Akulah Agbami is Director of Black* Artists on the Move (BAOTM), a UK-wide organisation supporting artists of Afrikan, Caribbean, Asian, South American and non-European descent. We work with audacity to spread unity and bring about community transformation. In September 2019, BAOTM was supported by Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy’s Funding of Network Projects to deliver three days of fundraising training across the Black* Artists on the Move Network.
At the start of the sessions, the trainers had a difficult task ahead. Proportionally speaking, Black arts have been underfunded for decades, and funding organisations are generally perceived to be ‘white institutions’. That perception, coupled with complex funding application formats, tends to dissuade artists from even trying for funding. Those who do attempt an application and are then rejected can be put off from re-applying for years.
As part of our Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy supported fundraising training, we met members of our network in Derby, Bristol and online to provide them with new skills and resources for accessing funding, and to discuss the unique challenges that we as BAOTM network members share. What became really apparent during training was how widespread the fear of applying is and the extent to which the whole industry is suffering because, consequently, many Black artists get fewer projects off the ground. Artists in our network are brilliant at their art but lack the skills to convincingly formulate their artistic vision in “application speak”.
Knowing this skills-gap in our network, our training was able to support individuals and organisations in developing a compelling narrative and ensuring that the who, when, where, what, how and why questions are clearly addressed every time an application is made.
Our advice to artists and arts organisations is think about the angle. What makes your project unique and irresistible? If you can make your work stand out in some way from other projects vying for funding support, you will be on track for success. As well as this, try to convey why the ‘when’ and ‘where’ are important. A coherent rationale about why this location and timeframe matters for the project success and impact will answer the funder’s critique of ‘why now?’.
In addition to the practical skills we provided artists with over our training sessions, we wanted to emphasise the ‘networks’ aspect of both Black* Artists on the Move and the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Funding for Networks scheme. We encouraged artists in different geographical areas to develop “funding circles”: whether they be monthly get-togethers in local libraries, online check ins, or peer-to-peer application critique groups. It is these networks that make us more resilient, foster new ideas and innovation in fundraising, and that ultimately will allow us to make more art. Extending the value of fundraising networks beyond raising funds was a key takeaway for our participants. Having a group of this kind is enormously encouraging: keeping up momentum, sparking new ideas and creating a support group to attend events as they occur.
At the end of our networks training, we’re feeling inspired by the potential of our network and what we can achieve together.
For more information on Black* Artists on the Move, click here.