Funding for Arts and Culutre

Photo by David Beyer. Used by Creative Commons License.

I’ve recently been hired as a very part-time Development Officer for the theatre where I choreograph, teach and perform. Having run a non-profit dance collective, and now serving as Grants Manager for a family foundation, this work is really comfortable for me. And I’m pretty good at it.

Last night, I had to go before the board, to be formally introduced. Most of them know me. But most of them know me as a dancer and choreographer. They don’t know the other parts of my background. I think they were surprised. And hopefully impressed.

They asked a lot of questions, mainly regarding, how much could we expect to be granted, how stiff was the competition, what was the plan. This is  my answer.

If we apply for, and are awarded, every grant we could possibly be somewhat related to, we could receive a likely $30,000 per month. However, I think that’s a bad idea. It’s much better to target grants that you fit perfectly. It doesn’t waste my time, or the reviewers. Then we also don’t get around as the dumb people who just apply for everything, willy-nilly, and don’t read the requirements.

The competition depends on the category. Right now, arts and culture funding is STIFF. With budgets being cut all over, many foundations are realigning their giving priorities. For many, this means going to more quantifiable returns, like organizations providing direct services, rather than those providing warm fuzzies. However, because of our historic status and reputation, we are in a good place. We are less risky of a grant than a start-up. And our willingness to collaborate or co-present is a definite plus. This will be a difficult, but not impossible area.

Education funding is a little easier to come by, and more foundations are still doing it. Our problem is that our education program currently has no evaluation process. Again, that quantifiable return is so very necessary.

What is important to remember in philanthropy is that it is an investment. The foundations don’t expect their money back, but they do expect a return. They don’t just give out money to be nice. I mean, they do. But that’s not the real reason. They are looking to have some sort of impact or legacy. They weigh the risks. They look for results. And for many of them, because they are business people, they are looking for numbers and data. We have some things going for us. We also have some things we need to work on. And I believe our development numbers this year are going to be better than they were last year.