We all want a piece of the pie how can arts businesses and NGO's convince investors that their pie is worth sticking their fingers into. Securing funding for your arts company or NGO involves tactile strategy and market research. Attending investor think tanks for start up's can be daunting especially when most businesses that gain angel investors, accelerators or incubators, involve technological or eco ideas.
In this article I'll share my findings so far based on my production experience and network.
Going in head first following your gut can be seen as frivolous and an aggressive marketing strategy, however when you are a start up what have you got to lose? Not much. Just diving in there trying to find unique ways to connect the business community with your arts idea or practice can sometimes pay off.
When devising your strategy just think of your own habits as a consumer - what instigates you to click buy or line up for those sought after tickets? Attracting an audience and investor support is almost two parts of the same puzzle. Depending on the type of audience or investor you are trying to attract you will design marketing materials and messages to suit.
Good old fashioned cold calling and creating a mailing list for your project proposal with sponsorship manager's name and email is a good start and has often led me to gaining some sort of support. Although not always monetary, I have found that businesses have provided their product as an event sponsor at my previous shows. Namely Notemaker.com.au and Parkers Organic Juices.
Alternative Arts Festivals
The Anywhere Festival Parramatta accepted me into it's program for 2015 in Parramatta, this is an alternative arts festival that is a fantastic idea connecting local businesses to the arts community. Basically businesses open their doors to creatives to present theatrical shows and music within it's bounds attracting more clients to them through the festival and beyond. This works especially well in restaurants and bars. My show Burning Angel was shown at an underground arts venue SHH Hybrid for Arts in North Parramatta, which ran a bar and other arts events. Although producing a pop-up show where you have to set up and set down the props after each show is tiring, and I promise to myself I will never do another one again, it often involves sharing the stage with other productions and cuts down the theatre hire costs. Anywhere Festival Parramatta allowed me the chance as a first time producer to learn the parameters of what was involved with producing a show following their formulaic procedures. Festivals take charge of ticket booking sites, and have huge publication runs of festival guides and calendars. This gave me confidence in my ability each time I met a set deadline in regards to P.R, public liability insurance, print images etc. My show ended up being within the top 5 best sellers that season for Sydney. The Anywhere Festival is quite prominent in Brisbane and has been running for several years although has not been back to Sydney since. Shorter runs of 5 shows or less can sometimes actually be a more profitable venture than a full 3 week run of 12 shows in our current market.
Prizes and Grants
Attracting the eyes of the major players in any industry is quite a privilege and sometimes the only way to contact such head honchos and get passed copious amounts of red tape; is to to be head hunted yourself. So how do you get noticed amongst a sea of creative geniuses all amped and primed for success? Win an arts prize or earn a grant of course! Earning the respect of your peers and colleagues in this manner has to be seen in much esteem and you will find that most Australian artists who are being marketed on a world scale generally have gained accolades in this manner.
Sydney Theatre Co has the Patrick White annual playwrighting prize and PlayWriting Australia's Rodney Seaborne Playwriting prize runs bi-annually. There is now also the Mona Brand Screenwriting prize for women writers too held bi-annually by The State Library NSW. Victoria is also quite generous with it's art's funding and from my research I have found if you are clever enough to create your arts practice as an NGO then the Ian Potter Foundation may be able to assist you.
In 2016 for my play Reflections of a Cause which I produced as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival at The Depot Theatre, I was very impressed with the leading male Chris Mliler. I found him to be a very high caliber performer. I felt his effort and the way he portrayed my character seamlessly was remarkable and I nominated him for the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Fellowship, which is at the value of $60k. Patrons of the arts like Mike Walsh, who owns the Orpheum Cinema in Sydney and Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne, have been known to support young musical theatre artists who are of exceptional ability and the Rob Guest Fund is also an on-going sponsorship prize for talented musical theatre performers. The Independent Theatre awards, Heath Ledger Scholarship and the FBI Radio SMACK awards are also a massive step up on the scene.
Development and Support Programs
Playwriting programs are of great value as it offers you deeper understanding of your own work, the pitching process and allows you a brilliant opportunity to gain feedback from unbiased peers and academics. Playwriting Australia runs many programs where you can gain mentors whom you can begin on-going conversations with. The National Theatre of Parramatta and Sweatshop also run developmental programs for writers especially of diverse backgrounds. PACT, 505 Theatre and Shopfront are fantastic for devising new works. So too is First Draft and ArtSpace as well as MCA Artbar.
In October 2017 Lachlan Philpott and Tanika Gupta are running a fantastic playwrighting retreat which is held concurrently with the Ubud Writer's Festival in Bali. This I think would be a beautiful and inspiring experience.
Vivid this year had a plethora of ideas lectures and seminars many creative business support programs have been harnessed from this:
Further small business workshops...
Heytriangles.xyz is also a networking forum for new entrepreneurs and offers workshops too.
Local Councils often have arts prizes or commisions available and check out the ArtsHub call outs for National prizes and arts funding.
Arts Organizations and Arts Markets
All the major theatres run support programs for new writing such as Griffin and Ensemble theatre. Darlinghurst Theatre is open to discussions with producers with works for 5 or less actors usually and Belvoir Downstairs is keen to find new works to try out too. But again you will need some sort of a profile before you are acknowledged by these organisations as they have to provide proof to their investors that the work they are showing is of a economically viable standard.
Contact as many arts organizations as you can about your work including OzCo, Critical Stages, CAAP, Carriageworks, Keir Foundation, Performing Lines.
Look out for the upcoming Longhouses hosted by CAAP, this is an exciting new initiative celebrating diversity in the performing arts in Sydney.
Creative Partnerships Australia is holding the Culture Business event the Art of Fundraising in Melbourne this year. This event has some fantastic speakers and would be a fantastic forum to attend. They also run several other fundraising events which would be very worthwhile to attend.
Arts Markets are still a bit out of my league but there are a couple in Australia, APAM is the major one held annually in QLD and the Performing Arts Exchange is also held by the Australian Performing Arts Centres Association each year.
Australian Cultural Fund and Funding Networks are two arts specific crowd funding platforms for theatre and film in Australia. Broadly speaking and based on research from marketing agencies, Arts audiences are looking for transformation, regeneration or a therapeutic experience, a social outing or an intellectual stimulus to provoke thought and idea creation.
This same information has to be used when trying to connect your arts practice to the business community and the general public. These hooks are very important when pitching the project as if they are not streamlined your intentions can fall into grey areas that can easily be misinterpreted.
Fundraising Bodies for NGO's
For those that are lucky enough to be NGO's there are support company's that can implement fundraising programs for your project or initiative through businesses directly such as www.good2give.ngo and www.nammfoundation.org. However as a lot of corporate funds may already be dedciated to certain major charities as a smaller start up you could try aligning your pitch to fit in and synergise with a larger charity in the aim that they then share the funds with you in a mutally beneficial program. This is great for profile building.