Artists need to make money and yet remain accessible to our audiences. For this reason, we depend on public funding to help keep the cost of tickets down for our consumers. To earn this public funding, we go through the intense process of writing grants. Every grant is different, as they should be, as they are all supposed to cater to different categories or types of art. I have written a few grants over the past couple of years and I have learned a few very important lessons. Thanks to massive amounts of help, I have received three grants in the past year! Here are the things I kept in mind to help me get them.
1. Start ASAP
The more time you give yourself to write the grant, the better. You may come up with a lot of questions along the way, or may get stuck on one part and need to think about it before it becomes clear to you. So give yourself some time to think over the grant, map it out however works for you, and dive into writing whenever you're ready!
2. Contact the person who works on the grant and make sure you fit the criteria
This happened to me recently, where I spent a ton of time working on a grant that I wasn't even eligible for! That's a lot of hard work down the drain! However, if you call the point of contact for your grant early on just to confirm that your project fits into the category, not only do you solidify to yourself that you'll be able to apply, but you're opening a channel of dialogue that you might need again. For instance, you may not know what something in the application means, you may not know how to find a certain document, etc. Talking to the person who knows will help you create a better application and they often love to hear that artists are really working on this stuff!
3. Read the questions/prompts/info sheets.
Super important! I like to compile all the information essential to my application into a Word document and use it for reference. Oftentimes the format you are working with has numbered categories of questions-just keep the questions there to remind yourself about what you're replying to! Make sure you read all the documents mentioned in relation to the grant. Sometimes they are difficult to find or confusing- that is why you opened that channel of communication with someone in charge! Of course, you can't call them and ask them to find answers for you, but if you're stuck then they are a great asset! Additionally, make sure you are reading and responding with understanding. Try to fit the question into your responses. Ex "why are you applying for this grant?" "I am applying for this grant because..." There is something very satisfying about this pattern when we are reading, and it will help you clarify what you need to answer. I frequently find myself arguing about how good the project is in my grants, while each of my phrases has nothing to do with what I was asked.
4. Use appropriate language and no abbrvs!
When writing grants, you have to assume that the jury doesn't know anything. So spell it out- literally! While you might think that everyone knows that the CCA is the Canada Council for the Arts, it's not a guarantee that all the jurors will know already!
5. Look at how you will be assessed
Every grant should provide information on how you will be assessed or graded, and what measurement you need to be eligile for funding (though there is no guarantee that that number WILL get you funding).
6. Get others to read it
This is super helpful when you're almost at the end of your process and your brain just can't take a step back from the grant. Having another set of eyes look over it isn't just great for proofreading, but might point out something that you've forgotten to say that's really important!
7. Assume that the jury knows nothing about you or the project
You might think that everyone around you knows what you do, but chances are that isn't true! If you have some training that's relevant to what you're trying to do, make sure you write that in the application. You want to be able to give an accurate representation of your ability to realize your vision; That means details, details, details!
8. Don't forget what's most important
It seems obvious that you're going to include the very basics, but once you've been working on the grant for a few weeks, things can get very confused. Make yourself a little list if you need to of the bare bones: what does the jury need to know? When will the project happen? Where? All those kinds of questions that NEED to be answered sometimes don't have a logical space to be written in to the application- so take advantage of that "anything else we need to know?" space!
That's my best advice, but I'm no expert. Always make sure to contact the people who run the programs you're applying to. Best of luck! Most of the time, more people qualify for funding than there is funding available. So you don't want to be good enough- you want to be the best!