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Beyond Grants: 3 Steps for Finding Alternate Arts Funding

In Canada many artists, arts groups and arts organizations seek out government funding to realize their projects, but not everybody gets all the funding they need. So how can you get your arts project off the ground with alternative funding? In the Beyond Grants panel at Artpreneur, Michael Wallack, of Wallack’s Art Supply, led a discussion about sponsorships with Dan Gainsford, Christina Devine and Zachary Daylor. Here are three steps from their conversation about finding private sector funding.

Figure Out Your Story

If you are going to seek out private funding or sponsorship, you need to have a clear idea of what your project is about. “It’s all about story,” explained Christina Devine, co-founder of Khulabo and marketer for House of PainT. “You can’t be afraid to align yourself with your partners and to say that you are on the same page.” Likewise, your partners want to align themselves with you so they need to know what you stand for.

Knowing your story will also help you get a better sense of the people and companies you should contact. Dan Gainsford of Windpath Media relied on many different private sponsorships to make his film Searching for Dragons. “It’s all about mutual benefit,” said Gainsford. “I am looking for what I need and value. It’s an important aspect for me to bring my sponsor into my team and engage with them. Then it becomes a dialogue.” For example, Gainsford knew that he would need tires throughout his journey, so he sought out sponsorship from Bridgestone Tires and they provided him with new tires while filming the documentary.

Similar Values = Mutual Benefits

There are many ways of engaging local partners in your project. “You have to look for an opportunity to find sponsors who have the skills and/or community that you can work with,” Devine explained. House of PainT, for example, has a strong social media team with a big following. This visibility is something they can now offer sponsors, and likewise social media is something they look for in partners. Beau’s, for instance, has a great online presence and by partnering, both House of PainT and Beau’s extended their reach. “You have to consider what both you and your sponsors get access to,” said Devine.

Reach out to Local Businesses

Though big companies might have more money for sponsorship, local businesses can bring a lot to your project and Zachary Daylor, of Wellington West BIA, knows this first hand. “I think many businesses want to support the arts. The value is having you [the artist] there and aligning themselves with your project,” he said. Even something as small as putting up a poster in a shop can begin a partnership by starting a conversation. And, as Daylor points out, posters are still the number one way for members of the community to learn about events.

Sponsorship Takes Preparation

Just like writing a grant, finding sponsors is a commitment, so put in the time and prepare. This goes for everything from developing local partnerships to soliciting major companies, and organising online fundraising campaigns. “You have to try a bunch of avenues to find something that fits. Each business has a different marketing schedule and promotes different content. Figure out what your product is and where it fits best,” said Daylor. “Be patient with your partners and be flexible, especially with those who are not artists.”

For a bigger project, preparing a sponsorship package might be the best route. Just like your story, a sponsorship package clearly explains what sponsors will get by partnering with you and gets their foot in the door. “There are a lot of no’s before you get a yes,” says Gainsford, who sent out over 200 sponsorship packages for his film. No matter who you are soliciting though, Gainsford emphasises accountability: if you are making promises make sure you can pull through, and report back to your sponsors.

While sponsorship might be as much work as writing a grant, more opportunities exist for artists to find the right fit and forge meaningful partnerships. So figure out your story and create a list of businesses it might appeal to. Then you are only left with the biggest challenge: walking through the door. As with any artistic idea, you can’t judge its success until you try.

Keep an eye on the Artpreneur blog for more insight from the Artpreneur 2016 discussions, and on our events page for information about the Artpreneur Chats series.