Creative Industry Finance: the lowdown on grant funding

Creative Industry Finance: the lowdown on grant funding

By Rachel Segal Hamilton IdeasTap 06/11/12

At the second session in our Creative Industry Finance IdeasTap Spa series, Eddie Thomas, Senior Manager for Grants for the Arts at Arts Council England, gave an overview of grant funding and applying for ACE grants…

What’s a grant? 

Eddie defines a grant as: “Financial backing for a not-for-profit project, awarded through a competitive application process and paid back by furthering the grantor’s aims.” 

Grant givers fall into two main categories: governments, who provide international, national and regional funding, and trusts and foundations, set up by philanthropists or companies with a charitable arm. 

Identify what you want to do before looking for grants. Your first point of call is the DCMS website. Trawl through what’s on offer to find organisations that share your mission.


What are grantors looking for? 

You have to meet eligibility criteria – which differ from funder to funder. They may require you to show you can secure match funding from other sources – for example, to apply for Arts Council England funding you must source 10% of your funding elsewhere. And you will need to show you have taken ethics and good practice into consideration. Remember, grant funding is for projects not revenue: grantors don’t want to create dependency.

Funders love partnerships so team up with other organisations that can deliver skills you lack. Timing is critical – with most grants you won’t find out the decision for two to six months, so get in early! Try to make personal contact with the grant giver to get an idea of whether your project might receive funding

If you’re not committed, don’t apply. You need to really believe in the project you want to deliver. If you don’t, that will come across in your application.


Arts Council England 

ACE has nine regional offices across England. Call or email the relationship manager at your nearest ACE office if you are thinking of applying for funding. Be (reasonably) persistent. 

Between 2011 and 2015 ACE is investing £2.4 billion in the arts, through three funding streams. Certain organisations, such as the Royal Opera House, are part of ACE’s national portfolio and they receive annual funding. Some funding is reserved for strategic opportunities in, for example, digital, fundraising or international residencies. Grants for the Arts is ACE’s open-application funding programme.

The minimum you can apply for from Grants for the Arts is £1,000 and the maximum is £100,000. There is a 43% success rate. The turnaround time is six to 12 weeks – six weeks for applications under £10,000 and 12 weeks for applications over £10,000. For more information on Grants for the Arts, visit the ACE website.


Grants for the Arts assessment 

ACE carries out an evidence-based assessment to decide whether or not to award funding. So don’t assume the assessor will know anything about you already! Your application will be judged on: 


This includes: your track record, whether the project is cutting edge, who your partners are and how the funding will help you in your development. Avoid waffle and conceptual speak. Be specific. In theory, assessors look at your website and attachments but in reality if your application is for less than £10,000 they will spend half a day on it at most – a day at most if it is for more than £10,000 – so make sure you’ve made the project sound exciting in the application. 

Public engagement

This is key. If nobody sees it, ACE is not going to fund it. ACE want to know what your marketing plan is, how you will attract new audiences and what the breadth and depth of your audience is.


Demonstrate your planning by including documents such as risk assessments and timelines. 


Show the systems you have in place for this project. When budgeting, don’t over project. You can’t turn around halfway through the project and say that you’re making a loss and need more money, so do honest projections. Your budget has to balance income and expenditure – you can’t have any profit rolling over. Remember to include any items you’re getting in kind – for example a venue you’re using for free – because they count towards your match funding.


Useful resources


Miss any of the Spa events in this series? Download the...

Down to Business: When does a creative idea become a business and how?

Intro to Grant Funding for Creative Businesses
Powerpoint (ArtCo Projects)
Powerpoint (Arts Council England)
Handout on Grant Funding Opportunities

Ins & Outs of Loans for Creative Businesses
Podcast and Powerpoint

A Slice of the Pie: Equity Investment for Creative Businesses
Podcast and Powerpoint


More articles from the Creative Industry Finance series:

Equity finance

Loan finance - things to consider

Loan finance - key terms



Image: BT ArtBox - Money Box by Dave Catchpole on a CC BY 2.0 license.

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