When putting together your grant application it can be really tempting to rush through all the various stages of the process. As part of a provincial funding body, I can attest first-hand to how incredibly disheartening it was to see so much effort and time put into applications and then have them disqualified because the applicant missed one critical step or section of the eligibility criteria.
Before you begin, make absolutely sure you have satisfied the basic requirements for entry. Most grants will come with a handy checklist somewhere in the accompanying instructions or right on the front. Use this as your road map to complete your application fully.
The Top 10 Grantwriting Mistakes Artists Make
If the grant requires a signature and date, make sure you do this as it can invalidate an application if missing. This might require you to print and sign the page, or use Adobe’s “Sign & Certify” function (check if this is acceptable to the granting organization).
Make sure you include all the required pages of the application document itself. This means every page with a blank spot for writing in. This is another reason you should always read the application document thoroughly before starting to fill it out. Some grant applications will have certain sections you do not need to fill in, and others you 100% do. Read the fine-print and instructions carefully.
3) Contact Info
Include your most up-to-date, complete contact information. If you know you will be moving in 2 weeks, put your new address, or the address of a person who has agreed to receive mail for you. If you are on the road and have no home address, ask a friend or family member to be your mailing address or rent a P.O. box. Always include a phone number where you can reached as well as your postal code.
4) Legibility & Professionalism
Resist the urge to reach for that purple sharpie! If you choose to print and hand-write on your application, make it legible and in ink (either blue or black). Use your creativity and artistry in the content, not the presentation of your application. If your application form is not easily read, you might not even make it to the jury stage. A lot of organizations distribute their digital application forms as “fillable” PDF’s now, so you can type your information right on the form on your computer.
5) Collate & Organize Materials
Provide the exact number of hard-copies requested for the jury. It helps if you package the correct documents together and staple or paperclip them, for instance – one biography, one marketing plan, or whatever is requested. Collating and stapling your jury packages greatly reduces the amount of work the person processing your application has to do. This is obviously specific to applications that require hardcopy submissions and not relevant to programs with a digital submissions process.
6) Sensitive or Irreplaceable Documents
NEVER send original copies of documents unless specifically requested by the funder. This goes for any kind of third-party contract or agreements, receipts, reports, one-of-a-kind items, etc. You should always keep the original for your own records or supply a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and written note that you want original documents back. Check in advance if the organization will return documents.
7) Early Bird Gets the Worm
Aim to get it in early! If you submit your application at the last minute there is no potential for a funder to process it ahead of time and let you know if you’re missing anything. Submitting even a week in advance often gives you the additional benefit of having practiced eyes on it with enough time to fix mistakes, (IF the funder is kind enough to let you know. Sometimes they won’t be, but sometimes you get lucky).
8) Confirm Delivery
A quick email or phone call usually should suffice. A lot of places will take a quick look and let you know that yes, it has arrived, but sometimes organizations will be larger, where the mailroom and the grant processing staff aren’t necessarily close together and they don’t have time to go hunting for your package. It’s always best to send packages through registered mail or courier and get the name of the person who signed for it. That way, if it does go M.I.A, you have someone to point to!
9) Don’t Be a Pest!
Don’t harass the funding organization. Sometimes things run on schedule and sometimes estimated announcement dates come and go with no word about the results. Try not to call, email or show up in person inquiring as to the results of your application. When results are available you will be notified of your status, or they will be posted on the organization’s website. Popular programs may get up to a hundred applications or more per deadline, and can you imagine if every one of these applicants called, emailed or showed up, every day?
10) Don’t Be a Poor Sport
If you don’t get the grant, don’t sweat it! Email the funder and see if you can get any feedback from the jury. Sometimes organizations are so swamped for time and resources they won’t be able to supply this, or they might give you a short one-sentence critique. Don’t take this personally. Use it as a learning experience to grow and continue to refine your application. Try rewriting a weak bio, focusing your marketing plan to a few key, specific goals or choosing different focus tracks. Get advice from a trusted source and try, try and try again. So many artists submit dozens of applications before ever getting anything. Some artists are successful on their first shot. It all comes down to how much you’ve researched, done the work, honed your craft and maybe gotten a little lucky.