A guide to make your funding application process more accessible

A guide to make your funding application process more accessible

by Georgia Taylor Aguilar, one of our 2020/21 Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Fellows and Artist Development Curator at The Tetley

 

In my previous blog, I explored some of the terms of engagement that artists have with individual fundraising. This called for the need to use inclusive funding models to channel funds towards underrepresented, marginalised and diverse individuals. 

 

During furlough, I spent a lot of time working with artists on funding applications. The pandemic has amplified the need for increased individual artist funding. However, it is often very challenging for those without the tools, skills and experience to apply for funding. As the Artist Development Curator at The Tetley, removing barriers to access and providing useful opportunities is really important, as well as sharing this learning with others.

 

There are many complex and intersectional factors such as class, race, gender and sexuality, which inform how people experience and live with barriers to access. Invisible barriers within funding processes can impact potential applicants who are Black, People of Colour, Interacial and Minority Ethnic, LGBTQ+, with caring responsibilities, dis/ability and long-term health conditions. In the long term, instead of pitching your fund as ‘open to everyone’, we can think critically and realistically about who we really have the capacity to support and how? This will change how we develop new relationships with funded individuals, organisations and audiences.

 

However, before reassessing our fundraising guidelines, there are things we can put in place to make funding as accessible as possible. As funders, it is our responsibility to continuously question and explore how our application processes can be made more accessible. All applicants are so generous in sharing inspiration, insights and motivations with us, which is always such a gift to see. Within this blog post, I’m going to explore some measures which you can apply to your grant-giving, that will support applicants to navigate this process and access funds. 

 

Application Guidance

Digital methods - whether hosting webinars about your fund, or following-up with enquiries from potential applicants - will enable a wider range of people to develop a relationship with you and access application guidance.

  • Use a transcription tool for an instant speech-to-text transcription of live video calls.  Otter.ai is one example. You can add frequently used terms and funding-specific language beforehand so that it can be accurately transcribed. This supports people with auditory processing during the call. This, for example, may be useful to support neurodiversity.

  • Use a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter for d/Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Communities
  • If the fund aims to engage with a community where English might not be spoken as a first language then consider language/s translation.
  • See the Worldwide Web Consortium’s (WC3) Web Accessibility Initiative. You can measure your existing website with their evaluation tool.
  • Screen readers are an assistive text-to-speech technology, but these can’t use PDFs. So include all guidance and forms as both Word document and PDF downloads. Word documents are also most accessible for anyone with a visual impairment who might use magnification or edit the formatting of a document to improve visibility. It is also helpful for screenreaders (which can scan for links) to make sure that hyperlinks have a full description of what they link to rather than just using terms such as ‘ click here’.
  • Before beginning any public webinars or video calls, take the extra time for a ‘check-in’ by stating names, preferred pronouns and describe your appearance for those who are Blind or Visually Impaired.
  • Invest the time to arrange phone calls with applicants, with informal one-off or regular sessions. The purpose of this is to talk through the process, answer questions and ensure the applicant is clear as to what you’re asking from them. This can be really beneficial to accommodate for neurodiversity, where carving out time to be accountable and check-in with others can be useful.

 

Accessible Formats 

It is so useful when the funder can invest in creating these alternative formats. This means that applicants won’t need to take extra time independently to re-work the guidance or application in order to make it accessible. We want applicants to spend this valuable time on the application itself! It is a worthy investment for your time as a funder, because once you have them, adapting formats to future funds becomes easier. 

  • Large Print: 18pt size
  • Audio: Record an audio version as an mp3 file. Begin with a clear description of what the recording is about.
  • Braille: Buy the kit in-house, use an agency, or use a free online tool (not as accurate as human translation)
  • Easy Read is an accessible information format most often used to support learning disabled people. Text is broken down into short sentences, with an image selected to represent each point. Use simple language and explain complicated terms if necessary. 
  • It’s also good practice to make available hard-copy resources via post. You may also want to consider 4Gdata top-ups for people without broadband.

 

Submitting an Application

  • Invite application submissions in multiple formats, which may include video and audio too. 
  • Ask if the applicant wishes to receive feedback and which format they would prefer to receive this in.
  • Outline an option for applicants to liaise with a support worker to draft and submit their application. This would usually account for half a day extra fee.
  • Depending on how close the relationship is between funder and applicant, then you may invite Access Rider Documents from applicants. Or it could be a requirement that the funded organisation actively uses these for the programme. 

 

Budget:

Allocate budget for access within the application process itself. This may contribute to the above resource and time investment outlined above. For example, support workers can liaise with an applicant to draft and write the application. In addition, data top-ups can give someone access to the internet to apply. It is worth stating that this should be separate to the recipient’s fund or project grant. This will support people to afford the time and tools to make the application process easier. 

 

How is this useful?

All of the above tools should be applied to any process which invites others to generously share their experience, skills and ideas with you. This includes for arts and cultural programmes within organisations too, for instance; artist call-outs, bursary giving, award/grant nominations and recruitment.

 

If newer to widening access in your fundraising practice, this may appear to be a lot to implement. However, imagine if you were a potential applicant with a stellar idea and strategy but with fewer tools to get this to you. These are a few of the surefire ways you can make your grant-giving processes more equitable. Try these out, get feedback, try again, get some help, do better and watch your applicant pool thrive. Fundraising is the tool to amplify a generous culture, but aside from funding people, there are other ways to be generous. An active commitment to widening access can be equally meaningful and valuable as the financial investment you will be making to exceptional arts, cultural and health projects.

 

The question should not be ‘Is this funding accessible?’ but ‘HOW accessible is this funding?’ If you reflect this back to yourself and describe the step-by-step process applicants follow, it may reveal where and how we can do better to increase access.

 

______

I’m still continuously learning myself and thank many brilliant practitioners who have supported our organisation as we work towards equitable access. Some of these people who have been influential in shaping our learning include: Sam Metz (Beyond Arts); Ro Hardaker, (artist); Tom Bailey (Arts and Minds); and Gill Crawshaw (Independent Curator), Taneesha Ahmed (Community, Collaborations and Partnerships Producer, Leeds2023) and PANIC! An Artists’ Network in the Crisis.

 

 

Further Reading & Training

 

Digital Resources

Alternative To: Crowdsourced alternative software recommendations

Otter.ai: Live Speech-to-Text Zoom transcription

Charity Catalogue for tools

 

Learning

Shape Arts

Language of Disability, Disability Arts Online

Making written information easier to understand for people with learning Disabilities, Inspired Services

 

Guides

Access Rider Template

Dyslexia style guide, British Dyslexia Association

Colour Blindness

A guide to creating clear print and large print documents

Text to braille translation

Audio formats

Online Perspectives on Web Accessibility

Facebook accessibility

Website accessibility checks

Easy Read Example, Arts Council England 

 

Photo by Daniel Ali on Unsplash