Every year, The Supporting Act Foundation awards funding to artists and non-profits committed to using art for social change. We often talk about how proud we are of our grantees and the juries who select them. But how exactly is this decision made?
We have a dedicated jury for both our Creative Bursary and Impact Grant programs, and to ensure everything is fair they make their judgements based on defined criteria. This includes being aligned with our mission and the objectives of the funding programme, community engagement and needing the money due to financial hardship.
The most important thing about our jury is that they are independent. Our jury members are inspiring artists, activists and organizers, which increasingly includes former Supporting Act grantees themselves, and we rely on their judgment to select the grantees.
After receiving all the applications to our Open Call, we begin the review process by confirming that each application meets the eligibility criteria, and then briefing the independent juries for each grant program before each application is reviewed and scored by at least two jury members. The top scoring applications are then reviewed and scored by the rest of the jury and shortly afterwards, the entire jury reconvenes to reach a consensus on the final selection.
Unlike other grants, the decision isn’t based on evaluating ‘talent’ or other similar metrics. Our focus is to create better opportunities in the arts as part of a wider vision to foster change in the sector and beyond. And that’s why it is vital that our selection process is consistent, inclusive, and equitable by following these principles:
Involve an independent panel so the final selection is fairer
We include artists and organizers on our jury to bring in their lived experience into the decision making process
Make the criteria public and easily accessible so every applicant is on the same page
Consider how the criteria embeds inclusive decision-making into the process
Making the selection isn’t easy
Every year, the members of our jury tell us how much they enjoy getting to learn about the potential grantees. But with so many inspiring people and organizations that we’d love to support, making the final cut can be challenging.
For our 2023 cohort, the Impact Grant jury said they wanted to include voices from many different countries, to balance those relying on physical spaces and online platforms, and to focus on those that typically struggle to access funding from traditional philanthropy.
And the Creative Bursary jury aimed for a similarly holistic view. One member reflected that the process provided a valuable insight into the themes, concerns, and challenges that a generation of artists were facing in the current climate. Another added that they were particularly struck by how the artists were amplifying marginalized voices and were using art as a tool of resistance to claim their space in the world.
A judge’s perspective – and tips for applying
As part of our reflection on the selection process, we spoke with one of our Impact Grant judges, Abi Tariq. An artist and cultural worker born in Karachi and based in Paris, Abi works at AFIELD, one of our previous grantees. We’re proud to see people make the transition from grantee to judge.
“It was very enriching to learn about a vast range of projects across the region,” Tariq said, explaining what attracted him to take part.
While evaluating the wide and varied submissions, one learning he took from the process was the importance of a fundraising strategy for non-profits. “I feel that a lot more work needs to be done to help young initiatives learn to develop sustainable fundraising strategies in a context where it is often their only source of financial survival," he added.
His advice to potential applicants? “Fundraising is an important part of your work.” You have to allocate the time and energy so it happens. And “aim for 20-40% more money” than the expected budget – and if possible, rely on several sources of funding.
What sets successful applications apart
When submitting any kind of funding proposal, clarity is key. The jury doesn't have any information about you or your project beyond what has been submitted. It’s easy to overlook a simple detail that a stranger won’t be aware of.
As both our Creative Bursary and Impact Grant programs place a strong emphasis on social purpose, community engagement and marginalized voices, this aspect to your application should be emphasized. Many of the artists and non-profits are thinking very seriously about the challenges their community faces, and using art as a tool for change.
Tell us about what you’re planning to do – and provide the context for why it matters. Particularly for the Impact Grant, many of the most successful non-profits were not only doing impressive things, they were working to foster community and collaboration in communities where it mattered most.