The following pages present some important tips, which are intended to provide help on the way from a project idea to the selection of a sponsor and from the submission of an application to the implementation of the project. Of course, each project and application is different and everyone has their own way of working. Therefore, these tips are only intended to provide initial assistance and point out common mistakes.
The text refers to applications for cultural funding in the general sense. The specifics that need to be taken into account for mobility funding can be read here.
When preparing to submit an application, it makes sense to specify the details of your own project (idea) and to answer certain questions in order to give the project an outline that will help you in its implementation. The more clearly the project is defined and structured, the easier it will be to implement.
Important questions to ask yourself:
And last but not least, the most important question:
Once these questions have been answered, potential sponsors can then be identified.
Cultural projects can be funded in different ways and are often supported by a combination of several funding pools. These include possible revenue (e.g., from ticket or catalogue sales or from the sale of merchandising products), sponsorship by companies and crowdfunding. Since these sources are often insufficient or not suitable for a certain project, cultural funding from public sources (EU, federal government, state, district) or private foundations may be required.
How do you choose where to submit an application? First, it is necessary to conduct a detailed search in order to find funding programmes that tie in with your project idea. There are numerous databases that can help you with your research (see the overview on the touring artists website here). It may also be helpful to speak with colleagues, associations or information centres. For an application to have a chance of success, it is particularly important to select the programmes to which you will apply with great care. Once it has been determined that a funding programme or a foundation is a good match for the project (with regard to the type of project, the subject, the amount of funding, etc.), the funding guidelines and the purpose of the funding must be reviewed carefully. Each application is reviewed and evaluated to determine the relevance of the project proposal in relation to the funding priority and the funding guidelines of the respective foundation or funding programme. It is therefore important to research and read the relevant background papers and funding guidelines before submitting an application and, if necessary, to clearly state the relevant priorities clearly in the project description. Especially when applying for public funding, it is important to be aware of the cultural policy goals and to ensure that the planned project contributes to these goals.
Many sponsors are available to answer questions before an application is submitted. It makes sense to contact the funding body in good time in order to clarify any open questions or "simply" to make the sponsor aware of your presence.
One important point to remember is that most applications must be submitted by fixed deadlines so that the project can start as early as possible. It is important to make sure that your own project is compatible with this time frame!
In general, you do not have to apply for the entire funding amount required from a single source; the amount can be split among several sponsors. Indeed, this is usually a prerequisite and should be communicated in every application. Applying for the same funds twice is not permitted in most cases and double financing is not possible.
Once you have selected a sponsor, the time-consuming part of the application follows.
The application process often involves a great deal of work and precision in many areas. You will find an overview of the most important components of a grant application here.
The submission of an application for funding is similar in all sectors and for all funding bodies. Naturally, each has its own specific requirements and application forms for each, but certain elements almost always have to be submitted:
The project description is the core of each application. In most cases, both a summary (e.g., 2,000 characters) and a longer version are required. It is often possible to add sketches, photos, etc. to the letter so as to better describe the project.
The text should answer the following questions as precisely as possible (even in the summarised version): Who will do what, how and with whom, for whom and why? The above questions can serve as a basis.
In most cases, decision-makers need to read a lot of applications. Therefore, it is important to strike a good balance between using clear and explicit language and submitting an emotive presentation that sheds light on the artistic background.
One valuable tip is to ask an external person to check the text checked for its conclusiveness and logic. If you have been working for weeks or even months on developing a project, it is easy to lose sight of these factors.
Budget and financial plan
The budget and financial plan must list all costs (not only the requested funds) and all income, own funds, other funds, as well as (in most cases) contributions in kind (rent, staff, equipment, etc.). It must be stated clearly which funds are being applied for from which institution.
The individual costs should be divided into personnel costs (wages, fees, etc.) and material costs.
Possible material costs include:
Income can include the following:
Important note: Most grants are earmarked and must be used according to the financial plan. It is expected that an exact statement of all costs incurred will be prepared and supported by receipts (proof of use). This should be taken into account when drawing up the budget and financial plan.
The schedule should be realistic, as expenditures may only be incurred during specific periods, depending on the funding agency. These requirements must be adhered to. It should be considered that, in most cases, the project may not start before the funding agency has made its decision. Sometimes, exceptions are possible upon consultation but should be avoided.
The individual project phases should be divided into preparation, implementation and evaluation.
Biographies of the participants
Usually, brief biographies of the project participants are attached to an application, which reflect the professional experience and/or the artistic career and completed projects. Such biographies should be informative but not too long.
Documentation of previous projects
The documentation of previous work also serves as "proof of qualification" vis-a-vis the funding agency. Newspaper articles, programmes, flyers, etc. may be used for this purpose.
Proof of participation in the project from project partners or important participants
Confirmations from important partners (e.g. in the form of a short letter) should be enclosed with applications, as they convey a certain degree of professionalism and make it clear that the applicant has checked in advance whether partners will (want to) participate and have time to do so.
When submitting an application, it is essential to observe the formal requirements laid out by the potential sponsor. These include:
Time and again, applications fail due to formal errors that could be avoided in terms of the formalities to be observed. Every benefactor or donor publishes the conditions for application and they are also willing to answer questions on the phone or in writing if they are asked in good time.
Kreativ Kultur Berlin has created a number of templates for the planning of cultural projects that can be found here:
Ist der Förderantrag erfolgreich angenommen, stellt sich die Frage nach der Durchführung und Abrechnung.
So your application has been successful and the funding is in place? Wonderful! But even now, there are a few points that should be considered in order to ensure the smooth implementation of the project, correct accounting for the funds and satisfied funding sources.
First, all important documents provided by the sponsors about the do's and don'ts of the sponsorship should be downloaded and studied carefully – before spending any of the funds.
In the case of public grants, there will be a grant notification which specifies exactly how and when the funds will be released to the applicant, how and when they may be spent and what must be taken into account (e.g. obtaining several quotes if expenditures exceed a certain amount, etc.).
Additional steps include the following:
Sponsors should be contacted in good time in the event of any uncertainty – whether with regard to financial questions, schedules, project status, etc. – in order to avoid mistakes and conflicts!
Towards the end of a project, comprehensive documentation of all that has happened should be prepared, both for the sponsors (please note that any applicable guidelines must be observed!) and for yourself, since this will help a great deal with future projects.
The proof of appropriate use, i.e. the final financial reporting for the funds vis-a-vis the sponsor(s), is very important. This includes a statement of the final budget including income and expenditure and all related receipts, a written report about the course of the project and any highlights and problems (budget changes must be addressed in particular) and the documentation of the project by means of programme booklets, flyers, posters and press reports.
In addition, a list of figures (if practical for the project) regarding the number of events, number of visitors, etc. should be included. These can also be used to measure success as part of the success monitoring that is frequently required.