Documentary Australia

Funding proposals

How to write a great funding proposal for your documentary.

Form and approach

Follow each foundations guidelines. Trustees will generally be unable to make grants outside the parameters of their guiding principles.

Focus on the purpose of the project. What are you trying to do? Why are you doing this documentary? Why is it important? The benefit of the work is what is important to the foundation.

Keep it brief, concise and clear. This is more important than something pretty, glossy or bound. Your focus is your work and its benefit.

Convince through facts rather than emotion and through the obvious connection between your work and the foundation.

Your interpretation of audience must apply to community and not just to a television audience and ratings.

What is the project?

A Synopsis or summary for this purpose includes the story or issue, what you are going to create and what will be the outcome and distribution. Most importantly what will be the impact of the documentary? Have a one line synopsis as well as a hundred word paragraph.

The Project Outline indicates a problem and presents a solution. What is going to happen if you get the money you are asking for? What is the timeline for the project? What is the budget and how much are you asking for? Are there other funding sources and if so who are they?

Most foundations prefer to fund specific projects rather than an organisations operating or overhead costs. It is important to develop the project you are seeking funding for as much as developing the treatment, outline or submission. A good submission is based on a well-planned project (which should include a plan to reach the audience).

Why now?

Establish a need. Whom does this issue or film affect? Include where your research comes from: facts, figures and references (this may be written or anecdotal). Indicate what your plan is based on.

Outline the value of your documentary to your target community.

Who are you?

One page of information about yourself and your company or organisation including:

  • What you do more broadly (including other projects or previous work),
  • Key personnel,
  • Company members,
  • A history of your organisation or your own work,
  • Your philosophy or mission statement,
  • Evidence that you are connected to a community of interest.

Outline the ability of your team to carry out the project. Are there issues of access? If so, highlight how you have been able to gain this access.

Typical questions asked by foundations

Why is this documentary suitable for philanthropic funding?

What is its contemporary relevance?

Why do you think the subject is important?

Why make a documentary, rather than utilizing other mediums?

What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film?

How do the objectives and guidelines of the foundation fit with the objectives of your film?.

How will you measure the impact and success of the film? Go into detail, without including audience numbers in your answer (e.g. raising awareness, education impact, attitudinal shift, policy reform, audience endorsement).

Who is the intended audience for the film? Be very specific, giving reasons why (e.g. local community, educational institutions, a national broadcast audience etc.)

How will you reach your intended audience?

Is education and outreach an important element of your project?

What is your education and outreach strategy? (e.g. study guide, web-site, community screenings)

What is your marketing and distribution strategy? (e.g. DVD, festivals, broadcast, cinema release, educational, community)

Who are the filmmakers responsible for the project and how qualified are they to undertake and complete the film?

Which category of funding are you applying for and why?

1. Development

2. Work in Progress

3. Production

4. Completion

5. Education & Outreach


How will you service ongoing education needs?

What is the time-frame of the project?

What funding have you received to date? How do you plan to fund the project and what is its full budget?

What level of funding are you requesting?

Upon request, other information and materials may be required (e.g. examples of previous work, work in progress or other additional information).

Foundations will require a report on the progress and completion of the project as well as a credit acknowledging their support.