Strengthening Your Funding Applications

Why mak­ing a case for invest­ment is impor­tant when writ­ing fund­ing appli­ca­tions and how to do this well

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VASW's Sector Support Manager Hannah Rose in collaboration with freelance Arts Fundraiser Catherine Herbert outline why making a case for investment is important when writing funding applications and how to do this well. They also talk through understanding funders priorities and share their tips.

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Making a Case for Investment
When writing a funding application, regardless of the funder or scale of investment (how much money you are applying for), it’s important to make a case for investment. This means giving succinct evidence for how you know that there is a need for the project or activity to happen.

What evidence can you use?

Your own evaluation
Evaluating your projects is critical; each time you evaluate what you do you create an evidence bank for your work. Your evaluation could tell you:

  • Who engages with your work - understanding the demographics of who you reach demonstrates your ability to engage with diverse audiences and groups, and that you are able to reach the people that you say you will eg,
    Our participants were 83.3% White, 6.7% Asian, 6.7% Dual Heritage, and 3.3% Black or Other Ethnic groups. This matches 2021 stats for Drake Ward (15% Global Majority, 85% White), and is more diverse than Plymouth Unitary Authority area (94% White).

  • What people think of your work - demonstrating your ability to engage people at a high standard and in a way that is positive eg,
    100% of surveyed participants said they either Loved (92%) or Liked (8%) taking part” and “Participants mentioned feeling “connected”, “proud”, “appreciated”, “validated”,“thankful”, “understood”, “very emotional”; and found the process of taking part “heart-warming”, “wonderful”, “fun”, “inclusive”, “accessible”.

  • How people feel about why your work is important- demonstrating that they believe your work is valuable and needed, ie testimonies from organisations, partners and audience members, eg,
    “We are thrilled to be part of this initiative and are committed to being more inclusive and breaking down structural inequality in all areas of our work. We value the opportunity to work collaboratively with VASW and the other partners. We hope that this pilot will create change within our organisation and across the wider sector.” and "Attending Jamboree gave me the confidence and a way in to volunteer my time to help establish CAMP, which has been the single most valuable thing in my art practice to date."

  • Whether or not they normally engage with your work or with contemporary arts - demonstrating your ability to reach broad audiences eg,
    77% had never heard of LOW PROFILE before signing up to take part. 65% stated that they spend time looking at artworks (online, in galleries, in public places etc) only rarely (27%) or a few times a year (38%). 52% rarely (44%) or never (8%) take part in art activities or make art. For 62% of respondents, taking part in PEOPLE was their first experience of being part of making a large-scale artwork

*Examples taken from LOW PROFILE evaluation reports and VASW funding applications.

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Published reputable research

Sector support organisations and national bodies provide important research that can be used to support your case for investment. Here are some published reports that might be useful:

Some artists and organisations publish their own evaluation reports which can offer valuable data, for example LOW PROFILE’s ‘We Met At Jamboree Impact Report’.

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Example case for investment statements drawn from these published reports

Example 1 - Using University of Exeter’s Social Mobility in the South West Report
Communities in the SW region, served by our partners, face a number of challenges. As noted in 'Social Mobility in the South West Report' (University of Exeter, 2022) the South West faces particular issues - it is the most coastal and rural of all English regions, which creates significant barriers; it has a low wage economy with poorly paid jobs; a lack of impetus for change and lack of coherent political voice (unlike the Northern Powerhouse for example); and higher than average rates of poor mental health outcomes for both children and adults. This impacts cultural engagement, with 23% of the SW population falling into the four ‘least engaged’ segments, higher than national average. 11 of 55 (20%) of Arts Council England’s ‘Priority Places’ and 16 of 109 (15%) of ‘Levelling Up for Culture Places’ are in the South West.

Example 2 - Using CVAN’s ‘Fostering Equity in the Visual Arts Sector’
This work will support those within the creative sector to express creativity throughout their lives. In CVAN’s ‘Fostering Equity in the Visual Arts Sector’ report (informed by ‘Fair & Equitable Survey of Individuals’, 2022), 33.67% of respondents often or very often consider leaving the visual arts sector due to precarious working conditions and low pay, work being undervalued and lack of resources.

Example 3 - Using VASW’s 2023 Artist & Artworker survey report
Artists in the South West face particular challenges. The VASW Artist and Artworker Survey reveals that ⅓ of those surveyed identify with a lack of financial return on making work and/or lack of success in fundraising. 35% of artists earn less than 5K from their practice, 20% earn 5-10K, 23% earn between 10-20k, 8% earn between 20-30k, 3% earn between 30-40k and 2% earn more than £40k per year. 75% have to supplement their income. The average UK income in 2023 was £34,963.

Example 4 - Using VASW’s 2023 Artist & Artworker survey report
The 2023 VASW Artist & Artworker Survey reveals that there are four key priorities for artists: artist development, training, support and advice; funding and opportunities; advocacy for the region and artists; and networking opportunities.

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Understanding funders priorities
It’s important to understand the priorities of the funder that you are applying to. They will have published guidelines that outline this. Understanding funders guidelines will help you to create a case for investment that speaks to these priorities.


  • Take time to read the guidelines, make notes of the key things that they say they want to support.
  • Funders will often publish who/what they have funded before (via their websites, 360 GrantNav, or their annual accounts via the Charity Commission). This will help to give you an idea of whether or not your project is a good fit and what scale of investment you might be successful in applying for.
  • There is often a small character or word count to write your application, but many funders allow you to attach extra documents. You could make a ‘case for investment’ document that demonstrates your evidence, track record and expands on your plans in more detail.
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Case Study - understanding Arts Council England priorities
Arts Council England (ACE) have a group of priority areas that they want to fund. These have been identified as places that have historically received less funding

  • Arts Council Priority places - these are 54 places across England that are identified as places ACE wants to increase investment in between 2021-2024. If you or your organisation is based in one of the identified 54 places, your chances of receiving funding are increased. It is possible that ACE will update this list from 2025, or they could extend the duration of their investment in these places.
  • Arts Council Levelling Up for Culture Places - these are 109 local authority areas outside of London that are a focus for additional investment between 2022-2026, identified in partnership with the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). These areas are part of the criteria in decision-making (aiming for balance across artform, geography, diversity etc) so it may increase your chances of investment to be based in one of the areas. There's no guarantee that all areas will receive additional investment, It will depend on strong applications and available budget.

Let’s Create is ACE’s ten year strategy for culture from 2020 to 2030. The strategy document is quite extensive but reduces down to a set of outcomes and investment principles (what they want to fund) that should guide your applications to ACE.

The outcomes:

  1. The public taking part in creative activity. A project that gives the public the opportunity to take an active part in creative activity, which might be making, learning or contributing to creating something. The public includes anyone who isn’t working professionally in the cultural sector, of all ages.
  2. Making a difference to a place or community. Working in a way that is focused on a specific place or community, perhaps working with partners in that place to shape and deliver. This could involve making, showing or performing work that responds to what a community is interested in.
  3. Developing professional creative or cultural practice. Activity which makes a difference to an individual, group, or organisation’s creative/cultural practice, or a difference to the wider cultural sector. Eg developing/showing new work or new ideas, international partnerships, or developing new skills to help those at the beginning of their careers, or to help others sustain careers.

Let’s Create sets out the following priorities

  • The public takes an active part in creative activity.
  • To support grassroots or community-led activities that are open to all, ie activity that is shaped by groups that are not formal arts organisations.
  • To support more young people (especially Early Years / young children) to get involved in culture.
  • To increase diversity within the cultural workforce (especially those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, D/deaf or Disabled people, and those from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds).
  • To support career pathways, ie for people to understand what a career in the creative industries can be and to remain in their careers.
  • People and organisations to work together in collaborative ways, to build partnerships and share resources.
  • To see how the innovative use of technology can improve people’s lives.
  • Applicants to consider the environmental impact of their work and to make adjustments to reduce their impact on the climate and to operate responsibly.
  • Funding to support projects and organisations that are inclusive. To prevent discrimination and promote equality and diversity, ACE have identified a set of protected characteristics (taken from the Equality Act 2010) to demonstrate who they want their funding to reach

We aim to prevent discrimination and promote equality and diversity for people from protected characteristic groups defined in the Equality Act 2010 – including age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We also recognise the barriers that arise from class and socio-economic status and will seek to go beyond our legal duty to ensure that the work we invest in is reflective of the diversity of contemporary England.

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  • We recommended copying the questions from the application form into a Google Document and including the character count under each question so you know what you need to work within. Google Documents are useful because you can share the live document with other people and ask for them to read and make comments. The Uncultured produce useful, user-friendly templates.
  • You will be asked to give the number of people who will engage in and work on your project in different ways. Always record in a document how you have worked out these figures. If you are successful with your funding this will give you key information you need to evaluate your project.
  • Your case for investment document (attachment) can be made using any Software (Word document or Google Slides etc) that allows you to turn the document into a PDF or Word document. You can make this visual and include graphs and images, or you can simply lay out information using clear headings like: project overview, our evidence; what people say about our work, who our work reaches etc.

Written by Catherine Herbert and Hannah Rose - March 2024.

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