- Analyze successful grant applications. When you or someone you know has been awarded project funding, study the application carefully. If it’s your grant application, use it as a foundation for the next one you submit. If it is someone else’s, analyze its structure and content in relation to the project itself, and the try to emulate that in forthcoming applications. The more you read and study successful applications, the more likely you are to write one next time.
- Structure your writing in an easy-to-read format. Funders look at A LOT of applications, oftentimes over a very short period of time. It can be exhausting, so do them the favor by making yours easy on their eyes. Use spaces, bullets, capital letters, italics, line breaks, bold face and other formatting options so that your words and ideas are spaced out on the page. Not only will it convey your ideas clearly and concisely, it will be so much easier for funders to take in all the details.
- Reflect the mission statement of the grant organization. Funders have an agenda just like you do, and they’re looking for applicants who have projects that further that agenda. Copy the organization’s mission statement and paste it into your application as a placeholder. As you write your application, put the funder’s mission in your own words and place it precisely in your text so that it flows naturally. You want to let funders know (1) you are cognizant of their goals and (2) your project will serve those goals.
- Avoid “artspeak” jargon. The contemporary art world is filled with empty language, buzzwords and pompous-sounding phrases—and funders know it all too well. Use plain, specific terms to describe your project and your plans for using funding. Don’t get caught up in trying to make yourself sound intelligent by using meaningless words or articulating ideas using confusing, unnecessarily complex sentence structure.
- Finally, don’t let the grant writing process intimidate you. It might be annoying to hear, but practice does make perfect. If you’re writing a grant application for the first, second or third time, hang in there. The more you write them, the easier it will get, especially if you’re flowing through the process smartly (ie: studying successful applications, getting writing critiques, analyzing art writing, etc.).
Applying for grants is never a waste of time, even when you don’t get funding (and let’s face it, most of the time, we don’t.) That’s because every time you write an application, it forces you to reevaluate your project, and your thoughts on your project, in its current state. It also forces you to articulate your project within the format the application requires: perhaps you have to submit ten images for the current application, instead of 20, as the last application required. Putting in this time only brings you closer to your work. It serves as an impetus for evolving, and, in the big picture, that’s the most important thing.