So your band needs a new tuba, or you’re all going on a trip, or your music library is dated. Like most community groups, you probably don’t have the cash just lying around in a bank account, begging to be used. What to do?
Applying for grants can be intimidating to start with, but once you’ve got your head around the paperwork, it’s well worth doing. Here’s a practical guide to tackling the initial learning curve. It pays to get started before you even have a project in mind.
1) Get your group’s basic information together
I recommend setting up an online archive for your organisation, if you don’t have one already. Some examples are Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive. I t’s probably best to set it up under a generic band email address, rather than an individual, just in case you move on. Members of the committee can be given rights to the archive in order to upload and update information.
Create a folder called “Funding Documents”, and store files in there as you accumulate them for future reference. Different grants have different documentation requirements, but in general you will need:
- bank account verification (a scan of a pre-printed deposit slip, or a bank statement)
- a copy of your current financial statements, preferably audited
- the Charity Registration number (you can look it up on the search page of the Charities Register; don’t forget to try any previous names for your group)
- whether your group is GST registered, and if so, the GST number
- a copy of your Certificate of Incorporation (if your group is an incorporated society)
- the group’s postal and physical addresses
- contact details for at least two committee members
- copies of past meeting minutes and AGM minutes
This step can be painful the first time, but once it’s done, it just needs to be kept up to date. Future you will thank you for it.
2) Decide what you are going to seek funding for
While a limited number of grants are specifically for projects or events with a short lead time, you will make your life significantly easier if you give yourself at least a six-month head start. The bigger the project, the more time you will need, as grant organisations with larger limits generally meet less often.
You may be able to get grants towards:
- band instrument purchases
- music purchases
- venue hire for rehearsals or performances
- musical director’s stipend
- Festival travel
- commissioning a piece
- administration costs
Where applicable, you are advised to seek at least two competitive quotes per item, as this is a requirement for most grants. Most companies are absolutely happy to provide a quote; it represents potential business, and it’s part of their day-to-day work. Just ask. You will usually be sent a PDF on official letterhead, but smaller companies may send an informal email. In this case, make sure the email includes the business name and full contact details. If you can’t find a second quote, perhaps because it is a rare item, put a note in to explain.
The type of cost will directly affect which grants you can apply for. Most funding providers have strict funding criteria in order to best align the applications they receive with their mission. For example, some grants explicitly will not cover stipends.
In addition, many organisations have a focus on a particular group, usually those who are disadvantaged in society. Does your group have a focus on working with young players? Or welcoming older learners? Or being conscious of accessibility to people of all backgrounds? If so, this will broaden the providers you can apply to, and probably increase your success rate. (If not, what could your group do better? I have found applying for grants to be a good opportunity for reflection on our contributions to our local community.)
3) Decide where to apply
You’ve got all your paperwork together, you have your plan…. now what? It can be very daunting to work out just where to apply to, with all the different criteria. There is a New Zealand website specifically for this purpose; generosity.org.nz has a vast list of funding opportunities for individuals (GivME, formerly BreakOut) and community groups (GivUS, formerly FundView).
Unfortunately GivUs and GivMe are both pay-to-access, but there is a way around it. Many councils have subscriptions so you can access it via your local library. You will need to either have a current library card to access them via your library’s website, or use the computers onsite. You can usually find it by searching for either “GivUS” or “FundView” in the library catalogue, though it can take some hunting to track it down.If you’re stuck, ask your local library!
So what’s so great about GivUs? It lets you filter the huge list of funding providers to find those who match your region, kaupapa / purpose, people, and the type of item you are requesting funding for. This will save you many, many hours of googling and perusing funding criteria.
I suggest making a spreadsheet recording the name of the organisation, a link to their website, the closing date of their next round of applications, and any stated maximum limit on grant size. This will help you organise your priorities. Keep the spreadsheet in your online archive.
4) Fill out the applications
This is the tedious part, simply from the perspective of organising slightly different sets of paperwork for each funding provider.
You will increase your success rate if you target your descriptions of the project to align with the purposes of the fund. Do not lie! But do be conscious of how you are meeting, or are intending to meet, the criteria they are looking for. It is a good opportunity for discussion and self-review about what your group does, beyond just make music. You may be asked to describe how your group will contribute. Will you provide some of your ticket proceeds, run a raffle at a concert (I have had good luck with asking local supermarkets for a contribution), bake sales… Your options will vary depending on what financial position your group is already in, and the enthusiasm level of your members.
Most providers require at least some sort of written statement of purpose; be professional, accurate, and get it proofread by someone else before you submit it. You are not just applying for funding, you are also building awareness of your group in the wider community, and you want to make a good impression. It is worth spending effort on crafting a really good statement, as it can be used across multiple applications with some small tweaks.
A fairly common requirement is a “resolution to apply for funding”; an example is given below. Each resolution needs to be passed at a meeting, so if your band has a fixed meeting schedule, make sure you get it passed before the closing date.
It was resolved that a request be made to (name of funding provider) for funding for the amount of (amount), for the purpose of (purpose).
Approved by (Committee Member 1, Committee Member 2…)
I certify that the above is a true and correct copy of the resolution of the (committee or executive) of (organisation name) dated (date).
Name of Secretary: _________________
Each resolution should be printed on your group’s letterhead.
While some organisations (e.g. Auckland Council or Community Matters) have really excellent online application systems, where you simply upload the required documents, most providers require paper applications. If you are making multiple applications, I would suggest printing out extra copies of your bank account verification, financial statements, etc. so you have them on hand.
Be aware that most organisations frown upon making applications for the same purpose to multiple providers, but it is generally acceptable to, for example, split a $10,000 grant request into five $2,000 requests to different organisations. You may be asked to record if you have made other applications, though.
As you send each application off, update your spreadsheet to include more details: the date you applied, the item(s) and amount you applied for, and the expected date to hear back from them. If you got hit by a bus, could somebody else take over without too much trouble?
Create a subfolder in your “Funding Documents” folder for the year (e.g. 2016), and a folder inside that for each funding provider, so you can save a copy of each application. This will give you something to refer back to, later.
Manukau Concert Band was recently awarded a $12,000 grant to help with the establishment of their training band. Now they can provide instruments for learners who might otherwise not be able to play.
West City Concert Band was recently awarded a $25,000 grant to help with the purchase of a trailer to transport percussion equipment to and from concerts and other events. That trailer has since been instrumental in assisting the NZCBA and 20 other NZ bands in the 2021 Concert Band Festival.
This can be frustrating! Generally I find the process of writing statements really focuses me on the project and what we want to achieve, and I am filled with enthusiasm to get going. Some providers take up to six months to allocate funds.
6) Make sure you spend the money correctly
To be honest, don’t set your hopes too high. There is a lot of demand for funding, and the pool is limited. Plan for nothing, and you might be pleasantly surprised!
The primary thing to remember is: if you’re given funding, you need to be accountable. Purchase what you said you would, and document, document, document. If you run into problems, like an item no longer being available, check with the funding provider before you go with an alternative.
Shall I say it again? Document, document, document. Keep invoices and receipts, and don’t forget to update your spreadsheet. Add a “Follow through” column, so you can mark off when this has been done.
Follow-through requirements vary from provider to provider. It is always good and correct to send a thank-you letter. Many grants require proof of purchase within 60 days; if you can’t do this, perhaps because you were only funded a portion of the amount you required, talk to them. If you don’t complete the terms of the follow-through, your organisation may be black-listed from receiving further funding, and/or be required to return the money.
8) Recognise what you have done
Applying for funding can be a bit stressful and take a bit of organising, so give yourself a pat on the back. Even if you weren’t successful, you have still done something good! If nothing else, you, or someone else in the group, can complete future grant applications much more easily. Well done, you!