Partnering

For some years now those of us working in the arts and cultural sector have been getting the message that partnerships and collaborative activity are the way to get ahead and to get the money we need for survival. Funding bodies have often focused on partnering as a necessary condition for accessing financial support for an activity.

This has been a valuable exercise in many ways because it has made us take the blinkers off and have a good look around at the assets in our communities. It has encouraged the identification of partners outside our field of operation. It has found us knocking on the doors of businesses whose interests match our own and out looking for like-minded philanthropists.

While in the past a friendly sponsor may have been happy to hand over their contribution just to see your project succeed, more and more businesses and philanthropists are seeking real relationships. While this may seem a good move it is important to think through what ‘real’ partnering means. There are pros and cons to keep in mind

Pros /Cons

  • Increase in financial resources/ Possible extra costs in servicing and maintaining the partnership
  • Potential for creating a better product/ Increased demand on your time
  • Building the capacity of your organisation by learning from the partner /Availability of skills in your organization to handle the people side of the partnership
  • Your organisation’s legitimacy and recognition increased by the status of the partner/ Reputation risk if the partner’s image and goals are not compatible
  • Improved networking opportunities/ Increase in paperwork
  • Diversification of audience /Servicing an increased database

Partnerships That Work

There have been examples of groups choosing a partner simply to attract funding and then finding that the goals of the funding made them drift from their stated mission. Some projects can be done alone. Partnering needs to be strategic.

This means that a lot of planning needs to happen prior to any commitment being made in order to clarify the purpose of the project concerned and the roles of the partners involved.

A partnership that will work is one that has a clearly defined project:

  • that is central to the work of the participating organisations
  • that involves work to which each organisation can make obvious contributions, and
  • that is undertaken by organisations with the capacity (staff, resources, competence) to contribute.1

It is also important that the underlying philosophy of the business matches that of your organisation and that your values are compatible. It has been interesting to see, for example, the number of companies that have withdrawn from partnering the tobacco industry once the hazardous nature of smoking was publicised.

There needs to be mutual respect and the capacity to maintain good communication between the two parties. Because a partnership is a relationship, it is helpful to arrange social connections to maintain the conversation around what you are doing together, as well as attending the formal meetings to sort out the hard headed business end of the deal.

Finding the best partnership model

Before you can identify a potential business partner you need to identify what you can bring to the partnership and how that matches with what the partner can offer.

What can you offer?

  • A reputation or creative environment that reflects well on the reputation of the business
  • A product that can be shown in the business precinct
  • A way of advertising the business name or product
  • Creative personnel that can build communication skills with the staff of the business
  • Access to social occasions that will be rewarding for managers and staff
  • Discounts to performances or on your merchandise
  • Access to your networks
  • Improved morale of staff in partner organisation
  • A project that attracts commitment from both parties

Let us celebrate that our humanity contains two strands that make us magic. A cognitive mind that shapes our culture and a genetic mind that ensures our survival. It is the latter mind that has been trained by the slow process of evolution to recognise that ‘waste of resource’ sometimes evidenced by arts and its sponsorship is the best way to signal reputation.” – Robin Wight. ‘The Peacock’s Tail and the Reputation Reflex. The Neuroscience of Arts Sponsorship’. The Arts & Business Lecture 2007:31

What can your business partner offer?

  • Shared values
  • Volunteers or in-kind products, rental of spaces or services
  • Financial support of a particular program or aspect of your operation
  • Discounted products or services
  • The resources to carry through on the partnership
  • Employment experience or secondment to their staff
  • Access to their networks
  • Scholarships or awards
  • Enhancement of your profile through the association with their name.

Given the different ways in which partnerships can work, it is important that the roles of each party are defined. This can happen through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or a Partnership Agreement.

Guide to Writing an Agreement

Putting things in writing is a good way to make sure that the partnership will stay on track. There may be changes in management or key personnel in both your organisations.

The written agreement is a valuable tool in expressing the roles and expectations of both parties. This may be as simple as a letter or be a more formal contract or MOU.

The kinds of issues that will be covered in an agreement will be:

  • Description of the aims, objectives and activities of your organisation
  • The purpose of the partnership
  • The criteria which will flag its success
  • The timeframe for the partnership and reporting strategies
  • The benefits accruing to each of the partners from the relationship
  • What resources, cash and /or in-kind that each partner will be contributing
  • The roles and responsibilities of each partner
  • Protocols to be observed in contacting each party
  • Wording of joint publicity
  • How changes could be made in the relationship
  • Behaviour that would lead to termination of the partnership
  • Conflict resolution strategy
  • How the partnership will be evaluated

Partnerships may involve naming rights and there will be a particular way in which this needs to be expressed in media releases and other publications. Make sure that this is clearly recorded in the agreement and kept before the staff involved in marketing and administration.

Keep your partner on your mailing list, list of invitees to functions and send them any material that comes across your desk that may be of interest to them to keep the communication lines open. Take every opportunity to celebrate achievement

Evaluating Success

How do you know if the partnership is working? Evaluation can only take place if clear criteria have been identified when establishing the partnership against which the outcomes can be measured. These criteria may be different for each partner. For example the business partner may want an increase in business or in reputation from the alignment of their business with your project or event. You may want a better product, an increase in your network or audience development.

These are the criteria that you will have written into your partnership agreement. Your end of the bargain will be to make sure that you deliver on what you have promised. It is not possible to report on the success of the partnership unless there is documentation of the process and data gathering to demonstrate that the criteria have been met. You may need to:

  • touch base regularly to report face-to-face on progress
  • develop reporting mechanisms such as feedback sheets, a visitors book, ways of recording numbers or types of attendees, comparative chart of sales figures before and after the partnership
  • supply photographic or video records
  • After the project is completed:
  • Arrange a meeting with the partner to review the agreement
  • Present a written report as the basis for discussion
  • Discuss the areas that succeeded and those that needed more attention
  • Broker a renewal of the agreement with any additional elements that you have gleaned from the first experience.

Arts Mid North Coast thanks Artslink Queensland for this information

Download ‘Partnering.pdf’ Information Sheet

Grant Writing – Our Top Tips

Getting a grant is becoming an increasingly competitive process and indeed grants writing is becoming an art in itself so here are some tips to help you in your quest.

Give Yourself Time
Do not underestimate the time it will take to properly put a grant application together. People still seem to leave it to the last couple of days before closing dates and it often shows in the application. With the luxury of time you can actually complete the application early and leave a few days before going back and apply a very critical eye as if you were assessing the application.

Is it the Right Grant?
Don’t waste your time! If your organisation doesn’t have the right legal status, or your project doesn’t fit the guidelines, don’t bother sending it in ‘just in case’. Applying for grants takes a lot of time and energy. Before you embark on an application, read through the guidelines and talk to someone in the funding organisation to make sure the grant you are applying for is appropriate for your project.

Do Your Homework
There are two things you should do before even starting with your application. First go through the list of successful applicants from the previous year or so which are usually available. This will give you a very good fell of the types of the projects being approved. Then read any assessments guides that have been provided from previous years. If they stress certain things you can be sure they will be looking for those again or they will note changes that have been made. If you have previously applied do not simply use your previous application without checking whether the criteria have changed.

What are they looking for?
Find out what you can not only about the grant but the funding organisation. Look at the organisation’s website, printed material they publish and talk to them on the phone. What are their key objectives, mission statement or future strategies? It is important that you can identify how your project will fulfil these objectives. Think of this as an application for a job. If the employer advertises for an office manager to fulfil their mission, you wouldn’t write offering your services as an engineer. The same applies to a funder looking for a project; they want a project that fits smoothly into their activities and helps it fulfil its mission.

Is your pitch right- what’s going to sell your project?
Focus on the solution not the problem and how to achieve it. Brainstorm the important factors of your project to sell it to someone with little knowledge of it or your organisation. How will it stand out from the crowd, what’s so special about your project, why should it be funded over many others? Start from the proposition, “We need to do this work which will provide immense benefit to the community, and we need money to do that.”

Be succinct- sell it in the first line!
Keep it short. The person or people reading your submission may be reading dozens or even hundreds of them and if yours is informative and concise it will stand out and be appreciated. You need to attract their attention in the first line of the application or the project summary. It is also important to get your message across clearly with as few words as possible. It needs to be quick and easy for the grant body to understand what you need and why you need it. If there is a word limit stick to it

Online Applications
Many grant applications can now only be done online. Download a word document and do your drafts separate to the online process and do not do the actual application until you are really happy with its content. Again do not leave until the last minute especially if it is a grant with the potential for many applicants trying to go online at the last minute.

Who is going to manage the project?
You need to be clear about how the project is to be managed from the outset. Not only will this make the grant body more confident in your organisation’s management ability but it will make the internal management of the project much smoother.

What credibility do you have?
Many grant applications have a number of questions about constitutions, annual reports, previous or current grants. These questions help the funding body to understand how you operate and have confidence that you will be able to manage the project successfully. If you can’t provide requested information explain why rather than leave it hanging in the air.

Can you collaborate?
Funding bodies want to see their funds spread as far as possible. If you can show that through collaboration/partnership the funding will be able to assist several organisations, this is generally very well received. Look to other artists or community groups to work and remember these may not need to be arts related.

Letters of Support
The request for letters of support has become more important in recent years in determining grant applications and is a matter often emphasised in assessment reviews as poorly done. Do not treat this as a minor request but think laterally as to how widely the benefits of your project may impact and get letters from all who may be involved or benefit.

Grant Opportunities – Talk to us

There are a number of “traditional” forms of arts grants at a state and national level although the nature and requirements of such grants are constantly changing and evolving so please talk to Arts Mid North Coast as to how we can a help you identify the right opportunities, the nature of your applications and whether we are able to provide a letter of support or other assistance. The key opportunities are listed below:

 

Quick Response Grants (Quicks)
Made available under the Regional Arts Fund allocation for NSW, Quick Response Grants (‘Quicks’) offer funding of up to $1,500 for regional artists, arts organisations and communities to respond to unique arts opportunities that present themselves at very short notice.

The program is intended to:

  • support professional development opportunities for artists and arts workers involved in community programs that will increase their knowledge, skills and experience
  • support skills and or arts development for individuals and groups in regional communities through the employment of arts and cultural workers to conduct workshops, seminars and forums.

A list of activities that will not be funded can be found at: http://regionalartsnsw.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/1-Quicks-Ineligibility.pdf.  ‘Quicks’ are offered on a quarterly basis. There is no deadline for applications, which may be made as required, although applications are processed on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Applicants MUST speak to the Funding Manager at Regional Arts NSW before applying. Decisions will be advised within 5 working days of receipt. Contact: Ben Sibson, Funding Manager Tel 02 9270 2502.Email funding@regionalartsnsw.com.au plus visit http://regionalartsnsw.com.au/grants/qtg


Regional Arts Fund (RAF)

The Regional Arts Fund provides grants for arts and cultural activities in regional NSW that are sustainable, have long term cultural, economic and social benefits, develop partnerships and cultural networks and provide skills development opportunities. There are three categories within which you can apply for the Regional Arts Fund.

1. New Initiatives

This category assists groups to undertake projects in any artform that:

  • extend knowledge, participation and/or development of arts and culture within communities;
  • address cultural themes or issues of significance in local communities;
  • are initiated by and with the community;
  • provide opportunities for collaboration and skills development of locally based arts workers.
  • Arts projects initiated by non-arts groups and organisations are encouraged. Applications must provide evidence of wider support for the proposed project.

2. Partnerships

This category assists groups to undertake projects in any artform that:

  • assist in the development of sustainable cultural networks;
  • promote partnerships that support community and cultural exchange;
  • have long-term arts and community cultural development outcomes for communities;
  • are initiated by and with the community.

Partnerships can be with the non-arts sectors and specific target groups either within communities, between towns, within regions or across the state.

Each partner must fulfil the eligibility criteria. It is expected that each partner contributes equally to the project through skills, financial and / or in-kind assistance. Priority will be given to projects that identify and create new partnerships and projects in which the partnerships are important in promoting sustainability. A project can have more than 2 partners.

3. Residencies and Mentorships

This category assists groups to undertake projects in any artform that:

  • provide programs of professional development for individuals and organisations in regional and remote communities;
  • provide skills development to artist/s arts workers in community cultural development practice;
  • relate to a specific form of art or craft practice, or broader community cultural development and capacity building;
  • may link professional artists and/or organisations (including regional with metropolitan-based artists and organisations) with local practitioners in rural and regional communities.

Preference will be given to proposals that access skills and development not available locally. Applications for formal study or long term training courses will not be considered.

RAF applications close August 15 2015 and application forms and further information are available online. http://regionalartsnsw.com.au/grants/raf


Country Arts Support Program (CASP)

CASP provides small grants to arts and community organisations and local arts councils in regional NSW for short term, locally initiated projects. The aims of the program are:

  • to assist locally determined cultural activities;
  • to increase opportunities for regionally based groups to access a diverse range of arts programs;
  • to enable communities to explore and express their cultural identities;
  • to encourage communities to work together to develop and participate in cultural experiences;
  • to bring social and economic benefits to the community through training, employment and promotional activities; and
  • to leads to greater awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity in rural and regional New South Wales.

Applications generally close October 1 each year and are an online application. You must speak to the RADO for your region or a Funding Staff member at Regional Arts NSW (if your region has no RADO) about your project prior to applying. Further information is available through Arts Mid North Coast.


Arts NSW

Arts NSW is the NSW Government’s arts and culture policy and development body. The department provides support to artists and key arts and cultural organisations through infrastructure and funding programs, and targeted strategies. Arts NSW works collaboratively with the NSW cultural institutions, the arts and cultural sector and partners within government. Arts NSW runs an annual cultural program of grants across a variety of artforms and timeframes.

Go to http://www.arts.nsw.gov.au for more details. Arts Mid North Coast notifies all key closing dates though our website, Arts Blast and social media.


Australia Council

Each year, The Australia Council delivers more than $200 million in funding for arts organisations and individual artists across the country. The Grants section of the website provides you with information about their funding programs and the funding application process. It also includes information about what happens after you have applied and what happens if you are successful.
http://2014.australiacouncil.gov.au/grants

There have been major changes to the grants so you must check all options for 2015. Key programs of interest to regional areas are listed below. All have closing dates in 2015 of 3 March, 2 June, 1 September and 1 December.


Visions of Australia Regional Exhibition Touring Fund

The Regional Exhibition Touring program supports Australian cultural material to reach regional and remote communities across Australia. Grants are available to support the costs to develop and tour exhibitions of cultural material that has historic, scientific, design, social or artistic significance.
http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/funding/new-grants-model/visions-of-australia-regional-exhibition-touring-fund


Playing Australia: Regional Performing Arts Touring Fund.

The Regional Performing Arts Touring program supports performing arts to reach regional and remote communities across Australia. Grants are available to support the costs associated with a national tour. http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/funding/new-grants-model/playing-australia-regional-performing-arts-touring-fund


Festivals Australia. Regional Festivals Project Fund.
The Regional Festivals Project Fund supports the inclusion of an arts project at festivals in regional and remote Australia. Grants are available to support the costs to produce and present an arts activity. http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/funding/new-grants-model/festivals-australia-regional-festivals-project-fund.


Grant Finders
In addition to the more established arts grants artists and groups are encouraged today to think laterally for there are a host of other funding bodies and grants that may be applicable as the silos fall down and increased realisation that art is relevant to tourism, community development, health and many other sectors. There are a number of useful grant finder tools including:

Crowdfunding

As the Artfacts initiative of the Australia Council has noted crowdfunding has emerged as a new source of funding for the arts. Globally, crowdfunding platforms have seen dramatic increases in funding raised with $2.7 billion raised in 2012 (up from 1.5 billion in 2011) across all categories (including arts). Kickstarter, one of the key global crowdfunding platforms, has successfully funded over 20,000 arts-related projects, which raised over $100 million in support.

Pozible, an Australian crowdfunding platform, had an average success rate of 56 percent in 2012, up from 45 percent in 2011. As of February 2013, the platform has helped funnel a total of AUD$8 million across 1,300 successful projects since it was established in May 2010. While this funding was across all categories, some of the most popular categories have been film, performance, art and music. http://www.pozible.com Check out projects that have been successful on this site and if possible talk to artists who have used it.

However it is not the answer for everyone. “If you’ve ever been to a big, rowdy concert, you’ve probably witnessed the phenomenon of crowdsurfing. This happens when a musician or fan takes a leap of faith from stage, knowing the crowd will carry them to safety. Using crowdfunding for your startup venture is much like crowdsurfing a rock concert — and also carries the same hazards that, at any moment, someone might drop you to the ground.” This nextweb.com blog offered some other matters to consider when it considered Kickstart against more traditional investment and these may also apply to other sources of arts funding.

These include.

Rushing to market. Starting up a Kickstarter campaign instantly puts a ticking clock above your head when it comes to delivering your product or service. Not everyone has the Hollywood contacts of Zach Braff, and trying to develop your business with a list of Kickstarter backers following your every move can be more stressful than comforting.

Traditional investors and funders. One of the biggest benefits of traditional investors is located in their brains, not in their wallets. Sure you can raise your seed money on Kickstarter or another crowdfunding platform… then what? Many newbie startup founders and first time entrepreneurs need the guiding hand of an investor who has been where they are and can help avoid the pitfalls. Your crowdfunding backers are looking for a finished product, they’re not going to provide you the means to make your dreams a reality.

What happens if you fail. On Kickstarter, you can promise products and rewards for backers who pony up cash to make your big dreams into a reality. But what if your company crashes and burns? Not only did you lose out on your entrepreneurial dreams, you still have Kickstarter rewards to honor.