A grant well written is money in the bank.
Any questions? In my opinion, that is enough of a reason to learn the art of writing grants.
Who writes grants?
You. Do you have a project you are passionate about? Are you an artist who needs a helping hand? Is your mission unique? Why shouldn’t it be you receiving an award letter and a check?
I spend a lot of time around grants. Over the past ten years I have found myself writing grants and sitting on grant panels around the country for many foundations and agencies. Grants that get funded stand out for several reasons, all of which I am going to share with you so that you can sharpen your skills in writing successful grants.
What do you need to know to get started?
A grant is more than an application. A successful grant is a relationship. Some of the best grants I have ever received were awarded before I even downloaded the application simply because of the strong working relationship and history I had with the funder. In some cases, I look at the grant application as a calling card, a way to get to know a funder and to see if we have good chemistry. It boils down to this: a funder awards you a grant to do your work which you are passionate about because it fulfills the mission of what the funder is passionate about. You are helping each other. If you can get this into the bones of your thinking and writing, you will be very successful.
1 Be very clear and answer the following question: Why do you deserve to exist?
This is the most important sentence you will ever write. If you can tell me why you deserve to exist, you are telling me why you deserve to be funded in a compelling declaration that will be impossible to turn away.
My work with immigrant high school students transforms their lives
Let your answer to this question inspire your writing.
2 Tell me what you want to do
This is place for simple, direct sentences that answer who, what, when, where, why and how. Open your narrative like this:
We respectfully request $10,000 to hire a marketing consultant (not you or your board member) to create a visual identity package to build awareness of our signature reading series as podcasts on iTunes and other web platforms.
Make it easy for the panel to find all of the important information in the first sentence. Believe me, panelists get cranky if they have to dig through an application to figure out what you are going to do with the money.
3. Do the math
If you don’t understand your budget, neither will I. And that is not good because a questionable budget always invites doubt. If there is a line item that needs clarification, write budget notes. Lots of them.
4. Be specific and answer this question when you talk about your outcomes: How will you make the world a better place?
This is not about you. This is about us. The work you do, the mission of the funder, the world we live in. Show me how your touch will make a difference.
With this funding, our audience base will increase its appreciation of translated texts by experiencing curated presentations of work by local writers from other countries.
5. Learn more
If your application has been turned down, cheer up and recognize this as an opportunity to begin a relationship with a funder. After you are done moping around feeling sorry for yourself, pick up the phone and call for panel comments. Express an interest in learning what the panel said about your application so that you can write a better one next time. Even if you did get the grant. Whenever possible, I ask for meetings. You should too. I am amazed at how many people do not do this and blindly go on repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
If the funder is looking for panelists, volunteer to serve on one of their panels. This is an unbelievably enlightening opportunity for you to learn how a panel makes decisions.
Grants are extremely stylized stories we write to convince people to join our cause and support us. Not all that different from advertising, politics, advocacy, community organizing, rock bands, small business or any other arena of human interaction. By following the advice above, you too can get money in the bank.
But wait, there’s more!
Visit Queens Council on the Arts and you will find video tutorials, screencasts, workshops and a PDF of a grantwriting primer you can download.
Get more Wow!
If you want style notes and more for people who change the world, please check out:
Getting to Wow! to feel good, do good and look good
Nonprofit Knitwear for all things knit and nonprofit
Style Notes from me, your artspy
– Subscribe and get a little Wow! every day
– Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
– Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @hylkrakauer)
– Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
Thanks so much! I really appreciate your help.
Word of mouth is the best way to share, don’t you agree?