As 2019 comes to a close, we’re getting ready to dive into a new year of grants, starting with Projects, one of our biggest funding programs. We checked in with some our grant managers to find out what advice they have for folks planning to apply this coming year. Even though the grants they manage all differ, we heard strong common themes that can help you not only with Projects, but all 4Culture grants—and probably even with grants from other funders. Happy applying!
1. Start early
Every grant manager we talked to echoed this one: start early. Heather Dwyer, who administers our Art Projects grant for individuals, says, “More than half of the applications I receive for the program arrive in the last 24 hours before the deadline. They shouldn’t! It’s stressful for them and administrators can’t offer as much help as we’d like at the last minute.” We typically open applications 6–8 weeks before a deadline—you can start your application and save it as a draft right up until you click submit. Melissa Newbill, who manages our Open4Culture grant, says, “Save often!” Plus, getting started early gives you plenty of time to follow our next piece of advice…
2. Read everything
When you first check out a guidelines page for a grant you’re interested in, it can be a daunting amount of information—but it really is all important. Again, all of our grant managers agree: read the guidelines in full before starting the application. Brandi Link, Preservation Special Projects manager, recommends tackling this in a way that works best for you: “Print them out, write questions on them, highlight, circle text, whatever you need to do to process the information.” Chieko Phillips, who manages Heritage Projects, adds “Pay extra attention to the review criteria. These are what grant reviewers weigh your application against when they are reading and scoring your applications and can help you decide how you describe your project.”
3. Reach out
We list contact names, emails, and phone numbers for all of our grants for a reason. “Get in touch with that person about your interest in applying. Not only if you have questions—introduce yourself and your ideas,” says Brandi. A reminder from Melissa: grant managers will even review your draft application if you send it to them at least two weeks before the deadline. Heather recommends that applicants make sure to, “use any and all assistance offered by the grantmaker. Attend workshops, review sample applications from past applicants, email or call with specific questions.” Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We know applying for grants isn’t easy!
4. Understand the grant
Every funding organization and grant is different, and your application will almost always be one of many. First, make sure you qualify for the grant: “I receive applications every year from artists who have spent many hours on an application that’s not eligible. It breaks my heart!” Next, do your research. Heather says, “Artists should find out why and how the grantmaker offers funding. What is the organization’s motivation? Where do the funds come from? Knowing this will help the artist understand if the grant is a good fit and use language that is relevant to the grantmaker.” Finally, understand that your application will be evaluated in a pool of other applicants. “Grants are competitive,” says Brandi. “So, do everything you can to make your application as competitive as possible: be realistic with your budget, write clearly, and give as many details about the project as you can.”