The Art of Writing an Arts Council England National Lottery Projects Grant Application
How do you write an Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grants application? It’s the golden question amongst artists and producers who rely upon support from ACE to make their work. Below you’ll find some advice and top tips that I readily share with artists when thinking about applying for a grant from ACE. It’s important to remember that, much like the title of the grant itself, the Project Grants scheme is often a lottery, and whilst the advice below will get you prepared for the best application, sometimes you just have to resubmit and hope for the best.
Don’t Write the Application on Grantium
Grantium is the management system that ACE uses to process funding bids, payment requests and reporting. It’s an all-in-one system and it’s awful. They know it, we know it. It has some special quirks and many a time someone has lost what they’ve inputted because Grantium times out and doesn’t auto-save. You’re going to want to download a template, such as this brilliant one from Laura Sweeney of The Uncultured, and use that as the starting point for writing your application. All the information including guidance on how to answer the questions are included. If you’re co-writing the application upload the document to Google Docs so you can write together live. Once ready, copy and paste across to Grantium and remember to hit save as you go. Unfortunately, when it comes to the income/expenditure sections you’re going to have to mostly input directly onto the system.
Don’t Leave Any Doubt
As you write the application think about the panel who will be reading it. They may have a mix of specialities and experience, which is why its important to ensure you leave no doubt as to what you’re seeking funding for, how you’re going to deliver it and why ACE should support it. One of the most common feedback I give on applications is ensuring certainty. We will deliver X, not we hope to deliver X. The last thing you want is for someone at ACE to question your ability to deliver the activity or what you’re seeking to do.
Be Precise and Concise
Bullet points are your friend. When it comes to writing your application you want to ensure that you are precise and concise in how you’re answering the questions. If in doubt, bullet point. It’ll help you be more succinct and you’ll use less characters allowing you to explain further your ideas. Simple.
Just remember that bullet points copy and pasted from eg Word won’t work, so just use a dash.
You’ll want to ensure as much of your application is confirmed before submitting. Confirmation of artists, partners, supporters etc is vital in demonstrating that the activity has committed people and places attached to it, and thus is more viable. Now, of course, we know its a chicken-egg situation, how can you confirm people if the activity is reliant on ACE funding to definitely go ahead? Well, it’s about demonstrating commitment should the green light go ahead on the activity. Don’t forget that whilst you’re aiming for certainty in the application, you want to ensure there is still a need from ACE to fund the work.
Who is it For?
Applicants often struggle with answering the engagement sections. Well, this activity is a theatre show, at a venue, so it will appeal to that venue’s audience. Done? Not really. Take some time to consider who the audience is that the venue attracts, what are their characteristics and demographics? Are they the right people for the activity? Who is missing and how will you reach them? I always suggest looking at census information or the local authority website to discover who is in the immediate area, this will give you a grounding for who is local to the activity. If your activity is online, think clearly about the different sort of ‘tribes’ or groups of people that you will engage. You might find it useful to look at Audience Finder by the The Audience Agency – its a free tool that allows you find simple breakdowns of local demographic information related to culture. Use that information to inform who you intend to reach.
Appendix is Your Friend
Let’s face it, the application fields don’t leave you a lot to room to describe the art, the audiences and the why you’re doing this. This is where the supporting documents/appendix will aid you. You can refer to items in the supporting documents in the application itself, which will give you further opportunity to provide context for the project. I’ve found appendix really useful for contextually the activity, especially if it forms part of a long-term project that has multiple strands, or if your work/activity has previously been funded by ACE. Just remember to keep the supporting documents relevant to the activity or your work.
Now I know I’m just sounding like a teacher now, but proof reading your work is important. The fine folk at ACE understand that writing applications isn’t easy for everyone, so they’re not looking for the best grammar or use of the Queen’s English. What is useful though is exporting the application in its entirety as a PDF once uploaded onto Grantium (find out how here) to look for repetition of phrases and information. Make sure that in each section you have answered the question posed. If in doubt, ask someone to read it through to spot the moments you repeat yourself. Even the most seasoned bid writer occasionally knocks out the same phrase a few times in multiple sections.
I hope the above is useful when you’re thinking about applying to the Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants scheme. What are your top tips? Leave them in the comments.
Hire Me to Write Your Application
Did you know that you can hire me to write your application? I can also proof-read and give notes or rewrite/refocus rejected applications? I’ve got extensive experience of writing successful ACE bids for a range of artists, companies and projects. Feel free to contact me to find out.