Getting a grant is becoming an increasingly competitive process and indeed grants writing is becoming an art in itself so here are some tips to help you in your quest.
Give Yourself Time
Do not underestimate the time it will take to properly put a grant application together. People still seem to leave it to the last couple of days before closing dates and it often shows in the application. With the luxury of time you can actually complete the application early and leave a few days before going back and apply a very critical eye as if you were assessing the application.
Is it the Right Grant?
Don’t waste your time! If your organisation doesn’t have the right legal status, or your project doesn’t fit the guidelines, don’t bother sending it in ‘just in case’. Applying for grants takes a lot of time and energy. Before you embark on an application, read through the guidelines and talk to someone in the funding organisation to make sure the grant you are applying for is appropriate for your project.
Do Your Homework
There are two things you should do before even starting with your application. First go through the list of successful applicants from the previous year or so which are usually available. This will give you a very good fell of the types of the projects being approved. Then read any assessments guides that have been provided from previous years. If they stress certain things you can be sure they will be looking for those again or they will note changes that have been made. If you have previously applied do not simply use your previous application without checking whether the criteria have changed.
What are they looking for?
Find out what you can not only about the grant but the funding organisation. Look at the organisation’s website, printed material they publish and talk to them on the phone. What are their key objectives, mission statement or future strategies? It is important that you can identify how your project will fulfil these objectives. Think of this as an application for a job. If the employer advertises for an office manager to fulfil their mission, you wouldn’t write offering your services as an engineer. The same applies to a funder looking for a project; they want a project that fits smoothly into their activities and helps it fulfil its mission.
Is your pitch right- what’s going to sell your project?
Focus on the solution not the problem and how to achieve it. Brainstorm the important factors of your project to sell it to someone with little knowledge of it or your organisation. How will it stand out from the crowd, what’s so special about your project, why should it be funded over many others? Start from the proposition, “We need to do this work which will provide immense benefit to the community, and we need money to do that.”
Be succinct- sell it in the first line!
Keep it short. The person or people reading your submission may be reading dozens or even hundreds of them and if yours is informative and concise it will stand out and be appreciated. You need to attract their attention in the first line of the application or the project summary. It is also important to get your message across clearly with as few words as possible. It needs to be quick and easy for the grant body to understand what you need and why you need it. If there is a word limit stick to it
Many grant applications can now only be done online. Download a word document and do your drafts separate to the online process and do not do the actual application until you are really happy with its content. Again do not leave until the last minute especially if it is a grant with the potential for many applicants trying to go online at the last minute.
Who is going to manage the project?
You need to be clear about how the project is to be managed from the outset. Not only will this make the grant body more confident in your organisation’s management ability but it will make the internal management of the project much smoother.
What credibility do you have?
Many grant applications have a number of questions about constitutions, annual reports, previous or current grants. These questions help the funding body to understand how you operate and have confidence that you will be able to manage the project successfully. If you can’t provide requested information explain why rather than leave it hanging in the air.
Can you collaborate?
Funding bodies want to see their funds spread as far as possible. If you can show that through collaboration/partnership the funding will be able to assist several organisations, this is generally very well received. Look to other artists or community groups to work and remember these may not need to be arts related.
Letters of Support
The request for letters of support has become more important in recent years in determining grant applications and is a matter often emphasised in assessment reviews as poorly done. Do not treat this as a minor request but think laterally as to how widely the benefits of your project may impact and get letters from all who may be involved or benefit.