How to Write a Grant

A few weeks ago I wrote about researching and finding grants. So the obvious next step is writing one.  I used to write them, and now I read them, so I’d like to think I know a good grant when I see it. Here are my tips for artists and/or arts organizations writing a grant.

1. Read the directions. This seems obvious, but many people don’t do it.  The grant guidelines will tell you what the organization is funding (are you even in their scope of interest? can you be an individual artist, or may only 501c3 organizations apply?), what is due (a letter of intent? work samples?) and when (and mark the date on your calendar!). Someone took the time to write all of that down for you.  They mean it.  If they ask for 5 pages, don’t write them 2 or 10. If it says don’t include supplement materials, don’t, no matter how great your brochure or DVD is. If you don’t follow the directions, your application will most likely be thrown out, and not reviewed at all.
2. Ask questions. If there is something in the guidelines you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to call or email the contact person and ask.  S/he is there for that very reason! Again though, follow the directions, as there is usually a preferred method of contact.
3. Make contact. You should be calling or emailing the contact person anyway, especially if it is your first application.  Your conversation should be something like this “ Hello, _______. My name is _________ from ______________. We are submitting a grant proposal to you for your next funding cycle. Is there anything I should know?” I’ve gotten answers ranging from “Nope, thanks for calling” to excellent information regarding a funder’s strong interest in seeing that an organization is participating in evaluation for longevity and sustainability, not just impact.  That was great for me to know as I wrote! One even told me that although dance was listed on their website, that was an error, and they would not be funding dance that cycle.  Huge timesaver!
4. Know how to say it in 1 sentence, 1 paragraph and 1 page. You should be able to say your mission statement, your history, your program/project goals, your needs and your conclusion in 3 different ways.  I found that the 1 page is the easiest.  It was hard to edit it down, because of course, everything I wrote was brilliant and an important part of the answer! Practice writing all 3 types. And then save them in your slush file.
5. Have a slush file. Most grants ask the same questions, just in a slightly different way. Copy and paste is your friend. My slush file when I was writing was the best of the best. Anything that I wrote that I thought was good, whether it was a grant, a newsletter article, a blog post, etc. I kept it all in one folder on my flash drive. Then, I could go find the good stuff, tweak it a bit, and be done in an hour or two, instead of a day or two.
6. Watch your words. That “slightly different way” I mention in #5 is important.  Does the funder call it a program or a project? Are they clients or population served? This matters to the people reviewing your application. It shows them you read their guidelines, researched their organization, and are not just sending out a boilerplate app for every opportunity that comes along. Everyone likes to feel special, even foundations and corporations!
7. Avoid passive voice whenever possible. Ok, this is a grammar police pet peeve of mine. It is not the most important tip on here. But, it really does make your writing much stronger.  Try to rework your  “________ will provide” or “I will be ___________” to “_________ provides” or “I am _______” whenever possible. Showing your current engagement in your project reads more convincingly.
8. Edit. Your first draft should not be sent. Spell check. Read it out loud. This is really helpful for finding passive voice and learning that you used community 18 time in one paragraph.  
9. Have someone else read your proposal. Preferably someone not involved in your organization or project. You live this everyday. Your jargon makes perfect sense to you. Your end goal is so much a part of your everyday life that getting an outside perspective can be difficult. A fresh point of view can be very helpful in clarifying your statements, editing out the extras, and finding typos you may have missed.
10. Check it off. Review the questions. Did you answer them all? Review the attachments? Did you include them all?

Those of you that write grants, are there any important steps in here I missed? Was there anything new or extra-helpful here?