What is "Responsible Asking"?
Understand and be clear in your thinking as to why your project may be suitable for philanthropic support.
Do your research and find the right partner for your project.
- Carefully read the guidelines.
- Get an indication from the foundation of the average size of the grant they give to a charity. This information is generally available on the website and in the guidelines.
- Be realistic with your request. Traditionally when foundations make a grant to a charity the project is also funded from other sources.
- Like traditional film financing, the higher your budget the more partners will be required.
- A thorough knowledge of the budget in all its detail is required as it will be assessed closely and will need to be defended.
For a foundation that has never given to a documentary before, the most likely stage for them to get involved is the outreach and distribution. This is an area that is largely unfunded in the documentary sector, so it is a good place to start building relationships between filmmakers and foundations, as the foundation can view the finished film before deciding to get involved. The filmmaker can then be supported to take the film out to its audience and forge new relationships with foundations and in the community. Foundations are experienced with funding arts projects across a range of artistic forms including the visual arts and music. There is increasing use of Internet in outreach strategies, including building skills in disadvantaged communities to bring them up to speed with new technologies. This extends the "voice of the community" that a filmmaker offers to those with whom they work. Outreach strategies may include the participants of the projects spreading the story and exchanging knowledge and experience.
When development and production is being sought, break down the budget into distinct components of the production process and ask for staged support. For example, break it down to research and development (proof of concept), production and post-production, outreach and distribution. This approach will give you the opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship with a foundation over the life of the project and possibly beyond, into future collaborations.
Foundations like to reduce risks and work with people with a proven track record. They are comfortable with a submission that shows thought and planning at every stage of the project. Supporting documentaries will be a new concept for most foundations so they will look closely at the team behind the proposal with an interest in building a relationship that can extend into the future. This will be based on trust and the reliable fulfillment of expectations. There is encouragement in the sector towards recurrent funding which can work to the advantage of filmmakers who want to develop ongoing relationships with foundations.
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