Upcoming Webinar: How to Apply to The Creative Work Fund

This post was originally featured on Foundation Center West's blog. While The Creative Work Fund is based in California, and requires that applicants also be based in California, we believe the information presented in these webinars is useful for any grant writer. 

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Frances Phillips, program director for The Creative Work Fund, is offering three upcoming webinars and an in-person session for potential grantees. The Creative Work Fund was launched in the summer of 1994 and the first five grants were made that December. Three-hundred and fifty-four grants later, why is the Fund still offering workshops and webinars to explain itself?

First, the Fund wants to make its purpose and focus clear. From the beginning, it was meant to be different from other arts grants. That desire to be distinctive means we continue to need to do coach applicants on how to draft effective proposals.

For example, the Fund is not the same as an artists-in-the-schools grant or an artists-in-communities grant because it focuses on artists making artworks. But it’s also not the same as a commissioning grant because it insists on an artmaking process in which an artist collaborates with a nonprofit organization.  It hopes to support an interactive exchange of ideas and approaches between that artist and nonprofit. In that, the Fund is particularly interested in the developmental stage of an artwork. A Creative Work Fund grant might lead to a draft or a work-in-progress, not necessarily a fully staged or exhibited work.

How do artists benefit from this program? Technically, Creative Work Fund grants of $10,000-$40,000 are awarded to the artists’ nonprofit partners, but the Creative Work Fund insists that artists be paid. In fact, it insists that they receive two-thirds of the grant funds awarded for their fees and expenses.

Another distinctive feature is the way the Creative Work Fund defines genre categories, basing them on the training and track record of the lead artist. That means that a media artist, one of the genre categories invited in 2017-18, doesn’t necessarily need to create a film that could be shown in film festivals. That artist might create a film that will provide the setting for a dance performance. Similarly, a dancer might not perform, but might apply with a nonprofit publisher in the performing arts category to create a book about dance notation. Artists don’t have to step out of their usual modes for making work, but the Fund hoped that the collaboration theme would allow them to do so if they wanted to.

Finally, the Fund keeps holding workshops and webinars for applicants because every year it reaches artists and nonprofits who don’t yet know about it. And these grants are competitive. Generally, only 10-20% of the letters of inquiry will turn into grant awards. Given those odds, the Fund wants applicants to have the information needed to shape competitive requests.

Foundation Center has been a long-time partner in helping the Creative Work Fund reach and inform new and former applicants. We are deeply thankful for its assistance in producing three Webinars on August 30 (noon PST); September 25 (6 p.m. PST); and October 10 (noon PST); and an in-person workshop at 3 p.m. PST on September 12.

The Creative Work Fund is a program of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund that also is supported by a generous grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.


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Frances Phillips is the program director for The Creative Work Fund.