This week I went to a ‘roadshow’ at the Library in Hull hosted by Arts Council England to hear them talk about how to apply for Arts grants from them.
The talk began with a brief overview of the fund that the Arts Council has available. They would be focussing on the Grants for the Arts Lottery funded pot of money for this event. There are specific rules attached to it and it is for arts activities that are completed within a particular time-frame (they cannot be ongoing or open-ended projects).
It is very competitive with more than 8,500 applications last year and around 3,300 grants awarded.
There are two application processes depending on the amount of money being applied for, the process for under £15,000 is quite straight forward but the process for over £15,000 is a little more comprehensive. Both can be completed online using a new grant management system.
The fund is not available for students or have anything to do with school curriculums and cannot be retrospective but community groups and individual artists can apply and the grants can be used to host workshops, productions, exhibitions, festivals and much more. Whatever it is, it must benefit the public.
The application process takes you through a number of focussed, directive questions.
Artistic quality – This section talks about the projects objectives and the impact that it will have on its audience. It asks for an overview of the concept of the project and a list of the artists that will be involved.
Public Engagement – This section asks about how the project increases and deepens opportunities for the public to get involved, how many participants will be reached in both the long and short-term, how many people may attend, volunteer or work with an artist.
Finance – This section asks how much the project will cost, how realistic it is, what other funds will be available to the applicant (at least 10 percent of the projects costs must be funded from another source). N.b. that artists must be paid properly.
Management – This section asks about how the project will be managed. Is it doable? What is the capability of the applicant? What resources are already available and who will be managing the project?
The application will give a considerable consideration to risk. What is the timeline? What partnerships might be formed? How good is the planning? How good is the evaluation? Is the budget realistic? How will the finances be managed? Have previous grants been awarded and how were they managed?
Evaluation is another part of the process that applicants should pay particular attention to. Evaluation needs to include self-evaluation and activity reports that relate to the objectives and feedback into the project’s plan. It needs to help keep the project on track, within budget and prove value for money.
How Decisions are Made
Initially form are judged and returned if there is more information needed or if they have been completed incorrectly. The context of the project is considered and it is benchmarked against other applications, the professional judgement of the decision makers at the Arts Council is used.
For applications under £15,000 the projects are risk assessed, compared to other applications and the decision maker’s preference is used. The process takes about six weeks.
For applications over £15,000 the projects are appraised against a criteria, assessed and scored. This process takes a little longer, around 12 weeks.
There are no fixed deadlines, it is a rolling programme so if an application is unsuccessful there is an opportunity to reapply immediately although the application should have been developed according to the feedback received from the Arts Council. It is worth bearing this in mind when applying for funding so that and additional six or 12 weeks can be allowed before the start of the project.
Money will usually be paid in stages and if the monitoring is paid attention to, the rest of the funding may not be paid.