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4 Tips for Beginning the Grant Writing Process

We all want grants and we know they can be a great source of funding for projects. The reality is, however, that there is not a lot of grant funding out there. As a result, grant programs tend to be extremely competitive and the funders need to be especially selective when choosing which applications to fund. In order to be considered in the top pool of grant applications, you need to put your best foot forward and submit an awesome application. Here are some tips and tools to help get you started when putting together a great grant application:

  • Make sure you’re a good fit. Even before you start putting together a proposal, you should take a look at the funding priorities and mission of the funder to establish whether or not your proposed activities are a good match for the grant. You can do this by looking not only at the guidelines, but at other recipient of the grant award. Are they artistic? Do they serve the same audience? You might not be a good fit, for example, if the funder typically provides grants for medical research (even if they do say that they fund the arts).

  • Read the guidelines and follow them closely. A common misconception is that one can use the same LOI or proposal for every grant application. While you can generally use a lot of the same information in your various proposals, many funders have different requirements. When reviewing the guidelines, you’ll want to pay close attention to formatting specifications, including whether or not they want a full proposal or a letter of intent (LOI), as well as the specific content the funder wants you to include in your application. Make sure you incorporate all guidelines unless you are told by the funder to do otherwise.

  • Get your budget(s) ready. Funders almost always ask for some sort of budget and some funders even ask for more than one! It’s always a good idea to have budgets from the previous three years on hand, as well as a projected budget for the current and upcoming fiscal years.  For grant applications, the best budgets balance. This shows the funders that you have a plan for covering all of your expenses, giving them more confidence that the prospective project will actually happen. It is absolutely appropriate to include projected income on your budget, especially if you have applications pending with other funders. Your application is also more competitive if you can prove your project’s sustainability. This means showing a variety of income sources, including earned, contributed, and even in-kind income.

  • Ask for an appropriate amount and always include one. While some funders might offer less than your ask amount, you do run the risk of not even being considered for funding if your ask amount is too high. If they post a range of funding, be sure to keep your ask amount within that range. This does not necessarily mean that you should ask for the maximum amount listed. Remember that, in asking for the maximum amount, you are likely in the same pool as many projects with larger budgets that also contain a variety of funding sources. Do some research about past awards, and pay close attention to the types of projects and organizations that received them. You should always include an ask amount as well, even if it’s not required in the guidelines. This will give your application  transparency and it lets the funder know that you’ve done your research and that you have a plan for your budget.

This is just the beginning. You’ll put in a lot of time and energy when putting together a grant application, since it requires so much research and attention to detail. Funders can tell when you submit one proposal or LOI to several different funders, especially if their specifications are disregarded. You’re always taking a chance when submitting an application, but if you get the award, it can be a great return on your investment. The most important thing is to remember not rush yourself. Take time to make the application the best it can be and hopefully your submission will then be more competitive for the grant.

Happy grant writing!