Leader of Tomorrow Jubeda Khatun writes about the challenge of fundraising and how the recent session in the Artistic Director Leadership Programme has helped.
Making theatre and art on a small budget or no budget at all seems like a familiar problem many of us creatives have had the challenge of solving. Following my passions, I find that having no funding is a big barrier to carrying out the big bad-ass projects that I want to initiate in Liverpool. There are many artists of colour here and I find that the big arts organisations have schemes that feel tokenistic and offer no real sustainability for the careers of artists of colour, to help their careers to really take off. It is as if we are stuck in a whirlwind of doing projects with predominately white led organisations and seeking their approval all the time. Therefore, being part of the ADLP and getting this inside knowledge about budgets, fundraising and Arts Council applications has been a life-saver. I say life-saver because my passions lie within theatre and arts, I no longer want to be at the mercy of white creatives but want to carve out my own path, empower and take artists of colour with me and say “we can do it ourselves. We will figure it out!”
The ADLP session on fundraising has been invaluable and given me confidence going forward in fundraising for my projects. In the past I have felt so nervous, with butterflies of fear arising in my stomach when I even think about writing a budget and fundraising. I have been relieved of this sick feeling and I’m now determined to put in my first funding bid. I have never made an arts council application before, I feel now that I am ready because of the knowledge I have acquired. After all, they do say, ‘knowledge is power’.
Hearing from Livvy Brinson (Bletchley Park Trust) was refreshing as she went through concepts that feel achievable. There are many strands to the pots of money it’s possible to apply for, she went through them in a way I can understand. Strands vary from corporate/private funding, statutory/public funding, council funding, trusts and foundations and funding from individuals. I learnt that there are many reasons why organisations and individuals might want to fund your project. Reasons could be brand association, status/being recognised and receiving tax relief. I learnt that you should research the funders and partners you are trying to win over – find out if there is common ground and a shared interest you can work towards. I found the ‘win, win’ strategy very useful as this can be used in a tactical way to secure the interest of the parties involved. This involves highlighting the benefits that they – and yourself – will experience if they buy into your vision and project. One piece of advice we were given was not to have an Oliver Twist mind-set when you’re pitching to potential funders and partners i.e. ‘can I have some more please’, and don’t feel like you are doing anything wrong by approaching investors for your project. This boosted my self-confidence as, being a beginner at this, I feel that sensation of begging. Now I am looking at this from a whole new angle: that organisations would love to be a part of the projects I am working on and, in fact, it is a benefit to everyone involved.
After Livvy we were greeted by Natasha Ratter and her colleague from the Young Vic. I found them very enthusiastic which is great because numbers and fundraising can be stressful. This made me feel at ease, like “it can’t be that bad, I mean they’re really happy asking for money!”. They went on to explain the input, output and outcomes way of assessing your project. Input being what you need to start the project – from equipment, core team, volunteers, funding – all the resources needed. Output is measurable logistics, from venue seats and costs that you may incur and the number of audience members you want to reach. Outcomes is the overall impact of your project: did you meet the goals that you set out to achieve or did they change over the course of the project? Is there anything you would take away or change for quality assurance in future projects? It’s about learning from mistakes and highlighting the things that worked.
Lastly, we had Will Young – a Relationship Manager from the Arts Council – inform us about the application process and to take away the fear by simply saying “apply if you get it wrong then you’ll know what to do next time”, and include the key pieces of information they require. As bureaucratic as it sounded he did help to explain the hoops we have to jump through. So, I feel we stand a strong chance of getting it right first time – here’s hoping! I had many questions around multiple applications and it just so happens that until you hear back from one you can’t put in another application. This was a slight bummer, as artists, there are multiple projects we are often working on, to wait for each application to be processed one by one is difficult as it means missing a few meals.
Going forward I am hopeful and the fundraising session really helped in removing the fear in fundraising. I am looking forward to fundraising for my own work and the work that I am pioneering to support other artists who look like me, so watch this space.
At the end of the session it was great to meet key leader Tarek Iskander – Director of Theatre at the Arts Council – to discuss ways in which we can be better supported. It was great to get some of our voices heard and after picking the Leaders of Tomorrows’ brains I hope he can make fundamental changes before he leaves!
Jubeda Khatun is an Outreach Co-ordinator, Workshop Facilitator, Director, Theatre Maker and Spoken Word Poet.