“Creative mentorship” affirms mentoring as a tool of personal and professional development, strengthens the capacities of the cultural sector and provides support to prospective professionals interested in developing, networking and sharing knowledge and experience. We want to build, gather and support a community of motivated and socially responsible individuals that will contribute to the development of a society based on creativity, culture, knowledge and mutual cooperation.


Fundraising for cultural projects – where to start?

Although summer suggests a break, we used the last week of June to gather with mentees and mentors of the 6th cycle for another educational workshop, dedicated to fundraising for projects in culture.

Through a conversation with Tijana Jugović, in front of the Embassy of the United States of America in Serbia, the main partner of our program, Biljana Dakić Đorđević, executive director of the Trag Foundation and a mentor in the current cycle, the participants received important information about the application processes for programs supported by the Embassy and the Foundation and learned about donor criteria. Tatjana Nikolić, program associate and member of the Advisory Board of Creative Mentorship, introduced us to various aspects of fundraising for cultural organizations, as well as resources that can help us in that process.

What are donors looking for?

Tijana presented to us the framework according to which the Embassy of the United States of America in Serbia selects projects to which it allocates funds, as well as an approach that can help us formulate our proposals and ideas in the best possible way. It is especially important to keep in mind that we are presenting our project to someone who is not from our country and cultural context. Some questions to help us review our application are: Why is this important for the cultural context and society in which we work? What would be the concrete results of the project implementation? How does the project respond to the donor’s priority topics?

As one of the resources when applying for funds from the US Embassy in Serbia, Tijana indicated their website, where information on calls for new projects is regularly updated and the Application forms section with detailed instructions for filling them out. A particularly useful document is the Application Form FY 2022 and its annex.

On the other hand, Biljana Dakić Đorđević spoke about the projects and experiences of the Trag Foundation, whose work is focused on supporting formal and informal groups wanting to contribute to the development of their communities. For them, as an organization that allocates funds, what is crucial is what the community recognizes as its needs and how it wants to respond to and satisfy them through the project within a period of 6 to 12 months, which is usually the duration of the projects supported by Trag.

As a special type of support they provide, apart from the allocated funds, Biljana highlighted connecting with other organizations and peer learning.

For more information, success stories and summarized experiences in one place, there are two fundraising publications prepared by the Trag Foundation: What if we can? and The go-ahead sign.

Several models of project financing

In the last part of the conversation on fundraising for cultural projects, Tatjana NIkolić gave a detailed overview of the process that includes fundraising for cultural projects and especially inspired us to think outside the box.

Tatjana drew our attention to always start from what we need funds for and to include human resources and labor charges in that calculation. Although the earnings of the people involved in the project can be a big challenge when writing projects, we can also achieve it by ensuring additional income by charging for knowledge or services that we already have.

By devising different strategies and combining them, we increase the possibility of putting our ideas into practice. Thus, when applying for financial support from donors, we can slightly adjust the perspective of the project. For example, for a project initially focused on art, we can secure part of the funds intended for education, if we place it in the context of community education through appropriate artistic activities.

She also brought us closer to the difference between corporate social responsibility (CSR), sponsorship and crowdfunding as a way to secure funds. While CSR focuses on social responsibility towards the community and is primarily focused on non-profit organizations, sponsorship is carried out by an economic actor, supporting our work very often for return service or visibility that we can provide. When we talk about crowdfunding, it represents the collection of funds through community donations and can be particularly suitable for achieving additional visibility, activating the community and getting closer to it.

Tatjana encouraged the participants to contact those companies that do not necessarily have open calls to support projects and organizations, in order to ensure financial support. Although they haven’t done it up to a certain point, it is possible that they will recognize the importance of the project and the organization and that they will want to be part of a beautiful story.

Another thing that Tatjana indicated is taking into account the time needed for completion and possible corrections in the application, and that we should always ask a second opinion from someone outside the organization. It can be our mentor or some other professional who can help us evaluate whether our ideas have been articulated clearly.

A good starting point in this process is the Guide to potential sources of funding, which was prepared by Citizen Initiatives, and as a special incentive, Tatjana underlined that there is money, we just need to think about where and in what ways we can reach them in order to realize your ideas and projects.

The three most important messages

As the main messages of this workshop, we can highlight the following:

  • We need to give ourselves space and time – Building the organization’s financial capacity requires time and patience, and above all we need to dedicate ourselves to building the team’s capacity to deal with fundraising. That is the only way we will strengthen the organization in the long term.
  • Let’s be strategic and take into account all the extra work required to write projects and applications (budgeting, activities and other elements).
  • Let’s think outside the box – let’s rethink our approach and wording: What are the other themes related to the primary ones defined in the project, and how can they provide us with funds? Which companies (small or medium-sized) could support us? How can we best bring our idea closer to someone who comes from a different culture and environment?

We also wrote about this topic in detail during the V cycle, when Nathan Koeshall, founder and director of the Catalyst Balkans foundation, alumni mentor of our program, and Dragana Jevtić, founder and director of Creative mentorship, also shared their insights on this topic, in addition to Tatjana Nikolić and Tijana Jugović.

The Introduction to Fundraising workshop was also an opportunity to remind ourselves that summer is the right time to continue working at a slower pace, on projects and with mentors, to reflect on the steps taken so far and to dedicate ourselves to segments that we haven’t had enough time to work on so far. We look forward to new workshops and insights soon!