7 Simple Grant-Writing Tips

Are you dreaming of taking a watercolor workshop? Are you longing for snazzier frames? Would you like to finally launch your own website? It might be time for you to apply for an art grant. A grant is a gift (not a loan) of money to further the goals of an individual or an organization, and it may be what you need to boost your artistic career.

Last fall, I decided to take the plunge and write what would be my first of many grant proposals. As a result, I received a Regional Artist Project Grant from The United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County to attend the 2008 Charles Reid workshop organized by the Watercolor Society of North Carolina. I’ve outlined below what I learned from my grant writing experience.

1. Set clear goals. Artists have the same need for money as most folks, but to receive a grant you have to identify a specific art-related need. You must be able to clearly define a feasible goal that costs a specific amount of money. For example, you may want to take a course or workshop, mount an exhibition, produce a catalog or create marketing material.

2. Find the right match. This may sound more like dating advice, but, when it comes to getting grants, shared goals are essential. Find the organization that provides funds for exactly what you want to accomplish. It’s important not to twist and distort your goals to fit the expectations of the funding source. When I read the goal statement for the Regional Artist Project Grants, for instance, I thought, “Hey, that’s me they’re talking about.”

3. Share your passion. Your artwork will speak to your talent, but your proposal has to illuminate what motivates you to create. It’s important to let the granter know that you have the drive to meet your goal.

4. Follow directions. Being unique is wonderful when you’re painting, but when preparing a grant proposal, it’s absolutely necessary to do as you’re told. Include all the requested material in an organized packet. Write your narrative to include all the required information. If the prospectus stipulates a one-page narrative, three pages will not be even more impressive. Put yourself in the place of the person receiving your packet.  Spare that person the headache of searching for missing items or reading through a long, rambling narrative. Make sure your submission is clear and to the point.

5. Create a realistic project budget. Make sure you request enough money to complete your goal—this requires careful planning. Contact people who’ve done similar projects and ask if there were any unexpected costs. Get current estimates. Don’t base your budget on last year’s prices. Once you’ve gathered this information, present it in a clear, concise budget. Be sure to note all costs, even those that you may plan to cover yourself.

6. Get feedback. Show your proposal to other artists who’ve taken on similar projects. Granters will sometimes organize meetings to assist applicants in the preparation of their proposals. Some organizations generously offer to preview submissions. Take full advantage of this assistance.

7. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It’s important to persevere and not let rejection paralyze you. I follow up with questions when I get a rejection letter, and contact the granting organization for feedback on the proposal. Ask who was accepted, so you can learn from the success of other talented people. Finally, focus on the next project. These steps help me stop dwelling on my rejection and get on with life.

Grant sources to investigate:

Americans for the Arts   

The Foundation Center
   
Federal Government Grants   

National Endowment for the Arts Grants

Check also with your local arts council or art center.

Linda Dallas is a professional artist and illustrator living in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Watercolor Artist.




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