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September 26, 2008

To fund or not to fund: tips for using the web to research performing arts grants online

Money to fund your arts programming. It’s out there, from a variety of sources. And if you know which stones to overturn, you’ll have everything you need to get it flowing into your organization. The web is the most powerful tool at your disposal to find funding sources for performing and visual arts grants. There are specialized grants for women in the arts. Arts grants for individuals. If you can imagine it, there is probably somebody out there who can support it with a grant. And knowing where to apply is half the battle!

Googling your way to funding success

Let’s brainstorm for a moment about some sources for funding for your arts organization: 1. The NEA 2. Local, regional, or national foundations that serve your arts genre’s niche or geographic area 3. City-based arts funding programs 4. Nonprofit arts service organizations in your area 5. Corporate grants for supporting the arts and humanities 6. Your state arts council 7. Individuals with a history of giving to the arts 8. Companies and individuals that give products or services to the arts in lieu of money I’m sure there are more, but that’s a good start. As a real-world example, let’s try to find some arts funding sources for an arts organization in Santa Cruz, CA. Using google, I simply searched for “arts grant santa cruz,” and looked at the results. 1. Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County — holds the #1 spot on google 2. Rydell Visual Arts Foundation — looks like they fund the Santa Cruz Art League (note, looking at who funds arts groups near you is a great way to find funders who are already geared to your service area, and are proven givers!) 3. Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s “other funding” page — turns out that this page is a goldmine of local funding information, and lists arts funders such as:

    Monterey Peninsula Foundation Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation The David and Lucille Packard Foundation The Wallace Foundation

Starting to see what’s possible? Simply by searching google with specific terms about your geographic area leads to wealth of results. Other search terms I suggest (still using Santa Cruz as an example — insert your town’s name as needed) are: “Santa Cruz corporation arts giving” “Santa Cruz arts funding” etc. When you’ve exhausted those options, expand your search by putting in things like the name of your county, region, state, and arts genre. And don’t forget synonyms. For example, substituting “culture” for “arts” yielded additional results that I didn’t see before.

Online sites for arts and cultural funding

For those of you who don’t want to dig for your bone, try searching a website dedicated to funding for arts and cultural groups: http://www.foundationcenter.org — A wonderfully comprehensive database for researching grants in all 50 states. http://www.afpnet.org — The Association of Fundraising Professionals offers a variety of resources for fundraising folks, including a way to find experts in writing your grant applications. http://www.foundationsearch.com — another fantastic resource for finding grants. http://dir.yahoo.com/Arts/Organizations/Foundations_and_Trusts — Yahoo has a nice listing of a bunch of funders. As you can see, with a little web research, there is a bounty of locations to find funders for your arts organization. Finding them isn’t the end of the story though. You actually have to find the time to apply. Woody Allen said “Success is 80% showing up.” I’m a firm believer in that. But don’t be tempted to apply for everything under the sun — you’ll run yourself ragged. Do the research, and then make a plan that sets goals for applying for a very small number of grants (or even one to start), and that’s the goal for this year. Then research their application requirements, and get an application to them ASAP. You’ll learn a lot by just going through the process, and by applying for a grant, you’ll probably find that you are better able to articulate the benefits that your organization brings to your community, and that is a powerful idea to communicate. In closing, hopefully you’ve gained an understanding of some techniques to research grants online, as well as some resources available to you via websites that will get you well on the way to having those new theater seats or that new box office system funded and operational. Research. Make a plan. Apply. And then either celebrate (we got it!) or learn from the process (we’ll get it next time). Applying for the first one is always the hard part, and receiving one is always a thrill!

About Ron Evans

I am an arts marketing and consumer psychology researcher, and principal consultant at Group of Minds. I advise leaders on behavioral psychology, marketing & technology to nudge audience behavior. Get in touch via email, on Twitter, or Google+: +Ron Evans