Missing out on funding or a grant can be frustrating, disappointing and demoralising. However, the reality is that core arts funding budgets are either dropping or static in most areas, so losing out in the grant rounds will probably hit most of us more often then not.
The good news is that writing your grant application gave you important insights into your organisation which can now be utilised in other ways.
Once you have finished kicking the (metaphorical) cat after missing out on a major grant, ask yourself these questions and use the information from your grant application to move forward.
1. What do I know?
Your finances had to look orderly in that grant application so use that information to ensure they stay there.
Identify the full cost of delivering each element of your program and every project. Include all overheads (salaries, administration, rent, outgoings etc) as part of your project budget.
If your overheads are more than 30% of your project's budget, accept that you need to revisit your program or your operating costs.
2. Where do I need to change?
Once you know how much every part of your program costs, work out where your funding cut is going to hit most.
What parts of your program will be affected? If your application was for a single project this might be a simple matter of accepting that project won't happen. But if you have missed out on organisational funding you may need to review your total operations.
In either case, it is a good idea to consider whether instead of just reviewing the parts of your program immediately affected, this is a time to review your whole approach.
3. When will the change hit?
You need to identify not only where the cuts will hit most but when that impact will come.
Will it hit next year, or have you got enough to keep going for another 6-12 months?
If you need to find new sources of funding, what are the cycles for other grants, funding programs, and/or philanthropic giving?
Do you need to develop a detailed cashflowto see when you need to be planning for change and when to implement? That will let you know when you need to make decisions and get into action.
4. How can you restructure to fit your new situation?
This is the tricky bit, and there is no one size fits all answer.
You need to decide whether your approach will be to attempt to replace the grant you had hoped for or to cut the program so you can fit within your new funding envelope?
Consider other options for funding; crowd-sourcing, social ventures, workplace giving, fundraising events and actively engaging donors. Is there anything you have not tried? is there anything you could develop further.
Now is a great time to look at a range of scenarios and test them for strengths and weaknesses. Use that imagination and creativity to push your thinking outside standard patterns of thought. Make time to engage with other parts of the sector, other models, other ideas about how things might be done. You want to be absolutely sure that you have explored every option before moving on.
5. Why am I doing this?
Finally, when making decisions about how to either re-fill your funding pipeline or restructure your activities altogether, go back and test your findings against your organisation’s mission. That is the ultimate test about the viability of any project or venture you propose. If it aligns that’s great – if not, you need to revisit. And if your mission no longer resonates with you or your stakeholders than you really do need to go back to the drawing board.
Creative and strategic thinking are needed to build resilient and sustainable arts companies. Plus, the leadership to make tough decisions and take organisations on journeys of transformation and change.
Try not to do too much at once, take it step by step, and remain optimistic that you will find a way through. Get support that you need and be generous with others. It may be hard work but if you believe in your mission than it is worth at least trying to find a way.
And at the end of the day there is no other answer, it least you know you gave it your best shot.
Judith Bowtell of Albany Lane is an executive coach and consultant that supports individuals to develop their professional careers in the arts, cultural and creative sector and organisations to grow.
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