- Read the guidelines
You will not be eligible for every grant that is available. There is nothing worse than spending days putting together an application to find out that your application has been rejected because of something you overlooked in the guidelines. Eligibility may be anything from where you live, to where the project is taking place, to how many other partners that you have on board. We recommend that you read the guidelines three times over, as there is always bound to be something you pick up that didn’t sink in previously.
- Create a false deadline
It seems that it is human nature to work right up to the wire. However if you do your application will suffer, decreasing your chance of success if you push it to the final minute of the deadline. Finishing your application early allows you to leave it for a couple of days and go back to read it with fresh eyes. This gives you valuable time to give it a final polish. Perhaps more importantly, you avoid technical difficulties that often occur with online grants portals. Heavy traffic makes the portals slow down and crash. Funding bodies won’t always be available after hours to help you with technical problems, and we have had artists miss out on submitting their applications because they encountered a problem at the last minute.
- Speak to the funding bodies
The funding bodies are there to answer your questions. That is part of their job. Make sure that you call them up to discuss your idea before you start the application, and with any questions that you have. Keep in mind that they will have more time to talk with you 4 weeks out from a deadline than 4 days. As well as clarifying any expectations that they have, it is good to speak to the program managers, as then they will be familiar with your project. Most grants are peer assessed, but the program managers are in the room when the decisions are made, and if they are familiar with your project, they can offer clarity to the assessors if there is something in your application that is unclear.
- Be concise
Try to say as much as possible in as few words as you can. Assessors are often reading hundreds of applications. Your application will stand out if you are clear and concise and jargon free. Get someone who you know is an artist, has assessed applications before, or who has a successful history in receiving grants to read your application and give you feedback, but also ask someone who has no knowledge of the arts to read your application and let you know what isn’t clear to them.
- How does your project benefit the funding body?
Find out and consider what is in it for the funding body that you are applying for. This will help you frame your application. For example City Councils want an outcome that will benefit their community. City of Melbourne are more interested in ideas that make Melbourne an exciting and liveable city. Does your project achieve this? Creative Victoria are more interested in developing the careers of Victorian artists and making sure they are paid professional wages as well as having a vibrant cultural life for Victorians.
- Great support materials
Having great photographs or short video teaser of your project will help the assessors get a clearer idea of what you are proposing. It is worth spending some time putting this together, and will definitely strengthen your application. Artists often are looking for grant writers to help them write their grants. It is worth considering putting some money into compiling spectacular support materials rather than paying someone to write your grant. Timelines are also an important addition to support materials, as they allow you to show the history and future of the project beyond the stage you are applying for.
- Don’t give up
Applying for funding needs to be treated as a long game. On average less than 25% of applications receive funding. If you are unsuccessful, make sure you ring up and get feedback on your application. Use this information to strengthen your application next time. It could be that you need to clarify your artistic rationale, or that your marketing plan was weak. It can be devastating having your application rejected when you have put your heart and soul into it, but you should use the process as an opportunity to hone your grant writing skills. You may find that your idea develops over this time as well.