How to Apply for Grants with Dara Silver
TIPS ON APPLYING FOR GRANTS AND PROJECT WORK
WITH DARA SILVER OF THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL
Creatives can generate an infinite amount of amazing ideas. Generating the funds to bring those ideas to life isn’t quite as easy or exciting. But, it’s an absolute necessity.
That said, how do you craft an effective grant application? For advice on that, we turned to our friend Dara Silver, senior program director at the NC Arts Council. Silver reads hundreds of applications for arts funding every year and she wants to help you write applications she’ll enjoy reading … and funding.
GRANT ADVICE FROM A PROFESSIONAL GRANT READER
Silver joined us for an online training session in June where she provided insight into what makes the difference between applications that secure funding and those that don’t. We highly suggest you consult her slide deck and watch this full video of her talk.
BELOW ARE A FEW OF OUR KEY THOUGHTS AND TAKEAWAYS INSPIRED BY SILVER’S TALK.
Give yourself as much time as possible.
Don’t wait until the last minute. Grantors are serious about application deadlines. If your application is a minute late, it’s a minute dead.
Read (a lot) before you write.
Before you start to write and fill out grant forms, read. READ. READ. READ.
Before you do anything, learn as much as you can about the grant. Read the actual grant questions and requirements all the way through … twice. Read the grant website. Look for a Q & A section or a grant outline page. Find out if there are live/online grant education sessions.
Good things (may) come to those who plan ahead.
Silver advises that grant readers may agree to read your application and give you helpful feedback before you submit your final application. But, you’ll need to ask for it and give them time. The week the grant is due is likely too late to ask for their help.
Make sure you (and your idea) are eligible.
It’s too easy to get excited about how the grant can help you and overlook the fact that you do not fit the grant criteria. Or may miss that the grant has restrictions that will not allow you to use the funds as you hoped. Before diving in head first, make sure you’re eligible. Reviewing past people, organizations and projects the grant has funded is a big help here. Often, grants offer an online list of past grantees.
Tell your story to sell your story.
This is where you should spend the bulk of your time. To sell your story, you need to tell your story well. An effective grant engages the imagination and the heart as well as the head. You want anyone who reads your application to know who you are, what you want to do, why this project is important to you, why it matters to the public, why you are the right person or organization to get it done and how you’ll complete it successfully.
Don’t go it alone. Find effective proofreaders.
Make sure you reserve time for someone (better still, several “someones”) to read your grant application to ensure it makes sense, is engaging and error-free (typos and facts). Ask people who will tell you the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable. Friends who don’t want to risk hurting your feelings won’t help you here.
Do the math. And, make sure it adds up.
Vague, unrealistic or sloppy budgets can dampen the enthusiasm of a reviewer quickly. It’s one thing to sell them on an amazing idea. It’s another to prove to them you have a realistic plan to use resources to get it done. As much as your project needs to paint an easy-to-understand and compelling vision of what you’ll create, an effective budget creates confidence in how you’ll do it. If the grant offers a budget template, use that. For suggestions on crafting a project budget, watch this video from Priya Sircar, arts and culture officer from the City of Charlotte.
Show your work.
Include exciting, vibrant and recent work samples that are similar to what you are proposing. Give reviewers an idea of your process and work ethic in the images you provide. Often, you may share your website and Instagram feed to offer extra imagery. If you don’t have previous work that matches your proposal, create mock-ups and submit those.
READY, SET … APPLY!
Now that you have expert advice on grant application strategies, it’s time to put them into practice.
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