A Younger Theatre’s Editor, Jake, recently sat on a panel for Farnham Maltings’ No Strings Attached funding bursaries. The scheme is designed to be completely open to ideas relating to theatre and young people; there are no set agendas, no commitments and there is the chance for an individual or company to secure a propotion of £5,000, with no strings attached.

Here, Jake shares some of his top tips for pitching a panel your idea with the aim of getting funding, based upon what he experienced:

1. Know what you want and what you have
It may sound obvious, but knowing what you want to get out of the funding, and knowing what it is that you already have, can be an overlooked area. Funders want to find out what it is that you already have in place, be it an idea, a working model or even a fully developed practice. This, along with what it is you want from getting funding, will paint a clear and coherent picture of how the funding they can give you will support your current work.

2. Prepare a budget – and make it add up
You’ve come up with a brilliant idea but you need money to make it work. You pitch it to a funding scheme, but, hold on, you have no budget… oh dear. With any kind of project or production the key to an excellent pitch is knowing your figures, and being able to show these coherently in a budget. You don’t have to know how you’ll spend every last penny, but knowing exactly how much each part of a project will cost will really show that you have researched and explored potential outgoings for your work. Your budget doesn’t have to be a work of art, either, a simple spreadsheet separated into different areas for each stage of the project will make it clear to those you’re seeking funding from how the money will be distributed. Don’t forget to include any other funds, such as in-kind support, other fundraising or current funds. Remember to have copies of your budget available for the panel, too, for them to refer to.

3. Plan your pitch – make it pitch-perfect!
When money is in on the table, would you rather wing it or come in prepared and ready to wow? Make sure that you have planned out what you want to say, who will say it (if there is more than one person), and that you have any extra multimedia ready. It’s good to practise your pitch with a friend or family member; they might spot something you’ve missed or offer useful advice. Most important of all, stick to the time limit. It’s better to come prepared than to be fumbling and distracted whilst pitching.

4. Do your research
Is the funding for a certain aspect of your project? Are there conditions to the funding? Who is on the panel? What about the organisation or funding body – what is it and what does it do? Before applying for funding, you must do your research. Not every project will suit every possible funding opportunity. Equally, be sure to research any terms and conditions relating to the funding. If you have to pitch in front of a panel, it’s always good to know who you are pitching too; call up and ask in advance – you never know, one of the panelist might know you or your work. As for the organisation or company itself, just like applying for a job, researching beforehand and showing that you have an active interest in what it does will help you – especially if questions are asked. Finding out who or what it has funded before might give a clear indication as to what it likes – do you fit this?

5. Presenting yourself
You might think that pitching to a panel is all about the idea you’re talking about. Well, it’s not. It’s also about who you are as a person. You can have the best project in the world, but without a smile, and a presentable and engaging individual standing before the panel, you might as well be talking to a brick wall. Presenting yourself is almost as important as presenting the idea. Dress appropriately, smile and engage with the panel – they’re not there to shoot you down, they want to know about you and your work. Try and remember to smile!

6. Media – keep it relevant
Sometimes it’s good to have extra material that you can show the panel while you’re pitching an idea. Perhaps it’s photos from previous projects or a video of a performance, maybe you’ve scanned sketches of the ideas you have and you’re keen to show them. Whatever it is that you are using, make sure that you keep it relevant. Whilst it’s good to get an idea of your work through a video, keep it short, make it presentable, and don’t expect them to watch 10 minutes worth. A video can only show so much. The same can be said for images. What is it that you are trying to show? Is it relevant, and can it be said better with your own words?

7. Question time
You should expect to answer questions about your pitch. Do your best to answer the question – don’t waffle on in the hope that eventually you’ll say the right thing. Better to be direct, and honest – if you don’t know the answer, then say so! Equally, it might be a good idea if you have some questions that you’d like to ask or get the panel to clarify regarding the funding. It’s not essential but it does show that you are keen to find out more.

8. Thinking big
We’re young and bursting-full of ideas, and this is a vital thing to maintain as we grow up. Whilst we might have crazy ideas, it’s good to think about how realistic your idea or project is. Thinking big isn’t a negative thing, but it’s good to have one foot firmly on the ground as your imagination lifts you into the clouds. It’s good to think creatively and to potentially think big – the panel will want to see a certain drive, determination and adventure/excitement in the work that they might fund, but they also need some realism. They will want to see that your project will actually happen, and that it’s realistic, but you still need to have a sense of ambition. It’s a fine balance, but one that should be addressed before you start pitching.

9. Education doesn’t solve everything
Running workshops or education programmes will not solve all your monetary requirements or problems. An alarming amount of pitchers felt that their work could be supported using educational work as a source of revenue. It is extremely difficult to do this, and it takes commitment, skills and a real desire to work in an educational environment. It shouldn’t be your source of funding. Why mention this in an article about pitching? Because educational doesn’t solve everything, and pitching for funds to start up an educational side of your work as a means to support your work isn’t always the best idea.

10. A little goes a long way
There is a temptation to apply for the biggest amount of funding that you can get your hands on. This shouldn’t be the case. Even the smallest grant can go a long way, and will put you in better stead for when you apply for further funds from other sources. Some companies or projects just need a little helping out – a little money – for them to realise their goals or potential. Like point number 8, it’s good to think big, but let’s keep it simple too.

So there we have it, 10 top tips for when you’re next pitching for funding. Have you got some more tips to share? Why not add them to the comments below, or tweet us at @AYoungerTheatre.

Image by Howard Lake.