The Supporting Act Foundation

We conducted our first survey. Here’s what we learned.

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The Supporting Act Foundation launched in 2021 as a pilot with big ambitions. We wanted to support artists by creating better opportunities in the arts – and part of that approach would involve risk-taking and experimentation. But after you’ve trialed an idea, it’s important to stop and ask yourself if it worked. 

So when we sent our first survey to our grantees, it was because we wanted to get honest thoughts and opinions about our approach. We were founded to support artists, and a lot of research, planning and conversations underpinned the process behind our work—but how successful have we been? And how can we improve?

How it worked

All our Creative Bursary and Community Grant recipients from 2022 received a tailored survey in 2023.

We provided a number of statements about the values and approach of The Supporting Act Foundation (eg. ‘The Foundation is transparent’), and asked people to rate how accurate these statements felt. We also asked a number of questions about the specifics of our approach, such as did our unrestricted funding meet their needs and did the payment schedule work for them. 

All grantees received a little over 50 questions where they were invited to give a rating from 0 to 5. And every response was anonymised as we wanted people to feel comfortable. 

Our findings

Overall, the feedback was really positive. This was very reassuring to us – but the specifics gave us a lot to think about and provided suggestions for how we could improve.

From the process of how we provided funding, to the transparency of our programs, our connection with the sectors of our grantees and the wider benefits we might be able to provide, we’ve taken learnings which will inform our work into the future.

1) Funding for artists should be unrestricted

One of the most unique things about our grants is that they are unrestricted. The artists on our Creative Bursary grant, for instance, can purchase art supplies, buy groceries or even pay their rent. Many other arts funding schemes are limited to just the costs of a project, but how else are artists meant to have the time and energy to do their work?

A majority of the Creative Bursary grantees said our funding represented a significant portion of their income (more than half said it was between 75-100%). And for the non-profits on our Community Grant, 89% said they used the money to pay staff.

Providing funding to artists is important. But we were also keen to hear about the details of our funding approach, too. For instance, our Creative Bursary artists received €1,000- per month over ten months, similar to how many basic income schemes function, and everyone said they preferred receiving the money in installments.

2) The application process should be lightweight

We scored similarly high in regards to the transparency and ease of application.

We’ve worked to streamline our application process to make it as easy as possible—such as only requiring a minimal amount of supporting documentation, and only requesting it at a later stage in the process, thereby saving time for applicants.

When asked about the information provided and the time required to apply, the grantees rated us highly (average 4.7) and one third said the application took them between 11 and 15 hours to complete.

3) Community takes time to build

One of the biggest learnings we took was about the other potential benefits that might come from being associated with the Foundation. 

As a relatively young organization, it shouldn’t have been a major surprise that it was one of our lowest scoring percentages. For example, we asked if promotion on our social media channels create opportunities; that received a 2.8 from the Creative Bursary and 2.9 for the Community Grant.

From creating digital content to reach more people or trying to build connections between our grantees, we are investing in growing our community—but it does take time, energy and patience. 

Final thoughts?

We began by asking how we can improve, and an essential part of this is listening to what our grantees are telling us. 

As our artists and non-profits have expressed their enthusiasm for our trust-based philanthropy process, we want to stick with it, and also be a vocal advocate for similar approaches across the creative sector. 

It’s important that our applications are straightforward and accessible – therefore we’re involving former grantees and jurors in our grantmaking process to ensure everything stays as straightforward, accessible and minimal as possible. 

And our support can extend beyond just funding. We’re going to continue investing in our community and building a platform to spread the word about the inspiring work of our grantees. As much as we can, we want to help our grantees to expand their network, raise their profile and create a positive ecosystem around their practice. 

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