Wouldn’t it be nice if money for your Arts Integration or Arts program just landed in your lap?

Or at the very least, a business recognized the good work you were doing with a financial contribution?  Often times, Arts Integration initiatives fail to get very far off the ground because people say there is lack of funding.  This simply isn’t true.  I know, I know.  You’ve looked high and low for money, applied for grants, maybe even tried a fundraiser and still no cash.  Well, I’m here to tell you – there’s financial support just waiting for you to claim it.  And for all you Arts educators out there – this applies to you too!  Today, I’m going to share with you my top 5 tips for finding the financial support your Arts initiative deserves!

First – a little background about how I know there’s money out there.  After all…the statements above sound like someone who isn’t in touch with reality, right?  Well – I didn’t say it wouldn’t be hard work.  As part of my current role, I am charged with seeking out funding to support our many valid and valuable initiatives.  So, I apply for grants on a pretty regular basis.  I know what’s out there and what to do to hit with success.  Secondly, when I started my very first Arts Integration initiative, we had absolutely NO money to support the idea.  Yet, within 2 years, we were names one of Maryland’s top AI schools through the Kennedy Center awards.  So I’m living proof that these tips work.

1. Have a Plan

You have to sit down and actually write out a long range plan of where you will look for funding, and what actions you will take to develop partnerships.  Then, within that long range plan, carve out goals for each month to achieve your big picture.  Make them relevant and realistic.  Part of my current plan to find funding includes setting aside time each week to search for, write and submit for grant or foundational funding, as well as develop partnerships.  I call it “Money-Making Mondays” because I commit my full schedule on Mondays for this part of the plan.  Yes, occasionally I get called into another meeting or something else has to take priority on that Monday.  But for the most part – Mondays are my days to find support.

2. Think Beyond Money

When you narrow yourself into the hole of finding money for your initiative, that really places a limit on what you can achieve.  Money is definitely a key player in supporting your initiative.  However, you could do things like partner with area businesses for volunteers to help within the classroom or for businesses to donate the supplies for your art cart.  You can partner with area Arts Organizations to provide free or discounted studio sessions for students, parents or staff.  There are a ton of ways to create financial support without applying just for money.  Remember those Money-Making Mondays I was telling you about?  I have a jar that is labeled Money-Making Mondays and in it, I store slips of paper with one-sentence ideas on ways to partner, fundraise or otherwise seek funding.  I’ll pull a slip out on a Monday and dedicate myself to that one idea.  Think of how many possibilities that holds for your initiative!

3. Grants are Good, Foundations are Better

Applying for grants is a necessary step if you’re looking for strict financial support.  There are so many different kinds out there, from the small, easy-to-get kind (like the Target $1,000 ones for the arts) to large, 6-figure grants which require a LOT of paperwork.  You need to figure out which grants to go after.  I’d suggest trying to piece together a few smaller ones if you’re going to go the grant route.  However, here’s a little-talked about tip: while grants are good, going after foundations is a better bet.  Grants require a lot of paperwork, usually someone to manage the grant, and there are usually a lot of stipulations in how the money is used.  Foundations, on the other hand, are looking for more creative projects with much less restrictions as long on you align with their current vision.  Plus, Foundations usually support much bigger dollar figures.

4. Alignment and Precision is Key

Regardless of which avenue you choose, make sure that what you’re preposing aligns with the vision and current interests of whomever you are approaching.  Whether that be for a grant, a foundation, or a business partnership, do a little homework.  Find out what their goals are, what they have supported in the past and make sure that what you’re proposing to them fits into those goals.  Additionally, don’t forget to triple-check your work.  There’s nothing worse than submitting a proposal with typos, grammatical errors, or missing documents.  That’s a sure-fire way to get tossed aside without a second glance.

5. It all takes time

This is a big one, is something we’ve all heard, but also is the most ignored part of the whole process.  Listen, the average “hit-rate” of getting a grant you apply for is about 1 in 7.  If you’re just starting out, it’s more like 1 in 10.  So plan on spending a lot of time researching, writing and applying for grants and foundations and getting a lot of form letters that say, “thanks, but no thanks”.  However, for all of those no’s, you’re going to get one yes sooner or later.  Make that one count.  Make sure that you document everything and go above and beyond the parameters you set in the original proposal.  Because organizations like to support initiatives where others have contributed and where the program has been a success.  So after you get the first one, the rest of the pieces start to fall into place a little easier.

Above all…don’t give up on this whole process.

Finding financial support is hard work, but it pays many dividends in the end.  Looking for more quick tips and easy references to go to?  We’ll be back on Thursday with all those resources and more!