 5 for strengthening your negotiations with potential clients or customers.