Most are aware that there are grants for funding local performing arts, but not everyone knows how to access them. It often depends on your location; the famous Red Rocks amphitheater has helped make Denver an enormous cultural hub for musical performance, which in turn led to fostering of the Denver Music Advancement Fund, as reported by this GrantNews article last summer. But not everyone who wants to know how to promote a concert and put on better shows knows where to look. Here are some resources and tips to see if you qualify as a venue, promoter, or talent buyer eligible for grant funding.
What Can Your State Provide You?
Search a list like this one to find your state’s art council and check what grants and funding opportunities they provide (quite literally by checking their sites’ “Grants” and “Funding Opportunities” sections sometimes), but don’t overlook searching for your state’s humanities council as well. If you’re a promoter or a venue that hosts performances, it’s great for your business and for the artistic health of your community to provide performance opportunities for what grants often refer to as “underserved populations.” Make a point of creating diverse lineups and musical events of high cultural and historical interest that could potentially attract both higher-caliber artists, and in turn, funding from seemingly left-field sources like humanities grants. You can help be the link between innovative performers who need the right spaces for their work, and the providers who want their arts funding to go to worthwhile projects.
Where Else Can You Look?
Two of the most well-known organizations for funding are the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), whose websites are full of potential avenues of which performance venues and communities can obtain grants. The NEA is more likely to be useful for all-purpose musical events, and the Art Works program could be especially beneficial if you have at least three years under your belt programming events as a promoter, venue or talent buyer, and 1-to-1 ratio of funds (though some of your own contributions can be served in work time, such as your staffers on the clock writing to apply for the grants themselves). But as stated earlier, don’t overlook the potential for crossover interest with the humanities, especially in such a rich time for politically motivated performances and protest art. Keeping an open mind about the potential to stage events that cross multiple genres and media could net you potential involvement with the next Hamilton. You’re working in a creative medium and may well have clients in mind who can check off multiple boxes within these grants’ requirements.
Ask for Help Applying for Grants
If your performance venue is a nonprofit with 501c3 status, you can still apply for grants! Reach out directly to organizations that feel like their program is a match for you and make contact with their appropriate staff member. There’s no reason to assume what you do and don’t qualify for when you can speak directly to the person involved who would know best; you can save time on applications that would be fruitless, and conversely, write better ones that could succeed in being granted funding. It’s not just okay to ask questions thoroughly on the requirements, it’s more professional and less likely to waste anyone’s time. The staffers at these organizations are on board to steer you in the right direction, as are search engines to help you find out what performers and concert series have been awarded a certain organization’s grants in the past.
Scour the Databases
Since most people looking for grants end up heading down the same alleys, sometimes lists have already been helpfully compiled to save you time in your search for funding, just like the Society for Nonprofits’ database of music funding opportunities here. Soundfly’s Flypaper site has put together a list of fellowships here as well, with helpful descriptions and even the deadlines listed.
Mark Your Calendars
Right, deadlines! When you compile your own personal list of organizations you’ve decided are the best bet to seek funding from, you want to make sure you’re applying during the correct time window. The Art Works endowment, for instance, has two deadlines per calendar year, and you want to follow these schedules carefully to ensure that your hard work and determination doesn’t go to waste by following directions correctly and paying attention to the deadline, as you would in any other arena. Keep the dates highlighted in a Google Doc chronologically so that you know what you’re applying to and when. As with any other pertinent application, you want to be professional and organized. Like you would in a job interview, you stand to gain a potentially wonderful and lucrative opportunity for your performances by showing that you know what you’re doing and can execute it in a careful manner.