Media Arts & Research Funding Sources

The Foundation Center is "the nation's leading authority on philanthropy" -- and could very well become one of your best friends during the grantseeking process. The Center's primary "customers" are not-for-profit organizations, but they also provide a wealth of resources for individual grantseekers. From the "Getting Started" page, you might begin by completing the "online orientation to grantseeking." I recommend visiting their “Learning Lab” and taking one of the other free online tutorials. In the “Virtual Classroom,” you might try one or more of the quick tutorials -- especially the "Guide to Funding Research," the "Proposal Budgeting Basics" and the "Proposal Writing Short Course." If you want, you could also pay $19.95 for the "Grantseeking Basics for Individuals" course under the "Online Training Courses." In the "Online Bookshelf" section, you can access an abridged version of the The Foundation Center's Guide to Grantseeking on the Web (2003) and other publications. Remember, too, that there's an online librarian you can contact for help; given the amount of information on their site, though, I think you'll likely find answers to any of your questions by digging around, through "SearchZone," or in the Frequent Asked Questions area.

Although you are an "individual grantseeker," you needn't go it alone. You can also find a fiscal sponsor for your project. Affiliating yourself with a 501(c)3 organization demonstrates to potential funders that your sponsoring organization has already vetted your project and has perhaps committed itself to providing support, thereby making you a more attractive candidate. And in many cases, fiscal sponsorship is necessary; most foundations and government agencies won't accept applications from people without an institutional affiliation. The Foundation Center identifies several scenarios in which fiscal support would be either helpful or necessary. Read through the Center's advice on forming your own organization or an umbrella group, or finding a fiscal sponsor.

The Center has also provided some worksheets that help to prepare you to identify particular funding sources and present yourself appropriately to them. Go here, and scroll to the bottom of the chart. Download the "statement of purpose" and "funding profile"; you may choose to use these forms to help you through the funding search. Also, be sure to check out the "Proposal Writing for Individuals" user aid.

Now, we'll locate some aids that are specific to your interests and your particular project. On the "If You Are Seeking Funding For..." page, look in the second column of the "User Aids" row. Visit all the user aids that seem appropriate; I imagine that most of you will fit into the artist, film and videomaker, media and communication, musician, or researcher categories -- and most of you probably fall into more than one of those groups. These pages identify topic-specific print and web resources.

Now it's time to start using the Foundation Center Grants to Individuals Online. If you're in New York, Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco, or Washington, you can visit your local library/learning center and access the database free-of-charge on-site. At those locations, you can also participate in on-site training sessions. Or, if you're in none of those locations, see if the Foundation Center has a "cooperating collection" near you, where they will have the print version of this database and may have the online version as well.

Even if you do have access to a cooperating collection -- or even if you're in New York, and you have access to the headquarters' collection -- you might still consider purchasing a one-month subscription to Foundation Grants to Individuals Online for $9.95. Now that we're ready to go to the online grants database, we'll start with a guided tour.

And you can take it from here....

You might also research the funding of existing work that is similar to yours, or that has proven instrumental or inspirational in your own work. Review the Acknowledgements in your favorite books to see if the author identifies his or her funding sources, and check the opening and closing credits on your favorite documentaries. Look for a page listing funders on your favorite web projects. See what organizations have supported work that bears some resemblance to the work you're planning to do.

Here are a few additional resources that are specific to our field:

Americans for the Arts Research
The Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Creative Capital
Film Arts Foundation Resources
Foundation Center Topical List of Grants to Individuals
The Fund for Women Artists: Funding for Individual Artists
Grants for Individuals: Film
from MI State University
Independent Film Grants, Film Financing Resources
Independent Television Service Funding Resources
MSU Funding Center
National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture: Grant Listings
National Association of Broadcasters' Grants for Research in Broadcasting
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
New York Foundation for the Arts Directory for Artists
Program for Media Artists: Funding Resources
Research Funding Bibliography from the Foundation Center
The Rockefeller Foundation's Advice to Fund-seeking Mediamakers
Social Science Research Council

Your local academic library may also have reference books on grants. You might try Peterson's Scholarships, Grants and Prizes; Yale Daily News Guide to Fellowships and Grants; Annual Register of Grant Support; Directory of ResearchGrants; or The Foundation Directory.

You're also likely to find funding announcements through academic and special interest listservs, so start subscribing!