Defining the purpose of your programme

This article is part of a series sharing a decade of experience supporting you to run open calls.

Defining your purpose

Purpose is powerful. It allows you to inspire people to take part and measure your goals effectively once your program ends. Without a clearly articulated purpose, marketing your offering and getting candidates to submit will be an uphill struggle.

This article will help you define your purpose and goals for your open call through a series of critical questions.

Ask yourself why

Why are you running your programme? Are you trying to engage with your communities? Support artists? Capture data to make a case to your stakeholders?…

Your purpose will act as your guiding star across your entire process and may allow you to increase the impact of your open call. For example, if engaging with local communities is critical to your success, you may focus solely on them applying. However, there may be other ways of meaningfully engaging with those communities (e.g. inviting respected members of that community to select winners).

Creating a short statement (an elevator-pitch) to remind you and your stakeholders what you are trying to achieve will help you steer your course to achieving your goals. e.g. An award celebrating emerging talent from across the creative industries in the UK.

Fostering diversity & inclusion

If your purpose is to support a specific community of which you are not a member, it’s worth sanity checking your statement with members of that community.

Impact from the Pandemic

With a constantly changing world, make sure to stress test your statement above with current events. What worked two years ago may need a lick of paint to serve today’s needs.

Using Zealous

Your purpose is the first thing candidates will see on your profile page. As you have limited time to draw people in the field is restricted to 320 characters.

Who should submit?

Knowing who you are targeting will inform every facet of your planning. It helps shape your language, imagery, process and more. 

Ensuring you define your demographic before you start will give you a reference point for each decision you make. These are usually loosely defined on location, demographic, age, etc. You might also consider using segments defined by your stakeholders (e.g. Audience Agency spectrums) or depend on already defined ones that you use within your organisation.

Fostering diversity & inclusion

Defining who you want to submit goes a long way to make you think about how inclusive you will be.

But watch out this can be a double-edged sword. For example, focusing on age may create discrimination when supporting emerging talent (they might start late).

Impact from the Pandemic

It’s unlikely who you target is going to change based on the pandemic.

But understanding how the pandemic has impacted those you are targeting will help create a programme that serves them better at this time.

Using Zealous

To give you an additional marketing boost, once your submission open, we will share your programme with our growing network based on the location and craft you are targetting.

Let’s talk about money

Love it or hate it, you need money to run your programme. But your primary purpose cannot be making money – candidates will read right through your motives and are unlikely to submit; they may even flag you as a scam to their network. 

Define your purpose that serves those who are submitting to your programme first, then think about the money. If you think about the money first and then create a purpose around it, candidates will immediately see your motive is solely self-serving.

The same holds for those shy to ask for payment – money is necessary to grow your impact. Asking for a donation, as opposed to a fee – and allowing people to submit for free will allow you to make additional revenue and increase the positive impact you have on your community.

Fostering diversity & inclusion

Asking for mandatory payment will automatically discriminate against lower-income communities. Making your fee optional or giving some submissions for free can allow you to hold onto a revenue stream and allow for wider participation.

Impact from the Pandemic

In these uncertain times, people are likely to want to hold onto their resources. If you’ve run a paid open call in the past, it might be worth reviewing your pricing and considering a “pandemic” discount.

Using Zealous

Adding special deals (e.g. 2 for the price of 1) or free packages could allow you to boost the number of submissions you receive and still allow you to generate income.

Simplify your submissions in minutes

Experience our submission management platform with a customised online tour.

How will you measure your success?

Going on a journey without a clear destination will only lead you to get lost.

Having an understanding of what you want to achieve at this point will help define future decisions. Based on our experience, your goals are likely to be a mixture of the following:

e.g. exposure to your programme across all media, within your communities (e.g. with a public vote).

Audience growth
e.g. meaningful new contacts created (e.g. no. of submissions), and how many actively engage with you beyond the programme.

Diversify who you serve
e.g. diversity and inclusion metrics for candidates who submitted, audiences engaging with your exhibition, etc.

Social Impact
e.g. positive stories generated by winners of your programmes a year after it ran

e.g. additional money you have made running the programme

Engaging with your audience
e.g. how many of your contacts have engaged with you based on your running your programme

Fostering diversity & inclusion

Including diversity metrics in your goals reminds you of the importance of diversity to the success of your programme.

Impact from the Pandemic

It’s worth asking yourself if any of your goals have changed since the pandemic. e.g. engaging with your network might have been them coming to a physical exhibition – is that now a digital event?

Using Zealous

Your dashboard keeps track of progress as people submit. This real-time feedback allows you to tweak your strategy during your open call to achieve your goals. You can also grow exposure to your open call by opening a public vote.

Why should candidates submit?

Time is the most precious thing we own. Even if submitting to your programme is free, you will be asking candidates to invest their time in applying.

You only have a few seconds to make a case for them to submit. Boiling down what’s in it for candidates into a concise statement will form the basis of your pitch to possible candidates. This statement should fit a tweet (280 characters) and still have room for a call to action and link.

At this stage, making candidates curious is better than losing them to a paragraph of text.

Be celebrated as the future of British design, get a chance to be seen the UK’s most prominent creative institutions & win £1,000 - find out more here -

175 characters

Fostering diversity & inclusion

Beware of systemic discrimination. If your pitch is a show in central London, some communities can’t afford to travel. The same can be said of having to invest too much time submitting to uncertain pursuits.

Impact from the Pandemic

Promising anything in a physical context is dangerous at present. Make sure to define alternatives should options become unavailable to you.

Using Zealous

For maximum impact, add what’s in it for candidates in your opportunities short description on Zealous. This description is what candidates will see first and should hook them to learn more.


With so much to think about, you might end up with analysis paralysis. At this point, don’t overthink it, these are the wide brush strokes and these can evolve as you shape your process.

About the author


Guy Armitage founded Zealous to simplify access to opportunities in the creative sector. He was voted Guardian’s Creative Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013, has discussed the world-changing potential of creativity at TED and in Forbes; and is a proud trustee of Firstsite (Colchester) and Arebyte (London). Prior to Zealous, Guy kept the London Stock Exchange open during the 7/7 bombings and founded a creative startup in Cairo. Contact Guy