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Based on conversations happening in the philanthropic community, I believe that there will be opportunities coming to support individual artists for lost income. I have run several programs in the past and wanted to give you some things to think about and prepare when these opportunities present themselves:

  • Read the guidelines. The first important step is to read the guidelines. Every program may not support every discipline, geographic region or financial situation. Save yourself and the funder time by reading the guidelines and FAQs. Most funders are very clear. If you are not qualified, don’t write and ask for an exception, just look at other opportunities.
  • The importance of documentation. Sympathetic as they may be, grantmakers will still need to make decisions based on data and information. Use this time to pull together as much information as you can. What funders look for will vary, so again, be sure to read the guidelines, but you can start by compiling the following:
    • Contracts or commitment letters clearly stating the terms of the engagement, the dates and the rate of pay. This, ideally, should be followed by an official cancellation letter. Emails are fine. If you don’t have these, take the time now to write to those hiring you and ask for them. These DO NOT need to be only arts related. Funders understand that for most artists, their artistic work is not their primary source of income, so if you have had temp assignments, teaching jobs, catering jobs, etc. cancelled, all of this may well be eligible. Document ANYTHING that would have brought you any kind of income.
    • History of past sales. If you are going to guestimate how much you might have made, have strong backup and support for where you got that number. If, for example, part of your income comes from selling your work at shows and those shows have been cancelled then gather information from past shows to demonstrate how much you have previously made from such sales. Ideally, pick shows that have taken place in the past 12 – 18 months in similar sized venues, similar geographic regions and similar time of year.
    • If you don’t already have it, prepare an artist resume. In many panels the question of “who is an artist,” may become a topic of discussion. Having a resume, website or using a narrative to provide examples of your current and recent involvement in the field will be important. These do not necessarily need to be things for which you are compensated. For visual artists, receiving grants or having work displayed in solo or groups shows, even if nothing sold, are examples. Any kind of press coverage, as well as a more standard list of accomplishments all help.

I could go on, but I will stop there and say you can find more resources on our website at

Mark Rossier has held a variety of positions at the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) since 2008, most recently as Director of Grants, overseeing both the Fiscal Sponsorship department and 9 grant programs distributing nearly $3 million annually. Prior to joining NYFA he was Director of Development and Marketing at the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York), where he coordinated grants to Off Broadway Theatres after the World Trade Center attack. He was also Director of Marketing at the Shakespeare Festival of New Jersey and Capital Repertory Theater in Albany, New York. He has been a frequent grant panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, among many others, and has served three terms as a member of the nominating and voting committee for the Lucille Lortel Awards, which honor excellence Off-Broadway.

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