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Do's & Don'ts of Funding Applications with Kim Macari

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At Jazz Connector on 10th December 2020, members of Ireland’s jazz and improvised music scene gathered together for a professional development session on:

The Do's and Don’ts of Funding Applications with Kim Macari - How to implement best practices when applying for funding from state bodies and other sources

Our Guest Speaker was Kim Macari, a musician, composer, and teacher who is also a programmer at Vortex Jazz Club, Chairperson of Jazz Promotion Network, and works with Arts Council England.

As a trumpet player, Kim works primarily with improvising, and as a composer is interested in graphic scores, data visualisation etc. She has been programming in varying spaces since her student days, in varying spaces. At The Vortex, in London, they programme primarily jazz and improvised music in a small space, and offer space for artists, e.g. in residencies. As a musician and in her work as a programmer she has been involved in applying for many different streams of funding.

In Arts Council England, Kim works on the national strategy for jazz and improvised music, identifying trends, understanding support needed for the landscape, and lobbying for the needs of the sector. On funding decisions, she provides contextual information for jazz and improvised music applications, and sits on panels for all artforms.

Guest Speakers are expressing their own personal opinions, and not speaking on behalf of their organisations or employers.

You can watch Kim’s seminar here:

Download her slides and extra materials HERE:

Tips on funding applications which were discussed in the seminar included:

  • Don’t assume knowledge
    • The panel will likely not be from your artform/genre. Don’t use acronyms or reference people or events which aren’t fully explained in your submission.
    • There are a lot of applications and a little money, so it’s easy for a panel to dismiss one which seems impenetrable
  • Take a broader view of applications
    • Keep strong answers to regular questions ready for future applications, e.g. track record, public engagement. You can work on these over time to refine your answers
    • Build applying for funding into your regular music admin schedule.
    • Funders often look carefully at applicants who haven’t been awarded funding before.
  • Use
  • Bullet
    • Funders have a lot to read (usually between 30-50 applications at time, up to 200)
    • Bullet points are more economical with word counts and ensure important information is visible.
    • If formatting is stripped from your application, you can replace bullet points with hyphens (-)
  • Some common reasons for ineligibility
    • If the project doesn’t match the criteria
    • Often budget-related - e.g. if your budget doesn’t balance on the income and expenditure sides
    • If it’s a very underdeveloped application

Slide: Kim's top tips for funding applications

  • Be in the top of the pile
    • Applications may be sorted into a pile which they prefer to fund, a pile they prefer not to fund, and a pile in the middle. (Arts Council Ireland have a scoring system which is outlined in their guidelines. If you ask for feedback on a failed or successful application you can see how sections scored for next time.)
    • The most time is spent on applications in the middle, these are the ones that will be directly compared against others and may lose out on this.
    • It’s better to be in the top pile from the word go
  • Some things are out of your control
    • The funder may have priorities around supporting a spread of artworks, genres, or groups that are under-represented, e.g. gender balance, equality etc.
    • You may be the only application for a particular type of thing in one group of applications and have a better chance, or there may be a large collection of similar projects.
    • Funders can sometimes take risks with smaller pots of money - e.g. if the application isn’t that convincing, but the ask is small and they want to do more in a particular genre.
  • Evidence of need
    • This is often peppered through Irish application forms.
    • Identify if you particularly need funding to bring work to an underdeveloped audience, e.g. a geographic cold spot, an underserved demographic
    • Is there a particular time sensitive opportunity that won’t come around again?

Slide: Kim's flow chart for making funding decisions

  • Budget
    • Income/Expenditure have to balance
    • Support in kind needs to be converted to a monetary value and added to BOTH sides (income & expenditure). E.g. in-kind rehearsal space in-kind could have an estimated expenditure value of €100/day and an in-kind income value of €100/day.
    • Show your thinking
      • e.g. pay scales, quotations etc. Break down larger figures.
    • Reference everything in the narrative
    • Build in a contingency if possible
      • Shows that the project can go ahead even with unforeseen changes.
      • 3-7% of budget is the average amount to add for contingency
    • Pay artists, including yourself, properly. Funders can only award money for what’s budgeted for. Allocate a project management fee if you are due one.
      • A project budget which reflects the real cost of the project can be a reason for funders to lobby for more money for a particular sector, e.g. jazz.
    • Application forms often have a built in budget - including a separate itemised budget with everything shown increases your chances. The project will look more feasible.
    • Try and keep project reports as accurate as possible - if extra expenses or problems come up in a number of reports, the funders may be able to allocate extra to cover that in future.

Slide: Kim's top tips on application budgets

A note from IMC:

  • While the most important thing on identifying your eligibility is the guidelines for the particular fund you’re applying for, it can be very useful to reference & identify the overall aims of funders and where you might match them.
  • Useful references are:
  • Find funding to match your project rather than a project to match the funding, but if your project does match with particular goals, it’s important to point them out.

IMC’s Resources section also includes other advice on funding applications, marketing, and production which may be useful in a project application.

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