What is responsible asking and how to ask for funding responsibly
Understand and be clear in your thinking as to why your project may be suitable for philanthropic support.
Do your research and find the right partner for your project
• If you are applying to a foundation, carefully read the guidelines.
• Get an indication from the foundation of the average size of the grant they give to a charity. This information is generally available on the website and in the guidelines.
• Be realistic with your request. Usually when foundations make a grant to a charity the project is also funded from other sources.
• Like traditional film financing, the higher your budget the more partners will be required.
• A thorough knowledge of the budget in all its detail is required as it will be assessed closely and will need to be defended.
For new supporters of documentary
For a foundation that has never given to a documentary before, the most likely stage for them to get involved is the outreach and impact campaign.
This is an area that is largely unfunded in the documentary sector, so it is a good place to start building relationships between filmmakers and foundations, as the foundation can view the finished film before deciding to get involved.
The filmmaker can then be supported to take the film out to its audience and forge new relationships with impact partners in the community. Many foundations are experienced with funding arts projects across a range of artistic forms including the visual arts and music and are becoming more comfortable with the power of documentary to leverage other gift giving strategies they may have.
Impact and outreach strategies may include the participants of the projects spreading the story and exchanging knowledge and experience. Or may be used by impact partners who use the film as tool to benefit the work they do in communities.
Communicating your budget
As the cost of production and outreach is high, it is recommended to break down the budget into distinct components of the process and ask for staged support.
For example, break it down to research and development (proof of concept), production and post-production, outreach and impact. This approach will give you the opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship with a foundation over the life of the project and possibly beyond, into future collaborations. As well as engage a range of partners around a project who contribute to different stages.
A robust proposal
Foundations are likely to be risk averse. They are comfortable with a submission that shows thought and planning at every stage of the project.
Supporting documentaries will be a new concept for many foundations so they will look closely at the team behind the proposal with an interest in building a relationship that can extend into the future. This will be based on trust and the reliable fulfilment of expectations. There is encouragement in the sector towards recurrent funding which can work to the advantage of filmmakers who want to develop ongoing relationships with foundations.
When seeking funding from an individual donor, try to find someone who can introduce you. A warm introduction will help you get a meeting in person and then you are on your way to relationship building.
Make a strong first impression, listen to the priority and interests of your potential donor and think about how you might shape your project to align with their interests. How will it further their impact goals?
Responsible asking is a two way relationship, there has to be something in it for both of you.