Are you an artist, or someone who wants to be an artist? Would you like to have the wherewithal to help fund your endeavours, but are not sure how to go about getting the kind of money you need to realise your artistic dream? Well, perhaps we can offer some help.

When it comes to writing effective grant applications, having a lot of patience is part of the job. It’s a lengthy, highly competitive process, and it can take several attempts to see a return on your efforts in terms of funding money. So, while many would prefer to spend time making art rather than securing funding, the truth is making art is a lot easier when you have some financial backing in the form of a grant. And that takes work too.

5 Tips for Writing Effective Grant Applications

1. Identify Your Project

Before you start researching and applying for grants, clarify your project by writing it down on paper. Think about things such as:

  • What your idea is exactly
  • What kind of project it is that you’re creating
  • Who your are collaborators, if any
  • The venue where your art will ideally be shown, displayed or performed (for example: art gallery, online store, retail outlet, concert hall, theatre, showroom—and remember, these venues can be either “bricks and mortar” or virtual)
  • A detailed list of all budget requirements, itemized in order of importance
  • Explain passionately why you’re doing it, outlining the reason(s) why yours should be granted funding over anyone else’s

2. Understand the Funding Landscape

  • Identify your discipline: writing, dance, film, music, theatre, fine arts (sculpture, printmaking, painting, photography, textile and fibre art, etc.) to narrow down your funding options
  • Create a calendar of all grants available and application deadlines and keep it updated
  • Visit funder sites on a regular basis – attend events such as Canada Council for the Arts information sessions and subscribe to all relevant mailing and membership lists to stay on top of new funding opportunities

3. Familiarize Yourself With the Application Process

Understand what kinds of projects the various funders favour and choose who you’ll approach appropriately. Once you’ve made your choice, it’s a good idea to research who they’ve awarded grants to in the past and how often, and also make yourself aware of any specific protocols that need to be followed. If you’re not sure your project meets eligibility criteria, do not hesitate to contact the agency program officer for clarification.

4. Know Your Jury

This is a critical point and one that if ignored could make or break your efforts to get a grant to fund your project. Most sources of arts funding are transparent about how their decision-making process works, so do your due diligence and research the jurors. Some grant funders may have a jury made up of artists (peer-to-peer), or perhaps composed of business leaders, or community members, amongst others. Think about who will read your application/proposal and write it with them in mind.

5. Ensure Your Application is Dynamic

When you get to the stage where you are filling out forms, consider the following:

  • Choose your title carefully, making sure it reflects your project
  • Your project summary (usually around 200 words) is crucial and should clearly capture the nature, format, context, and essence of your project
  • Use active verbs and so-called power words as descriptors
  • Respect word limits and avoid industry jargon – instead, emphasize what makes your project compelling, original, unique, and important
  • Focus on one idea per paragraph in your project description keeping it between one and four pages long
  • Make it very clear what your budget and timeline are
  • Have an artist’s bio prepared in the event that funders request additional information about you
  • Find out what documents could be requested well in advance so you are prepared and don’t have to scramble – you may be asked for a description of the materials and techniques you’ll employ, any letters of support or intent, or resumés of any collaborators involved in your project

Practice Makes Perfect

Getting started is the toughest part of applying for arts funding. Once you have a draft application ready, consider asking an editor to review it to make sure your application communicates your project clearly. You may need to edit and re-edit often and apply and re-apply many times over in the course of seeking an arts grant.

It’s never too early to start writing your grant application because what we said at the beginning of this article is key: it may take time to finally be awarded one and patience will be a virtue! And keep in mind, it gets easier every time you apply, and your chances of getting that grant increase with experience.

Get More Information

For funding and grant sources in Canada, click here. Another particularly helpful website, Kindful, can be found here.