Applying for grants takes a lot of your time and competition for available funding is high. Unfortunately, only 32% of individuals are successful with their bids for funding.
Before starting your grant application, you should consider whether your project is at the right stage and has enough backup support, if not you might want to think about doing more ground work before submitting an application and ask yourself the following questions.
- Who has been successful in gainingf a grant in the past? Are they at a same stage on their career or are you close?
- What did they do before they were awarded the grant?
- How will winning a grant bring benefits to your career, and the way you want to be an artist?
- What is the application process and is there enough time for you to put forward a compelling application?
- Does the grant support the work that you do?
After completing your research, you need to be honest with yourself about your chances of being successful with your application, you don’t want to be wasting your precious time or money if there is a processing fee.
Only select the grants that are appropriate for what you do and make sure you will have time to meet the requirements of the grant and if making an application for more than one grant check there no clashes. Again, consider asking yourself some basic questions.
- Does your application meet all of the criteria?
- Are you applying for the right opportunity?
- Do you have a fair chance of getting the grant that you are applying for?
Is your project eligible?
- Make sure the grant that you are applying for is for individuals, many grants are for organisations only.
- You should carefully read the guidance notes to make sure your project costs and activities are within the scope of the funding programme. Some funders have rules or guidelines about what they can and cannot fund.
- Deadlines are not negotiable, if you are submitting an application make sure that you application is in well before the end date, late applications are likely to go straight into the bin.
- Complete your application form in the way it has been requested, you don’t want your hard work to have been for nothing by submitting it uncompleted or incorrect.
- Don’t guess! If you are not sure about something contact the funder and ask.
How much should you apply for?
A responsible funder wants to support projects that are going to be successful, and that means they need to be properly funded. They may say they can’t cover all of your costs, and will want to know how you intend fund that shortfall. Without a clear plan for meeting the shortfall you are very unlikely to get funding for your project.
By understanding your costs – including your own time and overheads - you will know how much you need to apply for. A well-presented plan, split into clear sections showing how you have calculated your costs, is an important part of the application process.
Can you meet the funding criteria and priorities?
Funders will publish priorities and criteria about what they will fund. As these can sometimes be quite broad and not easy to interpret, you should get in touch with the funder and briefly outline what you are thinking of applying for to check whether it sounds like the kind of activity they support.
If you’re applying for a grant that has previously been awarded take a look at what kinds of projects and artists it supported, this will give you a better understanding of what the funder may be looking for. Many funders have lists of projects and individuals that they have funded.
Check out the competition
You should think about whether you are at the right stage of your career to be applying to some funders. Take a look at the artists who have been successful with their application for funding – are you at the same stage, should you wait or have you missed the opportunity.
Do you have time to make a good application?
Like applying for a job, all application processes are different. As with a CV you can save time by having core application information ready but be prepared to tailor it for the funding for which you are bidding.
It goes without saying it’s never, ever a good idea to leave applying to the last moment - , anything might happen! Funding applications can take a long time to research, prepare, edit and clarify. Don’t underestimate the time it will take you.
Is a grant the best way to fund this activity, or are there other options?
Grants are getting increasingly scarce and the harsh truth is you are unlikely to receive more than one grant from any single funder, so consider carefully what to apply for. You don’t want to use a valuable opportunity on something that you may have been able to finance or achieve in another way.
Some grant funders have fixed deadlines, while others can take weeks or months before they make a decision. You might not have time to wait for a reply before you need to start your project, and most grants will not fund activity or costs incurred before the grant is made.
Very often, grant funders may not be interested in supporting your the activities for which you need funding. There are tailored searches you can do that will help you identify those funders that are interested; try Funding Central and Guidestar to begin with.
Even if you meet the criteria, have plenty of time to apply and write an excellent application, there is always fierce competition. Many applicants are rejected simply because there are too many other great applications
But don’t be put off! Someone has to get the funding! If you are well prepared and meet their criteria you stand as good a chance as anyone else’s application. You can always ask for feedback on unsuccessful applications.
Before applying, have a think if there are other ways to make your project happen – exchanging skills with another artist perhaps, o5 sponsorship from a company, saving or even a loan might be more appropriate.
Rees Astley Office
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