In Germany, culture and education are supported extensively by the government. Public spending on cultural activities in 2015 amounted to approximately 10.4 billion euros. There are also numerous private donors who support cultural institutions, projects, artists, and creatives through foundations and as sponsors and patrons. In some sectors of the cultural and creative industries it is not unusual to use small loans to fund projects; opportunities for start-ups are one such option.
In order to understand the public promotion of culture in the country, it is necessary to be aware that Germany is a Federal Republic, a federation of individual states (e.g., Brandenburg, Berlin, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, Thuringia). Whenever this text refers to “states,” this pertains to the individual federal states, not to other countries. The responsibilities for certain areas are coordinated between the states and the federation (German Federal Parliament and Federal Government) – local authorities and states are responsible for the promotion of art and culture. Their share in the promotion of culture amounts to approximately 87%. The federal government provides funds in exceptional cases only - for example, where projects of national importance, particularly innovative projects, or international projects are concerned.
Much of the cultural funding flows into large institutions: museums, art collections, concert halls, opera houses, and theatres. Nevertheless, public promoters make much less money available by comparison for the promotion of artistic projects
Public support for the cultural and creative industries in Germany therefore occurs on several levels – namely the municipal, regional, state, and federal levels:
Sponsors should first be sought locally for specific projects. An application at the state or even federal level is only expedient if supraregional appeal can be demonstrated.
Funding profiles vary regionally and locally and must be researched with cultural offices and state ministries. Funding is most frequently available for individual projects but financial support is sometimes also granted for periods of several years. Cultural awards also act as an instrument for promoting artists. There are several thousand of these nationwide, most of which are advertised by cities and municipalities, but some also by the federal states.
Important! Sponsors usually expect co-financing: at the state level this usually comes from the municipalities and, in the case of federal-level foundations and funds, from the states or municipalities. Artists themselves are also expected to bear part of the costs.
Only rarely will a single sponsor want to cover more than half of the project costs.
In Germany, there are a large number of foundations that support cultural projects. Some implement projects independently, while others accept applications for funding. Some, such as the Allianz Kulturstiftung, operate nationwide, while others, such as the community foundations that are in place in many cities, operate regionally. The Federal Association of German Foundations provides an overview of the foundation landscape; the Foundation Search (only available in German) function provided on its website allows you to search for foundations in specific areas and regions.
In some areas of the cultural and creative industries, funding opportunities which do not have their origin in the cultural sector may also be relevant. Start-up grants, small loans, crowdfunding … there are a number of different ways of getting a project off the ground. The website of the Cultural and Creative Industries Initiative of the Federal Government (only available in German) provides an initial overview of the various options.
Funding for artistic projects can be sought during nearly all phases of creation – from research to production and presentation. Funding for research or initial artistic orientation can be applied for, for example in the form of a scholarship or a residency in an artists' house. Encounters and exchanges are promoted through workshops and job shadowing – even on an international scale.
Scholarships and residencies can also be taken advantage of for artistic production, as can studio or rehearsal space grants. Funding for a specific project can, for example, be used to cover fees, room rental, technical costs, travel and transport costs or public relations work – usually until the premiere, exhibition opening, or the like.
Finally, catalogue grants or support for video documentaries, for example, enable artists to document their work.
Funding = financial support. This section explains some types of funding, although many funding programmes combine several types of support (e.g., residency and travel allowance).
Project funding – Project funding is a financial contribution to individual projects that are limited in terms of time, content and the funding required. The grant is used to cover the expenses of the applicant (referred to as the grant recipient).
In the case of co-financing, at least two sponsors/funders provide funding for a project. The funding guidelines state whether co-financing is required and, if so, how much.
Institutional funding – In addition to project funding, cultural institutions also receive institutional funding to cover the entire expenditure of the institution, i.e. an undefined portion of the expenditure. Institutional funding must also be applied for annually.
Production grants – Production grants are used to subsidise an individual theatre or dance production up until its premiere.
Studio grants – Studio grants are often part of municipal cultural promotions. In the visual arts sector, these grants are used to partly fund studios or workshops. They serve to support individual artists temporarily and preserve places of art production in cities/regions.
Travel grants – A grant to subsidise travel and transport costs for a specific project (non-commercial exhibition, tour, guest performance abroad, etc.); some grants also include funds for accommodation on site.
Grants for guest performances – Grants for guest performances serve primarily to increase the mobility of dance and theatre productions that have already premiered. Guest performances can be supported both domestically (the prerequisite sometimes being that a different state must be visited) and abroad.
Exhibition grants – Exhibition grants support freelance artists in implementing national or international exhibition projects, whether individual or group exhibitions. In most cases, they are linked to collaborations with public museums, project spaces, galleries, etc. Some funding programmes are also aimed at associations, project spaces, etc., in order to enable them to exhibit contemporary visual arts.
Job shadowing programmes – Job shadowing programmes promote job shadowing in public institutions at home and abroad. In addition, some programmes enable foreign nationals to obtain funding for job shadowing in Germany (e.g., in a theatre).
Funding for exchange projects – Funding for exchange projects is intended primarily to promote bilateral or multilateral cultural exchange. Such funding can be used to support research trips or scholarships for work abroad as well as work with local groups. However, the focus should always be on the exchange.
Scholarships – Scholarships are awarded by individual organisations as well as by the federal government, the state, or a municipality. A wide variety of scholarships is available. They are usually awarded to individuals as temporary work scholarships at home or abroad, often combined with the option of using a studio, a rehearsal space, etc. They can be used for the implementation of a certain project or the advancement of a special talent.
Residency – Residencies are programmes run by institutions, states, or the federal government which enable artists and creatives to perform their artistic activities at another location, also, and especially, abroad. They are invited to live and work in an artists' house for a period of time, often together with other artists; they can use the living and working spaces available here and may also receive a scholarship for the production of art and/or their livelihood. Some residencies are subject to certain conditions (artist's talk, project with the local community, etc.), while others do not have any such requirements.
Sponsorship – Small and large companies and banks are increasingly active in the area of cultural sponsorship. Depending on the size and format of the project, this form of support pertains mainly to local companies. Unlike other funding formats, sponsorships are based on the assumption that there will be a quid pro quo, with the contribution of the artist acting as a sort of repayment for the funding received.
Microloan – Companies and freelancers can benefit from microloans of up to 25,000 euros during the start-up phase. However, a microloan usually requires a business plan and a long-term profit orientation.
Crowdfunding – Crowdfunding involves a large number of people who each contribute a sum of their choice to finance a project, a business idea, a trip, etc. The term 'campaign' is used to refer to both a project funded in this way and the process of raising the funds. Campaigns are implemented with the help of the Internet, as the appeal for support as part of a crowdfunding campaign is published via the Internet. Contributors receive a gift as part of the campaign.
In order to apply for funding from municipalities or the federal states, the permanent residence of the applicant must be in the municipality or state where the application is submitted. Exceptions are rare and usually only made for co-productions. Federal funding (e.g., DAKU Fund) usually requires permanent residence in Germany.
Proof of residence must be submitted with some grant applications. However, this is not always explicitly required.
Some funding programmes have special requirements, which are outlined in the respective funding guidelines. These guidelines serve to increase the visibility of certain groups among the population and to improve diversity in the art world. For example, many inter- and transcultural programmes require applicants to have a migration background.