Whether Granted or Not

How many writers get grants each year? According to 2007 statistics, of the 2,628 grants awarded that year 1,169 went to literary artists. That means over 44% of artists’ grants awarded went to writers.

What does that figure mean for the average writer? It tells the writer who wants to do a project requiring more than seat-of-the-pants activity and subject research that she has close to a 50% chance of getting financial/material help with her project. To take that chance, the writer must give a well-planned and executed grant proposal.

If you’ve never dealt with grants before, don’t despair. Right now there’s close to a 50-50 chance of getting a much-needed boost for a project. Those are the best odds that anyone can have for anything.

Gigi Rosenberg, in her book “The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing,” gives the newbie a great walk through the entire process, including a look at her own history with the subject. Gigi explains that: “A grant is money that an organization gives away to fund a project its founders believe in. …landing a grant… usually involves writing a proposal or grant application. In your proposal, you have to support your project, and how you intend to spend the funds. You are expected to include a detailed budget and samples of your work. Your application is judged by a panel of your peers—that means other artists—in a competitive process.”

Grants come in all sizes and types, according to project and artist needs. Few funders will bankroll the total project. What the applicant needs to keep in mind is the funding can come from several sources and needn’t rely on only one grant. A series of small awards add up to substantial help.

How you prepare for writing the proposal is as important as to whom the proposal is sent. You have research to do before making your bid for a grant. As with writing a killer novel, preparation is nine-tenths of the work.

Rosenberg and other experts such as Caroll Michels, Jackie Battenfield, and Heather Darcy Bhandari with Jonathan Melber recommend beginning by putting together a support team to help you. This team effort has several purposes. From brainstorming with artist friends who know and can honestly evaluate your work to community members/businesses that might provide assistance in-kind for your proposed project, this team can make or break your ability to pinpoint what you need to concentrate on for our grant proposal.


Art/Work (Photo credit: atduskgreg)

Once you have that information, you can begin sifting through the hundreds of funding agencies to find ones that will fit your needs and your project. It would do little good to write a proposal for a poetry book proposal with CD of readings and then send it to a funder who deals exclusively with visual artists in oils. You want to choose the tightest fits you can before sending for one of funding applications.

If you believe, wholeheartedly, in your project, the research process will also help define that project to the nth degree. Take that time and don’t rush it. Come to terms with your own desires and your expectations for the project before trying to sell it to a funder.

Also, if you can produce one proposal, you can produce more. The only things that change between granting organization proposals are guidelines, forms, and details. Since you’ve done the proper research on your project and those resources already available to you, you can apply for several grants at the same time.

Do you need financial help to travel to gather the information you’ll use for your project—perhaps on site research? Apply for that help. Do you need more education to become the writer you really believe you can be? There are grants out there for that specific purpose. How about your need to get a writer’s website built by a professional? You guessed it. You can get help for that, too.

These are the types of details that you can include in a grant proposal. These are also the kinds of things you need to discover while putting your team together and looking at the long-range project. Only then can you fill in all the pertinent details on those applications.

The grant process takes time. Getting your entire flotilla headed in the right direction requires patience, with yourself and the process. Once you get to the point of sending off your application proposal–making sure to follow the funder’s guidelines to the letter–you get to wait for results.

That waiting time depends on the organization that receives the proposal and what you’re requesting. It could last as long as a few months. When you realize how many funders there are looking for artists to give money to, getting an early rejection for a proposal doesn’t carry much weight. Regroup, apply to another funder and keep believing.

If this path interests you, you can get much-needed help by reading the following books on the subject.

Each of these books has fabulous information, tips, and practical solutions for the artist, regardless of discipline. Take an opportunity to begin reading up on what could keep you writing for a long time. Remember that some grants are specific to fellowships, residences, and retreats. Wouldn’t you like to get away for a couple of weeks to a quiet spot to commune with Muse on that expanding career of yours?

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