Thinking about writing a grant to fund your next project but feeling a little scared? Have you been writing grants with no luck? After grant writing for myself for over 6 years, and with a 98% success rate, Here are 5 Steps that I always follow. These can be applied to any application to get you on the right track to landing that grant, easy peasy.
Look for a grant that aligns with you and your needs. Ask yourself if there’s anything that excites you about working under this organization. If you make eco-art, do they support sustainability initiatives? If you’re looking for a grant to start business, do they support new businesses or ones that have a significant track record? You’ll have the best shot with a grant program that is already lined up with what you’re doing. Organizations often tend to lean one way or the other. They will say if there are specific requirements that you will need to follow closely, but aside from that try to find the best match possible.
For example, if you are a young woman of color looking to start a tech business to teach kids, then you’re going to want to look for anything that supports one or more of these categories: women, women in business, women of color, kids, education, community building, STEM, women in STEM, kids in STEM, girls in STEM, innovation, etc. Get creative with it, the more aligned you are to the grantor the more likely you are to become their grantee.
Pro Tip: Don’t cater your project to suit their needs, instead look for a grant that fits you.
WHAT'S YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE?
Okay okay, don’t send them flowers and chocolate because that’s probably considered bribery and NOT what you want to do. What you can do is learn about the organization that you’re applying to. How did they get their start? What’s their mission statement? Is there anything in there that aligns with your project? Be sure to bring that out in your proposal, and don’t be afraid to even use some of their words (without plagiarizing, obvi.). Doing your research on them shows that you’re paying attention, and that you’re committed. Plus, it might even help you hash out some of the details in your proposal.
EDIT EDIT EDIT
The best grant applications have gone through many iterations. This is the singularly most important piece of advice that I can give you. Edit until you’re sick of reading what you wrote, edit until you hate your idea, edit until you’re little fingers bleed. Okay maybe don’t do that, but seriously edit it. It’s important to keep in mind that whoever you’re sending your application to has never seen your work, has never heard of you, and has no idea what you care about. What’s common sense to you, is totally foreign to them. Allow yourself the freedom to be objective about your work, it will payoff.
Take a break. Write for a day, skip a few days, write for a day. I always get the best results when I take a step back. When I come back to it, my brain has had time to refresh and I can see things more clearly. Then, it’s much easier to chop out the unnecessary bits and to hone in on the important stuff.
Send it to a friend. It’s always great to get outsider input. Consider sending your draft to a friend or colleague who you trust, and who will give you honest constructive feedback. If you have a past professor or mentor who is willing to read your draft, send it to them as well. It’s often helpful to get feedback from both people who know your work, and people who don’t know your work.
NOT ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD
Be patient. As one of the most impatient people I know, I totally get that this is super difficult, especially when you have a lot on the line, and when it’s something that you care deeply about. But here’s the thing - you are going to get rejected. You might even get rejected often. But that doesn’t mean that your art and ideas aren’t worth it. It means that there are a lot of people out there with a lot of great ideas, and that this just wasn’t the right time, or the right program for you.
If you’re waiting to hear back from an opportunity and its taking forever, there’s no shame in reaching out. Send a polite follow-up email a few weeks after the submission deadline. If you still don’t hear anything, it’s okay to send a second follow-up. I’d back off after that, chalk it up to Mercury being wherever the hell it is and move on. Putting yourself out there is scary, but it gets easier the more you do it.
A LOT OF EGGS IN MANY BASKETS
Remember when your parents always said “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”? Its true. Apply to many grants and opportunities because you never know which ones you’ll get. I made the mistake of applying to only one scholarship program in my last year of college for a study abroad trip. The scholarship was the exact amount of money I needed, and I had all the right requirements for it. I worked on the application for weeks, met with multiple mentors, crafted a beautiful letter - I had a really great shot. And guess what? I didn’t get it, and I didn’t get to go on that trip. It really sucked, but it also taught me to look for funding in broader ways. Consider as many grants and opportunities as possible, you never know what you may find.
You’re ready to get started! Remember, grant writing isn’t a walk in the park. It’s often rather dry and tedious work that can leave you frustrated and disappointed, and that’s totally okay. Grant writing can also be incredibly rewarding, both financially and for recognition of your work. Remember this: Your work is important. Your art is important. You have something valuable to say that people need. So don’t give up! You got this.