Art Reach consultants supported a number of organisations to apply for this round and our Consultant, Jo, reflects on what the application process really means for those who have gone through it.
Following the publication of their new strategy, Let’s Create, in 2020, Arts Council England have tailored all their funding application processes to align with the strategy – none more so and as in-depth as the NPO application process. At first glance, the range of templates provided for the applications could look like a tick-box exercise; however, I found that the framing for future work that the templates provide could introduce a step-change for many organisations’ practices.
We supported a number of organisations through the NPO application process this round, most of them for the first time. I was particularly impressed by one organisation who opted to go through the process without focusing too much on the result of achieving the funding. They recognised that the rigour with which the process made them take a deep look at their organisation, their practices and their aspirations was a useful process and would support their future-proofing and long-term planning.
I certainly felt that those organisations who worked through the process with me discovered a better understanding of their organisations and how they were working: How do they understand their impact and know how to really track it; how do they really address inclusivity and environmental responsibility in authentic ways; and how does their governance and business models fit with their values and mission? I spent a lot of time working with and getting to know the wonderful people that volunteer on creative Boards of Trustees around the country, exploring together our deepest felt values about our organisations and testing our assumptions. It was enjoyable, challenging and exciting; there was real ambition and heart-felt desires to serve their communities, and it felt good to be a part of strengthening these organisations.
I agree with this process-based approach on funding applications: NPO funding is not the be-all and end-all for arts organisations that we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking it is; understanding your organisation’s true mission and values and ensuring that these are at the heart of driving you to do what you do better is also fundamental to success.
I feel all of the organisations I’ve worked with will have strengthened their mission and values as a result of this process and renewed their determination to excel in what they do. The next stage for successful NPO applicants is business planning and I’m looking forward to helping people develop detailed approaches for their organisation’s future.
If you’d like to learn more about how our consultancy team can help your organisation’s fundraising or business planning and development, then please contact Jo@artreach.org.uk