Creative Europe dispels myths about grant programmes

In public perception, grant programs are shrouded in such a large number of myths that many are simply scared away from them. But in fact, these programs offer countless opportunities for implementation of useful and interesting initiatives in various areas ranging from creative to social projects. To make sure that you don’t miss an opportunity, we are going to dispel the most widespread myths about grants.

Myth 1: Grants are “for insiders”

There is a wrong belief that in order to receive a grant for one’s project, one need to get in touch with the “right” people and have connections. And in general, these are the same people who “sit on grants”. If you are not a part of that inner circle, chances that you get funding for your project, no matter how interesting it is, are next to nothing.

That, of course, is not true.

People and organizations who/which often apply for and receive grants simply have more experience in applying for them and, which is also important, a positive history of implementing grant-funded projects: surely, if you have successfully implemented projects in the past, you will be treated with greater trust. Still, it is not a one hundred percent guarantee of success.

Building the organization’s grant history is a gradual process. When you constantly write applications and organize festivals on your company’s behalf, grantors begin to trust you and grow confident that you will deliver on your obligations. At first, we were receiving small grants, and then, gradually grew to larger ones.

Vasyl Rozhko, Head of Tustan CSO

In fact, your chances to get a grant depend on the following criteria:

  • Conformity of your project with the program’s topic and purpose. Usually, it is stated quite clearly in the application rules.
  • Correctly completed application. Please, pay attention to all requirements of the grantor
  • Your grant history and experience in the industry in general. Past successful grants will boost your chances, but in fact, whether you are proficient in the sector in which you want to implement your project is much more important

The need to have some “connections” is definitely not among these criteria. But speaking about Creative Europe, a framework program that has already disbursed almost 1.5 billion euros worth of funding during the last seven years, it even encourages people to look for partners at not only local but also European level, and better if they do it in different sectors.

Here is what Alyona Dmukhovska, Project Manager at Creative Europe National Bureau Ukraine, says:

“I recommend developing cross-sectoral cooperation and new business models. The world becomes more and more complex, and therefore, unconventional initiatives will help you stand out among other applications and receive support from this program.”

But even if you fail at the first try, you can always try again.

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Myth 2: Receiving a grant is a very difficult process not worth trying

You should not be light-minded about your application, but the complexity of applying for a grant is somewhat exaggerated. The most important thing is to come up with a project that would indeed produce a substantial effect on the industry or even society on the whole. If you have an idea of such project, know for sure how to implement it, and have confidence in yourself and your partners, you will definitely be able to handle all technical aspects.

“If a manager wants to be efficient and receive grant support, they have to have a clear knowledge of their target audience and of the positive changes they can make with their efforts for which they seek funding. When the project’s goals match grantor’s, that’s where work planning starts.”

Alyona Dmukhovska, Project Manager at Creative Europe National Bureau Ukraine

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Grant programs are usually cyclic, repeating year after year. Therefore, one should always have a lot of ideas handy — some of them will definitely be suitable for a certain funding program. This strategy is employed by Tustan CSO, whose project received support from Creative Europe, but they also emphasize that one needs to have a very clear idea of how to implement a particular project: an abstract “for all good things” will hardly get funding.

On the other hand, one of the most common mistakes made by beginner grant seekers is to write a whole folio in the application, describing in detail every aspect and all possible development scenarios. But in fact, in order to make decision a grantor needs basic information and a general idea of what the project is about, whether it’s conformant with the purpose and whether the implementer has a clue about how to reach the target indicators.

The organizers of Molodist International Film Festival in Kyiv agree with that:

“We found out for ourselves that questions must be answered briefly and concisely by providing the most accurate information, even though it often could be difficult, because an application is submitted six months before the festival takes place and many things can change afterwards.”

Ihor Shestopalov, Program Director, Molodist International Film Festival

As experience of Astrolabe Publishing House proves, equal attention must be devoted to all elements of application process, i.e., the project’s content, budget itemization, and other technical points. And, which is also important, you should not delude yourself into thinking that grantors simply have no clue about your sector. Even in framework programs covering many various sectors, the commissions and juries have members who specialize in particular fields.

“Representatives of grant programs who evaluate your project have good knowledge of both the field of fiction and the book publishing, in particular, Eastern European.”

Astrolabe Publishing House

The above is true for the publishing business, as well as for any other industry.

Therefore, here are the key points you should remember:

  • Have a clear idea of what you want to do, what means you will use to achieve your goals, and how much resources you will need for that
  • Let application requirements not demotivate you from applying — in fact, the majority of what is required by grantors will be needed for you, too, in order to successfully implement your project, in particular, detailed budget, project planning (schedule and stage-by-stage plan), understanding of whom you will engage to implement the project, and so on
  • The description of your application must be laconic and very clear, without “water”
  • Rest no hopes on “making it through” an evaluation commission insufficiently competent in your field

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If you still have questions

The answers to most general questions can be found right on the grantor’s website. For example, Creative Europe National Bureau Ukraine has an excellent official webpage providing a detailed description of all aspects and addressing potential problematic situations related to grant application process.

But if you still have questions, Creative Europe and most other grantors organize regular Q&A sessions and webinars, and soon, will resume “live” meetings where they could discuss your particular case. Grantors want to make sure that interesting and useful projects receive funding.

“In order to boost your chances to win, the program has an own Bureau in every country of its presence (including Ukraine), which prepares applicants and helps them better understand the program’s requirements. All consultations provided by the Bureau are free, and they seriously improve the applicant’s chances to receive a grant after going deep into details.”

Alyona Dmukhovska, Project Manager at Creative Europe National Bureau Ukraine

We also recommend engaging partners in your projects, and better international partners, because the experience of working with grants in EU states is much more extensive, and therefore, your partner could be able to help you with this aspect as well.

Myth 3: It simply can’t be that they give money just for asking, without repayment

By definition, a grant is non-repayable funding. In other words, in no event will you be required to pay this money back. Moreover, some grants represent a refund, which means that first you fund your project yourself, and then receive money from a grantor.

Funding of your project will be granted not only under condition that the commission likes your idea. The indicators you want to achieve are also important. If a grant is provided after or in the course of the project’s implementation, you will have to submit reports in order to get money.

“If you lack certain competencies, we usually recommend engaging more experienced colleagues, and not only to write a grant application but for the entire duration of project period. This joint work is the only way you can learn many things, efficiently implement your project and report on it; after that, you’ll be ready to apply on your own.”

Alyona Dmukhovska, Project Manager at Creative Europe National Bureau Ukraine

When money is disbursed before the project starts, you will also be required to submit a report. If target KPIs haven’t been achieved, nobody will take the money back from you, but that will affect the probability of you getting funding for your future projects and not just under that particular program, because your grant history will be reviewed by all grantors.

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Myth 4: Reporting on grants is very complex

Actually, no. Surely, red tape is not the most interesting thing to do in this world, but reporting on grants is little different from what any legally operating, law- and business ethics-abiding organization is required to have anyway. You can prepare reports on many grants yourself, while a specialist’s assistance would be needed for some of them.

The algorithm is simple:

  • Carefully read the rules – usually, they state all required information
  • Do not be shy to request a consultation from the grantor

Moreover, grantors know what they’re doing, and the grant application terms contain no unnecessary red tape. Astrolabe Publishing House agrees with that:

“The program puts forth quite strict but justifiable requirements to a publishing house, which you should not negatively qualify as “red tape” — everything must be clearly described and links to various resources must be provided in order for the grantor to be able to trace and verify the project’s implementation remotely.”

Molodist adds:

“it is important that the person who prepares a report is on top of all things from the beginning till very end, i.e., is completely involved in the entire process.”

Ihor Shestopalov, Program Director, Molodist International Film Festival

Myth 5: Grants are provided for noncommercial and purely social projects only

Another common misconception about grant programs is that these programs are intended for nonprofit initiatives only. Although this is an important area of a substantial number of these programs, project funding may also be accorded to a business for implementation of a commercially successful project that would not only produce a positive effect on the community but also bring profit to its implementers.

More to the point: some grant programs are specifically designed for that purpose. The same is true about Creative Europe as well. When applying for this program, you have to describe the expected commercial success of your project.

“That drastically distinguishes this program among others, which often hide themselves behind “kulturträger” rhetoric and neglect the commercial element, or even bizarrely perceive “non-commerciality” as some special virtue.”

Astrolabe Publishing House

It is quite logical, because a portion of expected effect could include not only something abstract but also how many people would want to pay money for using the fruits of labor of the project’s organizers — this is one of the most important markers of how significant an initiative is for others.

In order to achieve commercial success, do not forget about the advertising element. When preparing your application, think about how you will disseminate information about your project among the target audience. It could include, in particular:

  • PR activities
  • SMM
  • Contextual advertising
  • Native advertising in media
  • Online or “live” events

There are other methods as well. All participants of grant programs, and Creative Europe in particular, agree on one point: it must be taken care of in advance and included to the project’s budget, especially since it would work for you in a long run, enhancing your recognizability among the audience in general.

How to apply for a grant from Creative Europe?

Creative Europe National Bureau Ukraine is responsible for providing the entire information about this program and for consulting potential participants on all aspects of their participation in the program.

A lot of information can be found on the National Bureau’s website. There, you can also contact the Bureau’s staff and schedule an appointment for consultation.

Source: NaChasi