Tips for Writing Successful Grant Applications
We’ve gathered pointers from several sources to help individuals applying for arts grants get a good start.
Remember, most arts funding is awarded through a competitive process, most likely by a jury of your peers. Your proposal needs to be clear, and your support material needs to help them understand what your previous work looks like.
BEFORE YOU START
- Check out the funder’s whole website and assess your fit. What grant program seems right for your idea/project/proposal? If you are not sure, call the funder’s contact person, and don’t be shy to ask questions.
- Find the deadline. Start early. Start earlier.
- Read all the GUIDELINES, even though they may seem wordy and boring. Are YOU eligible and what are you eligible for? Make sure you and your project proposal are eligible.
- Read the APPLICATION FORM from start to finish twice. Pay attention to the funder’s CHECKLIST. Make a list of what you need to do and provide.
- If it is an electronic submission and you need to register or open a “PORTAL,” on the funder’s web site, do it right away. (Some portals will take some time to approve a new account.) Remember/record your password.
WRITING YOUR APPLICATION
- Answer the actual questions the application asks. Be specific.
- Be positive. Don’t whine or complain.
- Write drafts offline first, and be prepared to write many drafts. Pay attention to word counts and the evil “character” counts indicated on the application forms in your drafts. Save and print. Edit on paper at least once.
- Be clear and concise. Avoid jargon and art-speak.
- Contextualize your work and your practice, but do not tell your whole life story unless you are making an art project about it.
- Double check for completeness and consistency.
- Pay attention to the format requested for support materials.
- Support materials take time. Start early.
- Letters of support and permissions take time. Start earlier.
- Try not to be afraid of the budget. Be precise. Get help.
- Don’t pad the budget. Don’t make false claims/promises. Don’t underestimate time/resource requirements – document your need.
- As your math teacher said, ‘show your work.’ (Eg. If you are purchasing multiple items, show how many, and how much they cost per unit.)
- Does your budget match your narrative?
ASK FOR HELP
- If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the program officer to make sure you are on the right track.
- Keep the HELP Line phone number handy. Don’t be afraid to use the HELP Line for technical support. They are usually pretty good.
- Don’t be shy. Get feedback. Absolutely get someone else to proofread your application, and double check the checklist.
- Watch the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) and other online grant writing Help videos. They are really pretty good.
- Jurors are people and usually, your peers. (Professional artists, curators, arts educators, administrators, etc.)
- It is a competition. It is likely that there will not be enough money to fund all the projects the jury would like to. A good application really matters.
[Download this page as a printable PDF here.]