Dance Advice

How can you be successful in applying for funding?

Dance Funding Grant Applications

After years of pretty ordinary monthly newsletters, things have definitely changed in the Ausdance NSW ranks. The newsletters are professional and up-to-date with practical and relevant information for anyone working in the dance sector.

The NSW Ausdance Program and Projects Manager, Claire Gammon, and her team have been busy putting in place initiatives to ensure that Ausdance NSW becomes a reference source for artists and others in the sector.

One major program recently implemented has been the PALS programor Professional Arts Learning Series providing two streams: artists’ stream, to enhance and develop the practice of dance artists, makers and performers through a series of curated workshops; and the teachers’ stream, which is primarily for educators working within the primary and secondary education sector.

Dance Informa recently attended a free budgeting and grant application workshop at the Ausdance Sydney Head Office, which was presented by Penny Miles, senior manager, Sector Investment (Arts) Create NSW, part of the Australian Council.

The great thing about Miles is that she is an “insider”, who understands the process of grant applications from the inside out, often sitting on decision panels and seeing what type of works are accepted and win grants. Miles had a lot of excellent information to share with the group, which has been summarised below.

Seven signs of a successful arts and cultural development program grant application

#1. Grant applications are partnerships 

While it’s tempting to view granting bodies as an anonymous source of funds, applying and receiving grants are all about partnerships. And with any important working or artistic partnership, it’s important to know about the “funder” to see if there’s a good fit between the two parties. So, while the creative merit of your project is central to you, just as important is being able to align this to the cultural vision the grant-making bodies have.

#2. A thorough and complete application

It’s hard for many artists to convey their creative vision/project through the medium of a bureaucratic grant application. But taking the time and effort to complete a thorough application increases your chances exponentially. Set aside at least three to four hours to work through the application, and be sure to read through the guidelines again. Attempt several drafts; the more you do this, the clearer your vision becomes. Go step by step through the application, completing the whole document. Have all relevant information on hand, ensure your internet is stable, and go to the Create NSW website

#3. Artistic work engages with the eligibility criteria

Funding bodies have their own criteria of what works and which projects they want to foster. You will need to be familiar with these and demonstrate ways that your work engages with this.

Currently, eligibility is assessed on:

  • Audience engagement and impact.
  • Viability – Can it happen? Will the panel believe your project can happen?
  • Artistic merit.

Miles mentioned that, currently, significant funding seems to be going mainly to regional and indigenous productions, as well as works produced or associated with Western Sydney. For those “living and working in Western Sydney, by young people for young people.” Another area winning grants involves is disability programs. This doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of these specific areas, but you might need to be creative in finding a connection with the current funding climate.

#4. Budget effectively and realistically

This is a big area to work through with both income and expenses to be included. You might not have prepared a budget before, but you will need to insert numbers when you start the online process.

Don’t forget insurances for performance spaces. Rule of thumb for box office income is to use 33 percent times the number of seats in the performance space.

Miles advises using the “true value” of your expenses. Remember, you will be expected to pay industry standards for your creative workers. Don’t try to keep your budget as low as possible in the hope that you will receive funding. If you have a good idea but it requires a significant budget, don’t cut corners. Requiring funding is the aim of the game, and the funding panel will respect a well thought-out budget behind an interesting proposition. 

#5. Demonstrate that your project has a number of “in kind” support components

Don’t forget the “in-kind” components in the budget. With the online application, you can enter “in-kind” components such as:

  • Your admin time = hourly rate x total number of hours spent on completing the application, as well as the time spent looking for performance space, organising dancers, costumes, et cetera.
  • In-kind donations from people who are supporting you with costumes, rehearsal space, publicity, websites.
  • Ensure you include a realistic value for these “in-kind” contributions
  • Ausdance NSW can also assist finding graphic artists if required.

#6. Strong evidence of your ability to complete the work

Upload supporting evidence such as video footage and photos to give the panel an idea of what the work might eventually look like. This also demonstrates that you are serious about the application and have already started preparing. Check that your videos work, your photos have been loaded, but don’t worry about the quality of the evidence.

#7. Demonstrate a variety of community interests and support

It’s important that you can show that there are various stakeholders who are interested and supportive of your artistic project. Include letters from supporters or those providing “in-kind” contributions to show that there is interest in your proposal and that you have some “backers”. Encourage your friends and family to write supporting letters to go along with your application. The more interest you can generate around your project, the better your chances of getting a grant.

For more information on Ausdance NSW and upcoming workshops, visit

By Elizabeth Ashley of Dance Informa.

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