2.4 Financing

Unless you plan on paying all of your production costs out-of-pocket, it is absolutely essential to raise funds in order to finance your project. There are two sectors to approach for money, the public and the private.

The Public Sector
The ‘public sector’ designates government funding agencies, which require that you write grant applications. As most arts councils do not fund the creation of first works, emerging choreographers are more likely to receive an employment project grant that targets youth and the acquisition of marketable skills. Writing grants helps organize and articulate your goals, and these are essential steps towards creating a good fundraising package with which to approach the private sector.

Public sector funds include national and provincial arts council grants, employment grants, and grants geared specifically for youth. In addition, local national and provincial deputies occasionally offer ad-hoc support. Consult the RQD’s up-to-date list of grants available to artists for more details. To prepare for grant writing, contact the various granting bodies or download the necessary forms and guides from their web sites. Read the text carefully and make sure you gather all the supporting documentation required, such as letters of support from experienced artists, mentors or presenters. Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions. It’s also a good idea to send your résumé and a brief project description in for review early – at least one month before deadline – to get feedback and to confirm your eligibility.

If you fit into their age restrictions, try starting with employment grants as these are easier to get, and the experience will give you a better shot at arts council grants. Meanwhile, it is still important to write arts council grants, both for the practice and to make a statement of need to all levels of government.
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare, plan and write your grant. You may need to do several drafts. If you can get your hands on one, read over a successful grant application, and make sure someone proofreads yours before you finalize and send it off. Many people apply for grants and there is a limited amount of money available, so don’t get too discouraged if you don’t receive a grant you put a lot of blood and sweat into writing. Ask for feedback from the granting agency and take their comments seriously.

Exploit your cultural specificity: if you have German heritage, solicit the Goethe Institute, which has a cultural mandate. Perhaps other countries have similar institutions or envelopes as part of their embassies. The Canada Council for the Arts’ Equity Office focuses on supporting Canadian artists of African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American or mixed racial heritage, and their artistic practices. Aboriginal artists likewise have a department providing specific grants. There is also a possibility of extra money with the IPOLQ program through the Canada Council for the Arts if you are an Anglophone living in Québec or a Francophone out of Québec, so make sure to specify your mother tongue in your grant.

The Private Sector
Private sector funding denotes money, objects or services received from individuals, small businesses or corporations. Whether you are soliciting donations, sponsorships or ad sales, fundraising is essentially a sales job, requiring motivation, focus and persistence. Worship the person who takes on this job for you, if you are so lucky as to find one.

Fundraising activities like throwing bake sales, raffles or benefit concerts are common ways of raising money. Any of these may or may not bring in money, depending on how well they are managed. For a benefit concert, try to secure volunteer performers who draw a big crowd, and do not plan it too close to the actual performance dates. Use these events to advertise your show as well as to raise funds.

When seeking sponsorships, approach businesses that have some connection to your community, a vested interest in dance, or in you personally. Make tangible connections between your work and the private sector. A sponsor gives money or services in exchange for recognition and visibility by having their logo on your promotional material. Sponsors are therefore interested in your marketing plan, which should detail how many flyers will be made, how and when they will be distributed, expected media coverage, etc. Your ‘sponsorship kit’ should explain the event, introduce the choreographer(s), and outline the benefits of becoming a sponsor. Make sure to present a clean, organized image and bring budgets and business proposals when meeting with potential sponsors.

Adapt your sponsorship kit to generate advertising sales in your show’s program. This ‘ad sales kit’ details the dimensions, formats and rates for advertising space. Target businesses whose services you might require, and ask for the services (rather than money) in exchange for advertising space. Advertisers are interested in the size and nature of your audience, and your program.

It takes audacity to approach the private sector – try to stay positive and believe in yourself. Even if you aren’t immediately successful in your search for funds, you are developing relationships with businesses and individuals who may become patrons in the future. Treat sponsors well by inviting them to the opening night and sending them a thank-you letter with the program when the show is over.

Private sector arts grants do exist, though these are hard to come by as the well-known foundations tend to be bombarded with requests every year. If you wish to try your luck with these, the Québec Drama Federation maintains a list of private foundations that might be useful in your funding search.

Tips

  • To get financial training and employment advice, check out employment centres such as Youth Employment Services (YES), which give a workshop series for artists.
  • Take a grant-writing workshop offered through Diagramme or the Regroupement québécois de la danse.
  • Keep an updated artistic CV ready for applications that come up suddenly.

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