Gearing Up For Grants #5: Communicating Your Needs
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
Welcome back to the fifth article on grants! Now that you've defined your project, sorted out a budget and know which grants to which you're going to apply to get funding, now we're on to the most exciting part (and what takes the most amount of effort)...actually filling out the application. Gasp!
But it's not as daunting as it looks. I mean, I've done it myself, and I was just a somewhat inexperienced college student. That's why I'm here to make the process easier for you. And to make this step a lot more digestible, I'm going to break it down into three sections:
Crafting a summary
Writing the proposal
How to prepare yourself mentally
In the application, the first thing they will often ask is for you to summarize what exactly your project is. And you usually have a word or character limit, so it's best to get to the bare bones of what it entails. If you read Article #1, you should already have an idea of it.
Some questions you can ask yourself, in the form of the who, what, where, when and why:
Who's putting on the project? In some cases you'll have to list your collaborators and/or write a biography about yourself. With the biography, this is the place to talk about your most recent and impressive achievements. If you're fairly young and don't have a lot of experience, you can list any relevant studies, or any goals and what you hope to achieve with this project. You can also look at my bio in the "About" section of this website here for inspiration.
What is my project about? I'm not talking about just the storyline here, if it's a play (though that can be helpful to some degree). I mean, what topics does it cover? How is it relevant to what's going on currently? How is it relevant to the requirements? How does it match the theme, if there is one?
Where is it happening? Is it online? Then online marketing should already be included in your budget. Is it in a physical location? Then yay! Get another collaborator on board! Rent should already be in your budget.
When is it happening? Always plan stuff far in advance, and for after you anticipate receiving the grant funding.
Why should it happen? We've already covered how it fits into some requirements a grant application might have. But what I mean is, how would it benefit the granters? Why should it happen for you? How does it relate to your mission statement?
Before you panic and think, "What? I need a mission statement too?" I'll explain more in the next paragraph.
Even if you're not applying to a grant for an arts-related project, you still need a mission statement for life in general. It'll help you decide what to say yes to in life, and what not to put up with. With everything, you need to take baby steps and figure out what is important in the process before tackling on the full thing, be it getting a college diploma, getting another degree or the project you hope to achieve with this grant. Sean Covey calls this "beginning with the end in mind" in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (yes, I read this book throughout my life and still read it from time to time, but I'm sure it says the same thing in his dad Stephen R. Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
In some grant applications, you'll need a mission statement. Why do you do what you do? That's a good place to start (and it can't be to get famous, because really? You might as well not be in the arts because fame is the most volatile thing ever). What's your inspiration? What are you going at? What has been the running thread in everything you've done so far? All this will keep you stable in life, and throughout this project. And you can take it from absolutely anything, be it a song or a poem or a quote or something you make up and then add to over time.
Anyways, you'll the mission statement and the summary of your project (and the project description in full detail) from above as well as your budget to start writing the grant proposal now. Grant applications tend to be very straightforward in their questions, so as long as you have all of these and answers to the 5 questions in the summary section above, filling it out shouldn't be too difficult. Make sure to use formal language though, address the person or company you're requesting funding from directly, and always tie back to the WHY of your project to explain how the project would benefit you and them as well. And have someone proofread for grammar and numerical errors before you submit.
And the last section: how to prepare yourself mentally for whatever the outcome is while you wait for the verdict. Understand that probably all your funding might not be fulfilled, especially if it's a small local cultural council. But you might still get some money, because grants are very easy to get. So you can make up the difference in other ways, or modify your budget. But if you get rejected, it's usually one of five core reasons why. So naturally, you get up to 5 times to appeal a rejection!
I'll reveal what those 5 reasons are in the next article, and explain how to appeal a rejection convincingly. Have fun writing out your proposal!