It is hard time consuming work to write a grant application especially for a visual person to whom words do not come as naturally as imagery. But if you’re willing to invest the time you will find that there are all sorts of benefits even if you are not successful. The least of which is that you will know yourself and your work that much better and may come out of it with one hell of an artist statement.
I don’t think there is a magic formula to writing a grant proposal. You just have to write as if the jurors know absolutely nothing about you or your work. We are so close to our work that it can be difficult to remove oneself and talk about the project as if the reader knows nothing about you. Things that are obvious to you may not be to the jury.
Here are some things that may help you write your grant proposal.
- Do not try to make the grant program fit what you want to do. You as the applicant and your proposed project must meet the program eligibility guidelines
- Allow several weeks to prepare your application in order to research costs and logistics, draft a timeline/schedule, book equipment or space rental, gather support materials, and so on.
- You can apply early. As long as your proposal has been mailed in prior to your commencement date, you can start even though the deadline may be a few months away. I applied in December in order to start in January but the deadlines wasn’t until February.
- Create a Table of Contents in your draft application document to ensure you include all required information.
- Write down thoughts as they occur to you. Little snippets of ideas can really help you formulate your proposal and they can come to you when you’re doing something else.
- Keep a notebook by your bed so you can jot thoughts down.
- When preparing the budget I was told that it helps if you contribute financially to the project. For example in my budget I included travel to and from the exhibition as part of the projects budget but did not ask for that amount.
- Have someone proof read and not just for punctuation but for comprehension.
The AFA (Alberta Foundation for the Arts) has a really good General Tips document that helps you formulate your outline and write your prose.
These 4 questions from the grant tips really helped me get clear on what I need to write about.
- What you are you doing stylistically, technically, etc. to realize your “artistic vision” for this project?
- Will your project lead to technical as well as aesthetic challenges?
- Does this new project mark an artistic departure from your previous work?
- Or does this project build on and develop further your artistic activity to date?
If you follow the tips and organize your outline exactly as they have laid out it will remove a lot of confusion and provide some structure to work within.
I had a couple of things in my favour for this particular grant application. First, I already had an exhibition scheduled for the work I was going to produce. And second, I will be the only Canadian (Albertan) artist in this international exhibition.
I put emphasis on these 2 points when writing my proposal. It probably also helped that the exhibition has a curator.
If you are writing a grant, even if it for another institution, the A.F.A. General Tips document will probably help you understand and organize your proposal. They also have a great Digital Images Tip document for photographing work and a budget example to use as a template. All are available to download from the AFA’s website.