Finding Funding for Individual Creatives

Doesn’t it seem like artists and creative workers bear an undue burden during these big crises? COVID is no exception of course. With cultural and creative activity on near total shutdown, our various industries, businesses and organizations are the first to close and will be the last to open.

On top of the health concerns, family difficulties and community challenges, many in our community struggle with cancelled income and no clear picture for what happens next. 

Puget Sound has always been steeped in culture and creativity, built on a foundation of community and mutual support. As COVID-19 continues to affect the region and country, we hope to help creatives connect with funding opportunities that will help them weather the pandemic.  

This article provides an overview of funding for individual artists and workers, and is supplemented by the dynamic resource directory on this site, where you can find many more listings for funding programs and other resources.

We will continue to update this article and the directory over the next few months. If you have a resource to add, please fill out this form.

Table of Contents

Relief Funding from the Resource Directory

The listings below are the relief funds that appear in our comprehensive resource directory.  For the full list of fund listings as well as resources such as workshops, support services, articles, hotlines and additional industry resource lists, please visit the full resource directory.

Labor of Love: Art and Healing Grant

Applications are being accepted starting today through Dec. 4 for the Labor of Love: Art and Healing Grant, which will award up to $1,000 to at least 15 Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) activists or organizations with a focus on racial equity, enfranchisement and social equity-based movement building within and adjacent to our local labor movement.

Cultural Relief for Individuals

Grants of up to $2,000 are available to help support necessities including housing, utilities, groceries, and childcare to those who contribute to the cultural and creative industries within King County, Washington. Application deadline is October 28th, 2020. 

Collecting a Stimulus Payment

Most people are eligible for a $1200 Economic Impact Payment from the IRS, and many have received the money automatically as a direct deposit or payment-by-mail.  

As of now, there has only been one stimulus payment.  However, the current Heroes Act legislation includes a second payment, very similar to the first (standard $1200 for most, with provisions for parents and various wage-levels.)  The timeline for advancing the Heroes Act is currently unknown and likely waiting until the November election is fully settled.  

It is possible that yet further stimulus funding will lead to additional checks and payments to individuals in 2021. As of 11/12, there is little clarity as to the timing on another stimulus package, and given the political chaos of our time, some say it will likely wait until all election activity is done, including the Georgia run-offs.  

7 Tips for Writing Funding Proposals

Read everything first.

Grantors don’t always write amazing RFP’s or grant program descriptions, but usually they include everything you need to know for success. 

Firstly, be sure to review the eligibility criteria closely. If you are going to put the time in to building a worthwhile application, then it will be super frustrating to be denied on a technicality. And if you don’t fit the program, you may be able to call or write and explore your options.

Otherwise, be sure to understand the whole application and how the pieces fit together.  When is it due?  Is it an email submission or via online forms?  Do they need work samples, references or other materials?  

Before you begin generating an application, read through all the elements involved and visualize how the pieces will fit together and make the case to the reviewers.

Get started early.

Once you’ve really reviewed the materials closely, get started right away.  

Even if the deadline is two months out, you’ll want to get your application started early.  And if possible, you’ll want to submit it early.  

There is nothing worse than waiting until the last minute and trying to jam all the materials together in a panic, wondering if the form is going to accept your image size or word count.  Or discovering at the last minute that you are missing a recommendation letter or other key document.

Be specific about your goals.

Have a clear intention of why you need this funding at this time.  Provide one specific reason and skip any extraneous information.  What are you doing?  When?  How much does it cost?

Emergency and relief funding applications tend to be shorter, with less room for complex narratives and intricate details.  Identify the core objective of your proposal and articulate it directly.

Highlight the unique.

What is it about your practice and your work that is unique?  There are likely going to be other similar artists, possibly many of them applying to the same program.  How do you differentiate yourself?

If you’ve written an artist statement or applied for grant funding in the past, it is likely that you’ve already spent some time thinking about, and hopefully articulating this.

Illustrate COVID’s impacts.

Has COVID reduced your work opportunities? Has it created new economic or logistical burdens that limit your work?  What about other aspects of your life?

Be really transparent about how the pandemic has affected your life and your work.  If you lost your “day job” or had a major contract cancelled, be sure to include that information.  Those reviewing applications will want to see not just why you deserve the support creatively, but why you need it economically.

And it is important to be chronically the lost gigs, performances and opportunities for other reasons as well.

Keep it short.

These emergency relief grants tend to involve shorter narratives. But shorter narratives don’t necessarily mean less work.  You still need to differentiate yourself and tell your story.  But now you need to do it with even les words.

Building a concise and simple response requires finding the essential core of your message.  Lead with that.  Use examples to make your point.  And wrap up with a restatement of your core message.  Be sure they understand… why this, why now, why you.

Use the help.

Whether you use a coach, a grant-writer, a peer or a friend, get help. Even if you’re a grizzled veteran at these applications, a reading by another pair of eyes (and some honest notes) will help refine your story. 

And if you haven’t dealt with a particular funder, program or process before, absolutely find someone with more experience to give you tips.  Most people will be honored to share their wisdom and it will also help them to build stronger peer relationships.

There may also be organizations with capacity specifically to help you.  Check out the following service providers to see if they have workshops or other programs that offer assistance:

Conducting Your Own Fundraising Campaign

Not getting the grants?  Or need more up-front cash to kick-off that pandemic-era project you’ve been cooking up?  Perhaps you can turn (or return) to your family, friends, fans and other networks via crowdfunding.  

Most everyone must be familiar with crowdfunding as a new version of digital patronage, using social media as a platform for reaching a larger network of funders, even without the traditional legal structures of nonprofits or formal investments.

Selecting a platform

Choosing a platform these days is more complicated than just flipping a coin over Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and it is probably the first step of the process to clarify goals and make a selection.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is this a temporary campaign or an ongoing patronage?
  • Do you offer tangible perks and incentives to donors?
  • How much exposure do you expect the platform to provide to you?
  • Do you want the excitement of an all-or-nothing campaign or take-what-you-can-get?
  • Do you want or need fiscal sponsorship (501c3 status) for your project?

Indiegogo

Indiegogo lets you pick your funding model (all-or-nothing, or keep what’s raised).  Used heavily by creatives, it is really more suited for tech and design entrepreneurs, and offers a platform to continue funding even after the campaign is over (InDemand).  Indiegogo allow perks and have extensive educational resources for running campaigns.  They charge a 5% platform fee plus 2.9%+$0.30 credit card fee per transaction.

Kickstarter

The gold standard. More focused on creatives rather than businesses, with individual sections for Arts, Comics & Illustration, Design & Tech, Film, Food & Craft, Games, Music and Publishing.  They have a huge editorial framework that helps expose projects.  Kickstarter uses an all-or-nothing funding model with a 5% platform fee, plus payment processing fees of 3-5%.

Seed&Spark

Seed&Spark is a platform specifically for filmmakers, and including special resources such as distribution, finishing funds and other rewards for their creators. They use a 5% platform fee plus 2.9%+$0.30 credit card processing fees. Otherwise once you reach 80% of your goal, you keep the remainder.  Like other platforms, you can provide incentives and gifts for your campaign.  

Patreon

Instead of fundraising for a specific project, Patreon offers an opportunity for donors to provide ongoing support in the form of recurring donations.  It works especially well for those that produce consistently, such as podcasts, performances, serialized essays or otherwise.  They have resources tailored to different kinds of creators, such as visual artists, video creators, musicians and nonprofits.  Their fees are tiered to LIte, Pro and Premium.  Lite uses a 5% processing fee.  Pro is an 8% fee.  And Premium is 12%.  Processing is 2.9%+$0.30 (over $3) and 5%+$0.10 (under $3).

Withfriends

Withfriends allows small businesses and orgs to collect monthly donations from supporters, providing perks and membership tiers.  It includes a ticketing system as well so ties well with performance and event-based folks.  Withfriends has a 10% platform fee and splits the cost of payment processing.

GoFundMe

GoFundMe is a fairly open-ended platform for fundraising around just about any cause.  It is often used for medical emergencies orpop-up causes without existing organizations to steward them.  GoFundMe does not charge a platform fee and charges 2.9%+$0.30 for payment processing.

Build a campaign from inside out.

A common mistake is to prepare the campaign and press go on the platform before telling anyone else about it.  When, in fact, the best strategy is to establish commitments and excitement from an inner circle first and build outward.  

In fact, you may even want to start there.  Gather together a group of supporters via email and phone and tell them your intention to launch a campaign.  Get their help and advice.  Get them excited. By the time you publish the campaign on Facebook, you should have a group of folks already ready to give and post and share to boost your message during that critical announcement period.

Some fundraisers don’t even begin the public segment of their campaign until they’ve got 50% of their goal raised behind-the-scenes!

Be engaged and engaging!

Fundraising might seem like a chore, but if you project excitement and communicate regularly with your donors and audience, it can become a shared adventure.  Of course you should be sure to directly and immediately thank your donors.  And find other ways to recognize them.  

But don’t forget that they are more than just a source of money. They are your fans, your advocates and your network. Start a newsletter or find another way to send them messages regularly. During your campaign, offer them specific ways to help, like reposting an image or message on social media.  And after the campaign, let them know how they can continue to stay involved in your work.

Remember, donors and supporters don’t owe you anything else. But, if you treat them like it, they can become long-term allies, friends and even family to you and your work.

Photo by Sahand Hoseini on Unsplash

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