Even if you secure a presentation that includes a fee, this money will not be sufficient to cover all of the expenses for creating a work. Unless you plan on paying all of your creation and production costs out-of-pocket, it is absolutely essential to raise funds in order to finance your project. There are two sectors to approach for money, the public and the private.
The ‘public sector’ designates government funding agencies, which require that you write grant applications. Most artists who establish themselves professionally in Quebec rely on the public sector for the majority of their funding.
Artists in Montreal can apply for funding from three separate bodies: the Conseil des arts de Montréal (CAM), the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ), and the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA). Each of these funding bodies operates a number of different grant programs, each with their own mandate and criteria. Generally speaking the following grant categories may be of interest to you:
- Research and Creation grants fund rehearsal processes, and generally do not require you to have a confirmed presentation date
- Production Grants fund rehearsals and production costs related to a specific presentation, which must be confirmed
- Professional Development grants fund enrichment and educational experiences like travelling abroad to take a workshop, or working with a mentor to develop your professional skills.
- Travel and touring grants provide financial support to allow you to present work or attend professional events in other parts of Canada or Abroad.
- Strategic Funds are special, often punctual programs designed to address particular issues identified by a council as important and timely. It is worth looking at the Strategic Funds to see if there is anything that applies to your unique situation (for example, funding for work with digital technologies).
You can find detailed information by visiting the arts councils’ websites, however the information provided is often overwhelming and confusing at first. In order to help you navigate this system, many service organizations provide advisory consultations and grant-writing workshops. You can, and should, also call the grant agent responsible for the program you are applying to discuss your project and verify its eligibility.
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare, plan and write your grant. You may need to do several drafts. If you can get your hands on one, read over a successful grant application, and make sure someone proofreads yours before you finalize and send it off. Grant process is extremely competitive. Highlight what makes your proposition or approach different, be concise and precise. Don't feel discouraged if you don't get the first ones, they will still constitute your history at the funders, which will be useful for the next application. Always try to get feedback from jury if you receive a negative answer and take their comments seriously. Grantwriting is difficult for most people, and you will need to hone your skills over time.
If you are age 29 or younger, try applying for an employment grant from the program Jeunes Volontaires. These grants are easier to get than arts council grants and can provide a helpful first experience with the bookkeeping and paper work required when you receive public sector funding.
Les Offices jeunesse internationaux du Québec offers travel funding to artists 35 and under. This funding will not cover the full amount of your trip, but the process is not as competitive as the Art Councils.
Funding for First Nations artists, visible minorities and new arrivals
Many granting bodies offer special programs or considerations for First Nations artists, visible minorities and new arrivals (CALQ, Vivacité program), and official language minorities (anglophones in Quebec). If you identify as a member of one of these groups, keep an eye out for special funding opportunities.
Tips: Do not limite yourself to one source of fundings. It will make your application stronger to actually show that you can get multiple source of fundings, and so ask for a lower amount.
Private sector funding denotes money, objects or services received from individuals, small businesses or corporations. For an emerging artist, four likely sources of private funding are an online crowdfunding campaign, a fundraising activity, selling merch, and sponsorships.
Many artists use online fundraising platforms like KissKissBankBank, Kickstarter, or Indiegogo. When choosing a platform pay special attention to any fees the website charges, and what percentage of your donations they take. If you choose to fundraise online, you will need to be prepared to do a lot of self-promotion and individual outreach. Consider the size and nature of your social circle when evaluating your fundraising goals: you campaign will likely be more successful if you have contacts beyond the dance world.
Fundraising activities like throwing bake sales, raffles, selling merch or benefit concerts are common ways of raising funds. Any of these may or may not bring in money, depending on how well they are managed. Use these events to advertise your show as well as to raise money. When planning a fundraising event, it is important to weigh the expense and hours of work you will put into the activity, with the amount of money you can realistically expect to raise.
Although this fundraising method is more widely used by bands than choreographers, selling merch can be an effective way to raise money. Helen Simardis one choreographer who has had a lot of success selling t-shirts and buttons to help fund her projects, as well as promote them. People may be more willing to pay $25 for a cool shirt, than they are to simply donate $25 to your fundraiser. Again, it is crucial to keep production costs in check, while having a realistic idea of how many items you think you can sell.
A Sponsorship is an agreement with a company to supply you with needed materials in exchange for promotional visibility (ad space, or a special thank you in your promotional materials). You might consider a sponsorship with a boutique or clothing company for costumes, or a local brewery to supply beer for a fundraising event, or various local businesses for prizes to raffle or auction off.