Grant Writing 101

Hi and welcome to the first in my series “Grant Writing 101.” This series of web tutorials will review the components of a grant proposal and is geared towards artists and arts organizations who are seeking grant funding to support their artistic endeavors. 

Over the course of the next few months, I’ll post weekly tutorials reviewing a different component of a successful grant application and how to interpret grant “lingo.”  

Some of the topics we will cover: 

  1. Why you should seek grant funding?
  2. If you are eligible to seek grant funding
  3. The parts of a grant proposal, including components like the
    • Program or project description
    • The statement of need or case statement
    • Addressing your target audience
    • Budgets and budget narratives and other financial matters
    • Creating measurable goals and objectives
    • Simple evaluation methods for your program or project
    • A cover letter
    • Work samples
    • Programming history and audience tracking and demographics
    • And more

We’ll also look at how to identify grant opportunities and determine how to prioritize different opportunities.

I hope this will unveil some of the mystique of grant writing and fundraising. 

Today I want to talk about, briefly and in general, why and when you should seek grant funding and whether or not you are eligible to see grant funding. 

Many times, people start a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and immediately believe they are eligible for grant funds. In my experience, it is unlikely that on day one of your operations as an incorporated nonprofit that you will be eligible for grant funding. Foundations and government agencies typically want to see 3-5 years of operations and programming to consider you financially stable enough of a risk to make a grant award to.  

Additionally, many grant opportunities require that you, as an organization, have a minimum operating budget to apply to that specific opportunity. It could be anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000. Each opportunity will have specific eligibility criteria.  

Now, this doesn’t mean that just because your annual operating budget is only $10,000 that you can’t get a grant. There are many grants available for small organizations. But a reliable track record of programming is key.  

It’s about the same for the individual artist. To be considered for a grant, you will often need to have some history of showing your work, whether it’s in informal showcases or formal presentations. Even as an “emerging artist,” you’ll need some track record. Now, it is slightly different for individual artists in that the opportunities for scholarships and grants can range widely on the minimum eligibility criteria, but even emerging artists will have been presenting work, even in informal venues, for 3-5 years (generally speaking).  

We’ll look at this more in a coming episode where we compare some specific opportunities and their eligibility requirements.  

So that is on eligibility, but what about WHEN or WHY you seek grant funding? 

Many people think of grants as free money. But it’s not really. A grant comes with a grant agreement or contract. And the agreement or contract is simple, the grantor, either a foundation or agency or sometimes business, believes that the artwork you produce or art programs you present are important to be available to the public at-large. So they are, in essence, paying you to contribute that art to society. So your responsibility, then, is to create this art.  

If you look at this way, then it’s reasonable also to consider: “why is my art important to society or the public? Why is it important to me or my audience?” “Who will benefit from my art?” “What will they learn?”  

Start thinking about those questions and we’ll come back to them as we develop a case statement and statement of need.  

Of course, the biggest reason to seek grant funding is because you need money to produce your work. But remember, if you are awarded a grant, you need to make sure you have the capacity to fulfill the grant and the grantor’s expectations, which could include matching the grant with your own funds and reporting back to them on the use of the grant.  

I hope this has helped give you some ideas for what you might seek grant funds for and if you are eligible. You can leave questions or comments in the box below or on Facebook or Instagram. 

Join me next week when we look at putting your proposal together in a program description.  

Thanks for joining me and remember the first rule of fundraising: ASK!  

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